Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty
of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies,
Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet
under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's
International Center for Jewish Identity.
Prepared for Internet
Publication by the Center for IT & IS Staff at Bar-Ilan University.
Inquiries and comments to:
Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,
Parashat Vayiqra 5761/ March 31, ?2001
B. "And ... restore that
which he got through robbery"
Dr. Avraham Gottlieb
Interdisciplinary Department of Jewish Studies
s reading deals with the laws of burnt
offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices of well-
), sin offerings and guilt offerings, all of which are pleasing
to the Lord. The reading concludes with an explanation of guilt offerings
pertaining to robbery
– a sacrifice that
must be brought by a person who has dealt deceitfully with his fellow in a
matter of money and has sworn falsely concerning him (Lev.
When a person sins ... dealing deceitfully with his fellow in the matter of
a deposit or a pledge (money given him in a business partnership), or through
robbery, or by defrauding his fellow, or by finding something lost and lying
about it; if he swears falsely regarding any one of the various things that one
may do and sin thereby - when one has thus sinned and, realizing his
guilt, would restore that which he got through robbery or fraud, or the
deposit that was entrusted to him, or the lost thing that he found, or anything
else about which he swore falsely, he shall pay the principal amount and add a
fifth part to it... Then he shall bring to the priest, as his penalty to the
Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock ... as a guilt offering... The
priest shall make expiation on his behalf before the Lord, and he shall be
Thus we see that guilt for robbery is expiated only after the robber has
restored the money to its rightful owner or his heirs, as the Mishnah explains,
stating the general principle (B.K. 9.12):
If he has restored that which he got by robbery, but not yet brought his
guilt offering, he has fulfilled the requirements; if he has brought his guilt
offering, but not yet restored that which he got by robbery, he has not
fulfilled the requirements. If he has restored the principal but not the
additional fifth part, the fifth part is no impediment.
The Mishnah explains that if a robber brings the money he stole to the
priests, before bringing a guilt offering, he has adequately fulfilled the
requirements for expiation. But if he brings a guilt offering before restoring
the stolen goods, he has not. Not having paid the extra fifth is no impediment
to bringing a guilt offering, but the robber must pay it after his expiation.
The implication of the Mishnah is that the robber's
expiation lies principally in restoring that which has been stolen to its
Now we must clarify whether the Torah speaks only of the punishment for our
specific thief who has sinned doubly, once by robbing and once by swearing
falsely, or whether there is a wider message applicable to many other
situations. R. Ovadiah Sforno
important point in his combined interpretation of verses
"He shall restore that which he got through
robbery...then he shall bring a guilt offering": the
sacrifice does not provide expiation unless he has appeased
(piyyes) the damaged party before bring the offering, as the Sages said
(in the Mishnah cited above): "if he has brought his
guilt offering, but not yet restored that which he got by robbery, he has not
fulfilled the requirement."
Sforno takes the interpretation a major step forward, explaining that
expiation for robbery is completed by appeasing the damaged party. A robber
essentially commits a two-fold sin: one, between
himself and G-d, by violating the prohibition of the
Torah, "You shall not commit
robbery" (Lev. 19:13); and another between himself
and his fellow man. Likewise, the process of expiation is
two-fold: bringing a guilt offering and restoring
that which has been stolen.
In other words, the robber's punishment of
bringing a guilt offering is only part of the expiation process, which actually
begins by appeasing the damaged party.The lesson this teaches concerns not only
robbery, but any violation concerning relations between people. The Torah seeks
to educate us to make amends whenever there has been a violation of any human
virtue. Teaching us to do good deeds is accomplished first and foremost by
refraining from doing evil, as in the words of the Psalmist:
"Shun evil and do good"
(Ps. 34:15). Good deeds will lead to a sound society based on good relations
among people, and this will provide the necessary setting for performing the
commandments regarding our relationship to G-d in the
finest way. The ideal, of course, is that doing good come before shunning evil,
for good deeds serve as preventive action, keeping us from evil.
Restoring that which has been stolen is part of the
s repentance. The Torah emphasizes the
objective of restoring the stolen goods, as Rav Ahai
notes in the
the House of Israel are forbidden to rob one
In other words, the Torah seeks to
eradicate the evil of robbery from the very root. Restoring the stolen goods as
compensation for the damage is only one stage along the way of wiping out this
evil altogether, along with appeasement of he who has been wronged.
The restoration called for in the command of the guilt offering thus has
wider general application for all cries between Man and his fellow
On the significance of this offering,
," Encyclopedia Talmudit
Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1987, pp. 265-
Fifteenth century Italy, a
minded exegete, widely educated in medicine,
philosophy, philology, and mathematics; often cites the Sages on ethics and
proper human behavior.
, Zeev Gottlieb ed.,
Jerusalem 1992, p. 218.
Rav Aha of Shabaha, a Babylonian city
not far from Bazera; eighth century, one of the great rabbis of the geonic
, the first book written after
the sealing of the Talmud, named after its author, unlike the many anonymous
books which we have. On the author and his approach, see Sheiltot
de-Rav Ahai Gaon
, Rabbi Shmuel
Kelman Mirsky ed., Bereshit
, Jerusalem 1982, Intro., pp.
41. On the subject at hand, cf.
85, p. 24.