Big and Small Stealing
Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32 )
To steal a little is to steal a lot. One of the main causes of society's collapse in Noah's time was that people used to steal little things from each other, telling themselves that it was okay. They also knew they wouldn't get in trouble if they got caught (Gen. 6:11). But all this 'little' stealing turned them into dishonest people. We can learn from their mistake not to take things - big or small - that don't belong to us.
In our story, some kids discover that unless we're careful, stealing can 'steal' its way into our lives.
"I made these for my friend," Sarah said, placing a tray of delicious looking chocolate covered peanut butter balls on the kitchen counter, "and nobody's allowed to touch them." She gave Jenna, Alan and Steve one of her big sister 'I mean it' looks and ran out the garage where their mom was waiting to drive Sarah to the train station to meet her special, out-of-town friend.
All was going well, until Jenna noticed Steve chewing something.
"Hey, whatcha eating? Anything good - I'm hungry too."
"Nah," Steve shrugged.
But Alan wasn't fooled. "Hey, I smell peanut butter on your breath! You didn't swipe one of Sarah's choco balls, did you?"
Steve just grinned. Alan and Jenna, followed by Steve ran into the kitchen, but the tray looked as full as before.
"I don't get it," Alan said.
"What's not to get?" Steve smirked. "There are so many of them. Who would ever even notice if just one was missing? You didn't!"
"You have a good point," Alan said, popping one into his mouth.
"Hey, that's stealing!" Jenna said. "Sarah bought all the ingredients with her own money and made them herself."
"Oh, come on," Steve countered. "Something so small is not called stealing. It's just 'tasting'."
"Yeah," Alan winked, "almost like 'borrowing' ... and they taste real good."
Jenna shot her brothers a frown and shooed them out of the kitchen. She was about to follow when something about the combination of Steve's 'logic' and the wafting chocolate-peanut butter smell slowed down her footsteps. There really were a lot there ... way more than enough for just Sarah and her friend. She wouldn't be stealing one - just 'sampling' one, she thought as it melted in her mouth.
Sarah's friend's train must have been late, because as the afternoon whittled by, each time Steve - and soon his two buddies who came by, or Alan and his friend had reason to pass by the kitchen, just one little choco-ball (each) seemed to disappear off the plate. Even Jenna herself had to admit that her occasional 'samples' had turned into quite a sampler. No one knew how it happened, but by the time she and her brothers heard the car pull into the garage there were only two measly little balls left on the whole tray.
The kids looked at each other. "We're gonna get it big time," Steve said, shaking his head.
"Oh no!" said Alan.
"How did we ever do that?" Jenna gasped.
No one said it, because they didn't have to, but to all of the kids it was crystal clear that not even one of the sweet confections - which now were making them feel so bitter with regret - were ever theirs to take and the nearly entire plate's worth hadn't been 'sampled', 'tasted' or 'borrowed' - they had been stolen.
Q. How did the kids feel about taking the treats at first?
A. The felt like it was okay to take a little.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw that it had really been stealing and was wrong.
Q. What life-lesson do you think the kids learned that day?
A. Because what they were taking was small and there were a lot of them they had convinced themselves it wasn't stealing, but after it all added up and they saw what they did, they realized that stealing is stealing, whether it's a little or a lot.
Q. Do you think their older sister did anything wrong by leaving the confections out where her siblings could get to them so easily?
A. While we should really try not to put a 'stumbling block' in front of people, tempting them to do wrong, nevertheless it didn't justify taking what didn't belong to them.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that nearly everyone steals. What do you think that mean?
A. Of course, not everyone puts on a mask and commits armed robbery, nor do they shoplift. However, there are so many subtle ways that a person can rationalize taking, pilfering or using something not his that it's almost impossible not to cross the line of stealing.
Q. Why do you think stealing caused society to go so downhill in Noah's times that civilization was destroyed?
A. A basic necessity of a stable society is trust between its members and a feeling of security in one's possessions. Once society has so far fallen - through rampant theft and dishonesty - that this trust has eroded, it's only a matter of time that a civilization, whether through the Biblical flood or other means, will collapse.