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The kabbala on the significance of theft and restoration

"He Who Steals..."

"He Who Steals..."

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The kabbala on the significance of theft and restoration

"Do Not Steal…Do Not Rob…" (Lev. 19: 11 and 13)

Know, that our sages said, "He who steals the slightest amount from his friend is as if he stole his soul." [Bava Kama 119a. The original for "the slightest amount" is "the value of a perutah," a perutah being the smallest coin; less than this amount is not considered money for legal purposes.] The mystical significance of stealing and robbing is as follows:

Stealing [causes a blemish] in the upper third of tiferet of Zeir Anpin, for it is there that the states of chesed become revealed, as is known.

As we have explained previously, the yesod of Imma envelops Zeir Anpin as far down as the upper third of its tiferet. From that point downward, the states of chesed that make of Zeir Anpin become revealed. Stealing is done clandestinely, so it causes a blemish in the upper, concealed third of tiferet, while robbing, which is done out in the open, causes a blemish in the lower, revealed two thirds of tiferet.

The inner dimension of tiferet is 'mercy' or 'empathy' - the ability of the soul to feel for another person

Chesed is the raw material out of which all the emotions are built; it is thus the basic ingredient of all of Zeir Anpin.

The inner dimension of tiferet is "mercy" or "empathy" (rachamim) - the ability of the soul to feel for another person. Stealing (or robbing) is obviously the direct antithesis of this: in order to steal, an individual must forget about the other person's feelings. Stealing and robbing thus blemish, i.e. weaken, the power of tiferet above.

This is the mystical significance of the double restitution, for the thief causes a blemish above, in the concealed levels, while the robber causes a blemish in the revealed levels.

Unless he admits his crime on his own, someone who steals from his fellow must restore twice the amount he stole; in this way he suffers the loss he intended to inflict on his victim. (Mishna Torah,Geneivah 1:4.)

When one steals "down below" [in this world], he causes the forces of evil to steal "up above" [in the spiritual worlds] the souls emerging from the supernal female, malchut [i.e. the partzuf of Nukva]. She acquired these souls by virtue of her coupling [with Zeir Anpin].

The union of Zeir Anpin and Nukva of a specific world produces souls possessing the state of consciousness of that world. This coupling is part of the process the soul undergoes as it descends from its Divine origin into a physical body. On the way, it must first descend through the various worlds to be "processed" and thus acquire the successively dimmer states of consciousness of those worlds. This process continues until it has descended in consciousness to the level of this physical world.

...the task of infusing the world with Divine consciousness and goodness will be slowed down

This supernal "kidnapping" or "crib-robbing" means that the forces of evil are empowered by the theft below to claim a certain amount of the souls being born into this world as their own. These souls will be born with less empathy or mercy than they would have otherwise. This means that the task of infusing the world with Divine consciousness and goodness will be slowed down or even suffer a setback.

As is known, coupling is known as [carnal] "knowledge," as it is written, "And Adam knew his wife, Eve." (Gen. 4:1) We are also taught that feminine knowledge is "light." Therefore, the [thief must make] double restitution, for the numerical value of the word for "double" [kefel] is the same as that of the word for "light" [kal, 130].

The Talmud (Kidushin 80b) says "Women have 'light' knowledge." This generally means that although women possess daat, their daat is initially less objective than is men's. This relative subjectivity is necessary for women to fulfill their task of manifesting Divinity in the world; men's relative objectivity renders them unfit for this task.

In any case, by robbing Nukva of her offspring, the forces of evil are attacking her use of her "lightness" of knowledge.

Kefel: kaf-pei-lamed = 20 + 80 + 30 = 180; Kal: kuf-lamed = 100 + 30 = 130.

We will now see another reason for the double restitution.

When someone steals 'down below', he also causes the forces of evil to steal 'up above', the ascending souls.

Furthermore, when someone steals "down below," he also causes the forces of evil to steal "up above" the souls ascending as "feminine water" to malchut; this further causes the descent of the [seminal] drop of "male water" from the male [partzuf, i.e. Zeir Anpin].

"Male water" and "feminine water" (the imagery of rain and evaporation - or perhaps even that of geysers) are the Zoharic terms for "arousal from above" and "arousal from below," respectively. When a soul completes its task (or a task) on earth, it (or the positive energy created by this good deed) ascends back through the spiritual realms into its source in malchut. This upward surge from below elicits a corresponding downward response from above, and causes a further revelation of Divine beneficence and goodness in the world.

When a person steals, however, the forces of evil are empowered to steal this upward surge for themselves, preventing the concomitant, downward "male" response from occurring.

[He thus causes] a double blemish, for which he must therefore make double restitution.

Now, as we said, when someone steals "down below," he causes a blemish "up above" by causing the forces of evil to steal souls in the way we have described. This is the mystical meaning of our sages' statement that "[he who steals the slightest amount from his friend] is as if he stole his soul." They made a point of saying "he stole his soul" rather than some other expression [in order to include the mystical interpretation just cited]. May G‑d preserve us [from this sin].

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard." available at Kabbala Online Shop]

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.

Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist living in Jerusalem. He is a co-founder of Ascent Institute of Safed and one of the first contributing writers for He has recently produced two monumental works: "Apples from the Orchard: Arizal on the Weekly Torah" (available for purchase from KabbalaOnline here) and a Chumash translation with commentary based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Kehot).
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Eloki [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
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Anonymous Houston, tx via October 12, 2012

Thanks Thank you for this website. I think it can help me ponder many important questions.
I think all people, no matter what their religion, need to think about moral issues more deeply. Reply

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