"I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man."

That's Al Capone speaking.

Yes, one of America's most notorious public enemies, the most sinister gang leader to ever shoot up Chicago uttered those words. Capone actually regarded himself as a public benefactor, an unappreciated and misunderstood public benefactor.

Losing Weight

"You shall not commit a perversion of justice, with [false] measures, weights, or liquid measures. You should have accurate scales and accurate weights.... I am G‑d your G‑d, who took you out of the land of Egypt."1

"[I took you out of Egypt] on condition that you keep accurate weights and measures."2

While monetary loss can be measured, the loss of integrity cannotAmazingly, we learn that the Exodus from Egypt was conditional. Indeed the Midrash adds, "If a person denies the mitzvah of accurate measures, it is as if he denies the Exodus from Egypt!"3

So important are perfect weights in G‑d's books that, according to one Midrash,4 the Amalekites were allowed to attack the Israelites because they slacked off in regard to proper weight measurements.

Why the obsession with weight watching?

Interestingly, the prohibition regarding faulty weights includes not only their use, but even their possession,5 and also the creationof imperfect weights, regardless of their future function.

This isn't simply a precautionary measure to eliminate possible temptation or to ensure that they're not used by mistake; it is, rather, a demonstration of zero tolerance for falsity.

The inherent evil associated with flawed weights has less to do with the unlawful loss of money it can potentially cause than it does with the loss of integrity.

This is the reason why legal action against a thief can be taken only if his haul amounted to a minimum of one prutah (the smallest monetary denomination in Talmudic times), while in the case of defective weights no such minimum exists.6

For, while monetary loss can be measured, the loss of integrity cannot.

This idea sheds light on an otherwise startling comment by a distinguished Talmudic commentator: "It is possible that making false weights is even worse than possessing and using them…"7

Now, the question of whether the creation of false weights is worse than their possession can be debated, but how can it be argued that their creation is worse than their being used to actually steal?

Based on our earlier distinction between the loss of money and the loss of innocence, this statement becomes strikingly clear.

One can readily be replaced while the other cannot.

The Duplicity

But isn't the loss of integrity extant in theft, too? Why are dishonest measures singled out for harsher treatment?

The one with the false measures, on the other hand, is professing to the world that he is honestBut there is a great distinction: The average thief's deed consists of straightforward dishonesty and evil. The one with the false measures, on the other hand, is professing to the world that he is honest. "Look," he proclaims, "I'm using weights and measures to ensure that I don't steal even a penny!" Simultaneously, however, he is engaging in theft.

It is an act of duplicity.

The essence of the sin of false measures – and what distinguished it from all the other laws in the Torah that are intended to safeguard personal property – is duplicity.

But the Torah proscribes not only the act, but also even harboring the tools of the trade in one's home.

For it is not sufficient not to fool others; one may not fool himself either.8

No Fools Allowed

"A chassid is not a fool," asserts an (obviously) chassidic adage.

This statement refers not to intellectual aptitude, but to unflinching awareness of self.

Chassidim were wont to say that the only crime worse than fooling others is fooling oneself.

In one story, Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, tells a chassid who lacked this basic chassidic value and believed he had the entire world in his keshene (back-pocket):

"Only a fool thinks he has the world fooled. He is, of course, mistaken, for the only one he manages to fool is himself. Is it such a big kuntz [feat or trick] to fool a fool?"

In the words of the Talmud, "Knowledge of the illness is half the cure."

On a lighter note, a businessman once disregarded the business advice he had received from his rebbe. Sadly he lost a fortune and now faced huge debt.

Ashamed, but with no other choice, he visited the Rebbe for a blessing.

"How can I help you?" asked the Rebbe, who had been informed about the chassid's loss.

The chassid responded with a tale:

"A village thief stole his way into a home through the chimney one night.

If you fall down a chimney, clean up, and look for a way out"To his shock, after shaking off the ash and dust that shrouded him, he found himself face to face with the town rabbi who had been studying through the night.

"'Can I help you?' asked the rabbi distractedly.

"'I had a question I wanted to ask of you,' answered the thief.


"'Vee kricht men aroys fun danet?' ('How does one get out of here?')"

The Rebbe smiled.

If you fall down a chimney, clean up, and look for a way out.

What's in It for Me?

A Yiddish journalist once visited the Rebbe. He brought up the "old world" and they reminisced. In passing, the Rebbe commented, "Here in America some of the Jewish months in the calendar could do with reinforcing."

Using a pun, the Rebbe continued, "Take, for example, the month of Cheshvan, from the term Cheshbon Hanefesh," which means self-evaluation.

If only we all heightened our sense of self-introspection, appraisal and awareness, our world would be a better place.

Just imagine what Chicago would have looked like if Al Capone would have practiced some Cheshbon Hanefesh.