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Who’s the Thief?

Who’s the Thief?


Three angry men presented themselves in King Solomon’s court.

“Your Majesty,” said the first, “the three of us are business partners. We went together on a business trip with a large sum of money.”

The second picked up the story. “Shortly before Shabbat, we hid the money in a pit we’d dug, planning to dig it up right after Shabbat.”

King Solomon listened attentively.It was gone!

“But when we went for it, it was gone!” said the third. “No one knew about it but us. One of us is a thief! My lord, I’d like for you to have each of us swear that he didn’t steal the money. That way we’ll find out which of us is the thief!”

But King Solomon was in no hurry to do that. He knew that the man who stole the money would also lie and swear falsely. How could he find out which of them was guilty?

“Return to me tomorrow,” he told the three.

When the partners presented themselves the next day, King Solomon said, “I can see that you three are wise men. Before we discuss your case, I would like your opinion about a different matter.”

King Solomon’s flattery worked like magic, and they waited eagerly to hear his problem.

“A boy and a girl grew up together, and swore to each other that when they were old enough, they would become husband and wife. At very least, they decided, they’d ask the other’s permission before marrying anyone else.

“Years passed. The girl, forgetting her oath, married someone else. Immediately after the wedding, she remembered her earlier commitment and told her husband about it. He said, ‘We can’t live as husband and wife until we find that boy and ask him to annul the oath that you swore to each other!’

“They took a large sum of money and set out to find her childhood friend. They found him and offered to pay him to annul the oath, but he was a good man, so he wished them a hearty mazal tov and refused the money.

“On their way home, the happy new couple was robbed. ‘Please give us back the money,’ the woman pleaded. She told the robber about how good her husband was, being so patient as to let her take care of her oath before they moved in together, and how good the boy she’d grown up with was for refusing to take the money. The robber was touched, and returned the purse.”

King Solomon looked at the three men, who couldn’t understand where all this was leading.

“My question is, which of the people in this story was the most praiseworthy?” asked the king.

(Stop for a moment and think. Reach your own conclusion before you read further.)

One of the partners said, “The wife is the most admirable. She kept an oath she made when she was just a girl!”

The second partner said, “Her husband is the most praiseworthy. Although he loved his wife, he left home right after his wedding to find that boy, and allowed himself to act as a husband to her only after she was released from her oath.”

The last partner said, “It’s true, both of them behaved in an exemplary fashion. But the boy was a fool! Why didn’t he take the money when they offered it to him?”

“You are the thief!” “You are the thief!”King Solomon bellowed, pointing to the last partner. “When you talk that way about the boy, you show that you have an appetite for money even if you have no right to it. I’m convinced that you stole the money from your partners.”

The last partner admitted his guilt, and the other two went home satisfied and impressed by the wisdom of King Solomon.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the editor of Beit Chabad, the Hebrew edition of
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Anonymous April 13, 2016

Great Story I love this story! I just read it to my daughter, great lessons to be learned! Wow, G-d really did make King Solomon the wises! Reply

Devorah Philadelphia March 24, 2016

Who's the Thief? King Solomon's wisdom Mindy I loved this story! I chose the husband as the most honorable. Tough decision as all 3 were. Reply

Anonymous November 26, 2015

You don't understand the greatness of King Solomon. He wasn't said to be the wisest man to ever live for nothing. If some great phsycologist who was known to specialize in human nature said that only a thief would choose such a thing, you would probably not question him. And Shlomo HaMelech... Far beyond. And that' s not even mentioning the ruach HaKodesh, the ״Holy Spirit" which he might have had for judging this type of "impossible" case. I hope that made sense, have a good day. Reply

Steve E Abraham New York November 19, 2015

question? What if the last partner did not admit to stealing the money, but rather, insisted that he was innocent. How would King Solomon handle this? Would he follow his intuition on this man's guilt, even though he denied it? Would he have this man punished, based on his intuitive feeling with no acual evidence? Reply

Avi Haifa November 18, 2015

I think the thief is most praiseworthy because he actually went against his natural inclination - for all the other characters, it was natural for them to behave as they did, and whilst admirable, required no great moral leap on their part (ie, although they each did something good, they were already good people, it would have been more difficult for them to behave in another manner). The thief could have run off with the money regardless, but he overcame his immoral inclination. Although it's not told in the parable, maybe the thief even completely reformed, realising that any of his victims might have similar stories to the one that touched his heart. I don't know, it's just speculation on my part. Baruch HaShem! Reply

Margarita October 24, 2017
in response to Avi:

my thoughts exactly Reply

Anonymous November 18, 2015

It is very strange that the woman remembered the boy only after she was married. Why didn't she remember before she was married? Also the man just played into her scheme by going to look for the boy. What if the boy would have told her that she had to live up to her promise? That she was the one he still loved? .... and she cried and told the man, I am sorry, I must keep the promise that I made. What then do you think the man should've said: Reply

BIll Montreal November 17, 2015

The boy How praiseworthy is the boyhood friend? Even if he still had feelings for her, is a pile of money going to make him feel any better? It would be a sin to take the money out of spite. Reply

Yehoshua November 17, 2015

Most praiseworthy Just adding my own 2 cents; I think the childhood friend is the most praiseworthy, since he had the hardest choices to make, and he did the right thing.

In response to Gary Besner: if G-d had really intended for the thief to get money,he would have some means beyond stealing. Perhaps he was rewarded for his "change of heart" by being able to turn over a new leaf in his life. Anyway, just an opinion on a story. Thanks! Reply

Gary Besner Casa Grande, Arizona via November 14, 2015

What happened to the robber? Great story! I originally though that they were all praise worthy; but perhaps the one who deserved the most credit is the robber for his change of heart. And funny enough, while everyone is busy worrying about the woman, no one notices the sadness in the fact that the robber had to steal in the first place. Perhaps the couple should have asked him why he needed to steal money, and offered to help him. And on an even greater plane of awareness, perhaps g-d knew that the robber was in great need, and despite the immorality of the crime was redirecting the money where it really needed to go - to the thief, who maybe was nto a bad person, but a victim of circumstances. Perhaps? Reply

John Smith FL November 14, 2015

Life- of a one dollar bill If you take a brand new one dollar bill hot of the press and give to the initial one person, whomever it may be.
Now, every time that dollar changes hands a tax is owed for the life span of that one dollar bill until it it physically damaged and replaced. At the end of that one dollar bill being taxed every time it moves from one hand to the next, How much would that bill be worth? Considering it has now become a negative number by a large amount and is less than zero from its original value of one dollar before being taxed the initial time?
And so, I guess whomever ended up in control of printing these one dollar bills in original process is the richest, no matter how they got there or what evil things had been done to get there. They would be the king makers forever more.

G-d Bless those lost in Paris, all created by the king makers of the day, or from the words above.

G-d Bless Israel Reply

Fro November 13, 2015

Confronted A story that causes me to dig deep inside me in all honesty to come with the most honest answer...which, I realized at the end of the story, shows up what I really am or what I most value. Thank you. Reply

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