Friday, October 4, 2013

If a thief is caught stealing a book, he must pay back sevenfold! - ספר עיני העדה by רב אליהו הכהן of Izmir

In 1863, Sefer Eine Ha'Edah an extensive commentary on the Torah, by Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen of Izmir, was published for the first time, 134 years after the author passed away. In Parashat Mishpatim (pg 117:) the author explains the verse in Mishle לא יָבוּזוּ לַגַּנָּב, כִּי יִגְנוֹב לְמַלֵּא נַפְשׁוֹ כִּי יִרְעָב. וְנִמְצָא - יְשַׁלֵּם שִׁבְעָתָיִם, אֶת כָּל הוֹן בֵּיתוֹ יִתֵּן
which translates as: People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay seven-fold; he will give all the goods of his house.

R. Eliyahu asks 3 questions on the Pasuk, Why does the verse say to satisfy his soul and not his appetite? why does he have to pay 7 times, more than someone who is גונב שור או שה? and why does the Pasuk go on to say, he will have to pay all the goods in his house?
To answer this, Rabbi Eliyahu explains that the Pasuk is referring to someone who stole a Sefer; and the verse is explained in such a manner: do not despise a thief if he steals a book to satisfy his soul, because his soul yearns for study and he has no books, as learning from a book fills one's soul. If though, he is found to have such a book in his house of his own, he will pay seven-fold, as it is discovered that he stole, not for study, but rather to resell. Since there is no way to pay back for time lost from studying Torah, he must pay back all he owes to try to repay the owner for his loss.

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