So a Jewish guy allegedly steals $50 billion from his friends and associates—most of them Jewish. Without fail, the predictable stereotypes involving Jews and money begin to pop up on blogs and chat rooms all over. They recycle the old calumny that Jewish tradition allows people to deal dishonestly with others as long as they live otherwise pious lives.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, Jewish tradition teaches that how you deal with your fellows is perhaps the most important aspect of your relation with your Creator. This idea has been expressed both in Jewish teachings as well as in personal example since almost the beginning of time.

Let us take a look at a small sampling of these teachings and anecdotes.

4,100 years ago:

The people are so bad that G‑d has no choice but to wipe the world clean and start all over again, with Noah and his children. What was the sin of that generation? To quote the Torah (Genesis 6:11): "The earth was corrupt before G‑d, and the earth became full of robbery." The Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 108a) that despite all their depravity, their verdict was sealed only because of their robbery.

A few centuries later, the world is again in hot water (this time only figurative). Noah's descendents build a tower (Genesis 11:1-9), in order to combat G‑d (Rashi ad loc). What does G‑d do? How many does He kill? None. All He did was disperse them.

The Sages (Midrash Rabbah Genesis 38:6) explain that though they had the audacity to conspire against G‑d, they worked together in harmony. This as opposed to "the Generation of the Flood who were robbers and there was strife between them, and therefore they were destroyed."

3,700 years ago:

Abraham and Sarah arrive in the Land of Canaan, along with their nephew Lot. Shortly thereafter, a quarrel breaks out between Abraham's and Lot's shepherds (Genesis 13:7). What caused this fall out? Again the Midrash (Rabbah Genesis 41:5) sheds light: Lot's herdsmen pastured their animals in fields belonging to others, Abraham's herdsmen kept their cattle muzzled, and rebuked their counterparts for committing robbery...

3,300 years ago:

Seven weeks after their Exodus from Egypt, the nascent Jewish nation gathers at Sinai to enter into a covenant with G‑d. He chose ten of His 613 commandments to personally communicate to the nation. Five of them deal with interpersonal issues, and three of those discuss the importance of honesty: Thou shall not steal, thou shall not bear false witness, and thou shall not covet.

This sets the tone for all times to come.

2,900 years ago:

King David writes (Psalms 24:3-4), "Who will ascend upon G‑d's mountain and who will stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not taken My name in vain and has not sworn deceitfully."

2,600 years ago:

G‑d admonishes the people regarding their fasting ways which He found reprehensible (Isaiah 58:2-11):

"Daily they pretend to seek Me, desiring knowledge of My ways . . . 'Why have we fasted and You did not see?' they ask. 'We have afflicted our soul and You do not know?' Behold, on the day of your fast you pursue your affairs, and from all your debtors you forcibly exact payment. Behold, for quarrel and strife you fast, and to strike with a fist of wickedness..."

Instead, Isaiah teaches the Jews the proper way to fast:

"Loosen the fetters of wickedness, untie the bands of perverseness, send the oppressed free, and break every oppressive yoke. Offer your bread to the hungry, bring the wandering poor into your home. When you see someone naked, clothe him . . . Then you shall call and G‑d shall answer, you shall cry and He shall say, 'Here I am.' . . . G‑d will always guide you and satiate your soul with radiance..."

2,000 years ago:

The sage Hillel is approached by a non-Jew. "I am willing to convert to Judaism on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot."

"That which you detest," Hillel answers, "do not to others. All the rest is commentary" (Talmud, Shabbat 31a).

This tradition is exemplified in a teaching by Rabbi Yosi (Ethics 2:12): "The money of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own; prepare yourself to study Torah…"

One must first learn to respect the property of others, and only then can he approach G‑d and the study of His Torah.

1,900 years ago:

One of the holy Ten Martyrs was the great sage Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon. The teaching of Torah is forbidden by the Roman regime, a capital offense, but he is undeterred. He publicly gathers disciples and, with a Torah scroll in his bosom, heroically teaches them Torah. Eventually he is captured while in the midst of a Torah lecture and burned alive for his deeds.

Shortly before his capture he visits a colleague, Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma. Rabbi Chanina turns to his friend and asks, "Will I be deserving of a portion in the World to Come?"

Rabbi Yosi's asks Rabbi Chanina whether he had done anything special in his lifetime. Rabbi Chanina responds that he once had two pouches of money—one earmarked for charity, and the other for his personal holiday expenses. He later discovered that he had accidentally given his holiday money to charity. Although he could have reimbursed himself from the other pouch, he chose not to and gave the second pouch to the poor as well.

"In that case," answers Rabbi Yosi, "may my portion be like your portion; my lot like your lot" (Talmud, Avodah Zarah 18a).

This is beyond astonishing. Rabbi Yosi knew very well that Rabbi Chanina devoted his life to the advancement of Torah, with utter disregard for his personal safety. Yet he only assured him that he would be admitted to the World to Come when he ascertained that he dealt honestly with public funds!

1,700 years ago:

Rabbah, the leading Talmudic sage of his day, teaches (Talmud, Shabbat 31a) that when a soul ascends to heaven, the very first question she is asked is: "Did you conduct your business honestly?"

1,000 years ago:

Rabbeinu Gershom "the Light of the Diaspora" forbids opening letters addressed to others. A millennium before the advent of the civil rights movement, the rabbis of old understood the importance of individual rights and how important it is to be utterly honest in all one's dealings.

700 years ago:

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, the "Baal Haturim," reworks the entire body of Jewish law into four sections. This structure will eventually become the framework for the Code of Jewish Law. One of the sections, Choshen Mishpat, is entirely devoted to the laws of interpersonal relationships and the minutiae of honest business practice.

65 years ago:

The Lubavitcher Rebbe publishes a calendar, the "Hayom Yom," that contained a chassidic aphorism for every day of the year. For the 8th of Av, the Rebbe writes:

"What good is Chassidic teaching and piety if the main quality, love of a fellow Jew, is lacking—even to the extent of, G‑d forbid, causing anguish to another!"

Anyone who thinks otherwise simply slept through Hebrew school.