You would never steal a towel or bathrobe from a friend’s house, so why are you so tempted every time you check out of a hotel?

You’d never borrow money and then falsely claim to have returned it, so why do so many people economize with the truth when filling out their tax returns?

When shopping at the local corner store, you scrupulously pay for everything in your basket and return the extra change you were given by mistake, but when negotiating on the phone with the call center of a multinational corporation, you sometimes stretch the truth and present a totally skewed perspective on the issues.

It’s not honesty that keeps you from theft; it’s empathy. When dealing with an individual you can see the direct impact of your actions, while lying to the government or ripping off a conglomerate feels like a victimless crime. The supermarket chain will never miss that grape you just popped in your mouth, and how can you trust the government to spend your tax dollars wisely? They’ll never miss what they don’t know.

But you know the truth. To steal one cent is as immoral as stealing a million dollars. It is as wrong to take something from the government as it is to take it from a neighbor. Morality is not relative; it just feels that way sometimes.

And this might explain a seeming redundancy in this week’s Parshah. The Jews were commanded to go to war against the nation of Midian. One thousand men of each tribe were drafted, and enjoyed a miraculous victory in battle. They captured tremendous treasures of booty from their victorious campaign. The Torah then goes into extreme detail to describe how these spoils were distributed amongst the warriors, the kohanim, the Levites and the rest of Israel. Not only does it enumerate the value of the gold and the exact number of sheep, cows, donkeys and slaves captured, it even calculates as a percentage and then again as an final amount how many of each item were kept by the warriors and then how much was given away (Numbers 31:26–54).

It hardly seems necessary to go into such detail. Why not just tell us that the soldiers came back with a whole heap of loot, and kicked back a percentage to those they left behind? Those Midianite sheep and cows have been dead for over 3,000 years by now; why should I care exactly how many there were in the first place?

But that’s the point the Torah is making. Every single animal was counted; every gold coin and necklace was accounted for. Not one Israelite indulged in a spot of private pillage or plunder, and nobody went looking to feather his own nest.

It would have been so tempting to skim some off the top. Doesn’t G‑d help those who help themselves? It would hardly seems like theft; it’s random Midianite treasure, belonging to no one in particular, and all the original owners are dead already anyway.

And that’s why the Torah enumerates everything that came in and everything that went out: to reaffirm for all ages that when we live life according to G‑d’s rules, every cent counts. There is no such thing as a small theft, because ultimately everything belongs to G‑d.