Vayikra: Happy with his Portion
Anyone who cheats, defrauds, swindles or does any other type of dishonest dealings is not only transgressing Torah but making a heretical statement as well...
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
If a person will sin and commit a treachery against Hashem by lying to his fellow…or by defrauding his fellow. (Leviticus 5:21)
The above passage raises a question: if a person sins against his fellow man, particularly by cheating him or defrauding him, how is that a treachery against Hashem? Our sages answer that since the sinner takes an oath in the rabbinical court that he did nothing wrong, he is both taking Hashem's Name in vain and swearing falsely, both heinous transgressions against Hashem. Yet, we can still question: what if the sinner refuses to swear in Hashem's Name that he didn't steal from or swindle his neighbor? Would we still refer to his wrongdoing as a treachery against Hashem?
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev provides us with the answer: he explains that people who get caught in the trap of lusting for money don't believe that Hashem can give them a livelihood with minimal effort. They therefore transgress the laws of Torah in an attempt to amass more money. Rebbe Nachman calls their worship of money, "false gods" and their efforts to accumulate more money by means that transgress Torah, "idolatry" – nothing more and nothing less.
According to Rebbe Nachman's above teaching, any employer who shortchanges his employee by not paying in full what the latter earned, such as trimming hours, commissions and the like, is by definition an idolater. The same goes for a person who willfully breaches a financial agreement, such as failing to pay a supplier or a handyman as agreed before the transaction was done or before the service was given. Some may think that this sounds extreme and exaggerated, but on taking a closer look, it's not at all too strong a statement. Here's how:
Anyone who cheats, defrauds, swindles or makes any other type of dishonest dealings, all of which are outright transgressions of Torah, is making a heretical statement, namely, that Hashem isn't giving him what he wants/needs in the framework of Halacha (Torah law), so he therefore must take the law into his own hands in order to satisfy his desires and lusts. This is truly heresy and idolatry, for he doesn't believe that there is an omniscient King who sees everything, to Whom he'll have to give an ultimate reckoning. So, although he is cheating and swindling his fellow human, he is also committing treachery against Hashem since his acts are heretical and idolatrous. It's not bad enough that he denies Hashem, but he worships money as well and is willing to do anything to acquire more.
Here's the good news: if the lust of money is idolatry, then contentment with one's portion in life is a wonderful manifestation of emuna. He who is happy with his lot in life can surely rejoice, for he is capable of reaching the loftiest spiritual levels.
With the above in mind, we can answer yet another question: why does the holy Ariza'l, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi – the father of Kabbala - entitle the Sabbath meal seudata d'mehemnuta shlemata, the meal of complete emuna? In order to fully enjoy the Sabbath and the Sabbath meals, a person must have complete emuna. How? Obviously, one can neither enjoy his Sabbath nor his Sabbath meal if he's thinking about work, income, money and other weekday matters. The fact that he doesn't worry means that he trusts in Hashem. He knows that it is his task to observe the Sabbath and it’s Hashem's task to send him a livelihood. He has no doubt that Hashem will give him everything he needs within the framework of the weekday work week. His mind and heart are free to take pleasure in prayer, Torah learning and the delights of Shabbat. As such, the Sabbath meals are truly the meals of emuna.
 - See Likutei Moharan I:23, a
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.