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You shall not steal

By Rabbi Daniella Kolodny

The medieval Bible commentator Ovadiah ben Jacob Sforno included the injunction against misleading (g’neivat da’at) under the eighth commandment ‘you shall not steal’. In the case of g’neivat da’at, a person is ‘stealing’ someone’s mind; that is, removing another person’s ability to make an honest evaluation.

The Talmud warns against misrepresentation, teaching, amongst a number of examples, that a person should not bring a partially full bottle to a mourner’s house. This could cause the mourner to think that the reason the bottle was empty, having been placed amongst the other bottles of wine, was that people had consumed it and lead him to the conclusion that the presenter was more generous than he actually had been.

“You shall live by them.” (Lev. 18:5) Ibn Ezra teaches that Torah brings life to a person who lives by its laws. Judaism is an ancient tradition which continues to be interpreted to enable people to live joyful lives through the tradition. Masorti Judaism reads the tradition so that we neither ignore its challenges nor minimize its difficulties. To do so would be engaging in g’neivat da’at.

[This is part of the publication “The Ten (Masorti) Commandments.” The full booklet can be found here.]

Posted on 5 June 2019