If there is a single sentence in the Torah that resonates with me, it’s one said by a most deceitful character who also happened to be the uncle and father-in-law of our patriarch Jacob.

After working in his father-in-law’s shepherding business for 20 years, Jacob decided to leave Charan (Iraq) and bring his large family to join his parents in the Holy Land. He consulted with his wives and made plans to leave clandestinely to avoid familial drama and financial wrangling.

Just before leaving, Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, who desperately wanted her pagan dad to move closer to the monotheistic beliefs that she and her family had come to cherish, decided to do some forceful outreach: She stole his idols with plans to dispose of them later on.

Through his network of confederates, Laban found out about their departure and quickly caught up to the slow-traveling caravan. The following morning (after a dream where G‑d warned him not to mistreat his son-in-law) Laban confronted Jacob face to face. Laban presented his grievance, and Jacob had the opportunity to present his case.

While presenting his side of the story, Laban accuses Jacob, “And now that you’ve chosen to leave because you miss you father’s home, why did you steal my gods?”

Unaware of Rachel’s act, Jacob denies it forcefully.


Can you steal a god? What a strange concept.

The very fact that one can steal an idol shows the pettiness of ascribing supernatural powers to figures of stone and metal. How can a deity fit into a box?

Indeed, the Midrash tells us that when Jacob’s children heard their grandfather’s accusation, they were pained and said, “We are embarrassed and ashamed by this grandfather who claims that his gods were stolen."

Let's take this story and make it personal: Have we deified things which can fit on a camel or be stolen from us? Money, fame, power, pleasure, superficial aspirations?

We all worship something. The question is whether the object of our adulation is Jacob's version of G‑d or Laban's.

Can the principles we hold dear be stolen? Can true morality be snatched from a person?

Historically, one of the greatest prides of the Jewish people has been that no matter what our haters did to us, no matter how many of our possessions were stolen, no matter how much blood was spilled, they could never take away our G‑d. No Nazi or crusader could confiscate or kill Him. That is the miracle of Jewish history. Our Jewishness is unstealable.

Laban telling Jacob about his stolen god is a moment of true historical irony. There was Jacob, traveling with his Jewish family to the Holy Land to build a nation of monotheists who would go through three millennia of expulsions and thefts and still have their G‑d in their hearts. And there was Laban, who was worried about the god in his pocket.


But, in a sense, the infinite Creator can be stolen.

We all know people who have lost their interest in G‑d and Judaism. Someone (or something) is stealing their (connection to) G‑d.

That is unnatural. We are “believers children of believers.” Faith is in our DNA. And yet, in so many of our brothers and sisters, that faith isn't surfacing. And the question we must ask ourselves is, why? Why is G‑d being stolen? What well-intentioned mistakes are we making that are pushing our siblings away?

The good news is that G‑d can never truly be stolen, and Judaism will never disappear. It can only go into hiding. We can help it come back into the light.

Every child, teen, or adult whose Judaism shines brightly is a win that deserves celebration. And every child, teen, or adult whose connection is waiting to be ignited is a call for the rest of us to do what we can to reveal the light within.

This is the pivotal challenge of our time: To reveal the beautiful connection between Jacob's G‑d and Jacob's children.