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This Study Series is being released according to the Torah Reading Schedule.

This week- Section 19
Name- תרומה T’rumah (Contribution) (Offering)
Parashah/Parsha- Sh’mot 25.1-27.19
Torah Portion: Exodus 25.1-27.19

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from the JPS edition of The Torah, The Five Books of Moses, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, according to the Masoretic Text, First Section. Copyright 1967 by the Jewish Publication Society of America, Second Edition.

This week I want to discuss Deuteronomy 5.17c [5.19] and Exodus 20.13c [20.15].

Deuteronomy 5.17c JPS [Deuteronomy 5.19 KJV]
You shall not steal.

Exodus 20.13c JPS [Exodus 20.15 KJV]
You shall not steal.

– – – – –

As I discussed in Essay 10, the Deuteronomy narrative of the Ten is from Moses’ perspective. In previous Essays, I have given substantial reasons explaining why. For this Essay, I am not going to restate or summarize any of those reasons. Instead, I assume my reader to have read those Essays.

In the previous Essay, I discussed the seventh of the Ten.

In this Essay, I want to discuss the eighth of the Ten.

As I discussed in the previous Essay, there is no movement from first person to third person with the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth.

That absence of movement from first person to third person means that an inline comment explaining these particular commandments is clearly absent.

That absence of inline comments encourages multiple facets of interpretation as to the intended meaning of the commandment, which I will discuss as I go through this Essay.

Whether Deuteronomy 5.17c JPS or Exodus 20.13c JPS, the JPS presents the commandment the same within the English: You shall not steal.

In the previous Essay, I discussed that in the Hebrew there exists a difference between Deuteronomy 5.17b and Exodus 20.13b in that Deuteronomy 5.17c contains a conjunctive. I also mentioned that Bibles enumerate these verses differently.

Those differences in the Hebrew exists for Deuteronomy 5.17c and Exodus 20.13c. For a short discussion about those differences in the Hebrew and my thoughts about how I account for those differences refer to the previous Essay.

In the previous Essay, I discussed that there is no inline commentary regarding the seventh of the Ten, which has led to many discussions about the meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated in English as “adultery”.

Similarly, the eighth of the Ten has no inline commentary regarding the eighth of the Ten.

Like I have discussed regarding the previous two (sixth and seventh of the Ten) the eighth of the Ten is a general prohibition.

Since it is a general prohibition, the question is: what is prohibited?

As I discussed in the previous Essay how the seventh of the Ten itself encompasses the concepts of the Ten, so does the eighth of the Ten.

In essence do not steal that which belongs to:
– Jehovah (first, second, third);
– the sabbath (fourth);
– father and mother (fifth);
– life (sixth);
– fidelity (seventh);
– ownership (eighth);
– neighbor’s honor, reputation (nine); and/or
– neighbor’s household (ten).

From that then, it seems much of the commandments flow, defining: when, what, where theft occurred and how to remedy, recompense and/or restitute a given situation.

For example, Deuteronomy 17.1 JPS:
You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect of a serious kind, for that is abhorrent to the LORD your God.

From that commandment then, it can be see that under the eighth of the Ten, offering an ox or sheep with a serious defect is viewed as stealing a sacrifice that torahfully belongs to yud-hey-vav-hey.

Another example, Exodus 21.35 JPS:
When a man’s ox injures his neighbor’s ox and it [the neighbor’s ox] dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide its price; they shall also divide the dead animal.

From that commandment then, it can be seen that one is permitted to own livestock, but one is held accountable for how that livestock affects their neighbor and/or neighbors. In essence, one is not permitted to allow their own livestock to steal the life of a neighbor’s livestock. If such an event took (takes) place, the torah provides a guideline of how to account for that loss, a theft of life from one animal to another, and the means of restitution for the loss of life.

Another example, Deuteronomy 20.20 JPS:
Only trees which you know do not yield food may be destroyed; you may cut them down for constructing siegeworks against the city that is waging war on you… .

From that commandment then, under the auspice of the seventh of the Ten, it can be seen that it is considered a theft to take the life of trees that bear fruit when waging war. In other words, life is to be protected, because trees that yield food are helpful to people. Yet, oddly, the injunction about not taking the life of food trees is juxtaposed against what is arguably the taking of human life.

One more example, albeit a more controversial one, Deuteronomy 22.28-29 JPS:
If a man comes upon a virgin who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekels of] silver, and she shall be his wife. Because he has violated her, he can never have the right to divorce her.

That passage has been cited as the Torah supporting the concept that the rapist captures his prey.

However, that seems to be an intentional misunderstanding and misapplication of the passage when taken under the auspice of the eighth of the Ten.

It seems critical to grasp that there is no way that yud-hey-vav-hey is going to sanction and codify permission of sexual theft, when fidelity is so powerfully prominent within the Ten.

Therefore that passage cannot be arguing in favor of a sexual predator who steals sexuality from their prey.

What is certain is that the passage views the act within the passage as a theft, and the woman’s father is to be restituted. But that seems best understood because the daughter was considered an important way to form alliances, not that she was a prize or that she was owned, but that women have a powerful component, not her virginity, per se, but that she is able to carry and bear life.

In a more modern application, it could be understood as a shotgun wedding. The man stole her virtue, which means he obviously had some kind of interest in her as a mate. The family of the woman forces the man to make good on his interests.

The issue could be argued that such compulsion is not necessarily in the daughter’s best interest, of which I would agree.

Therefore, it seems proper that the daughter’s virtue be compensated in some fashion, but the daughter and her family reserve the right to judge whether or not the man is actually worthy of becoming her husband. In that manner then, what is lost through theft is compensated, but mercy is also shown to her because she might not actually want to be the wife of that man.

In essence, the eighth of the Ten prohibits theft in all forms, and then commandments, instructions, and laws should be partially interpreted through that lens of prohibition.

As such, the Torah does not exonerate a thief. Instead, the Torah requires a thief to compensate their victim, and in some instances, it seems the thief might have to compensate with their very own life.

All of which is designed to protect life, and honorablity of life, and that life is worth having, and cannot be stolen from without consequences.