Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra: Silent Thief (Kedoshim)

The Torah Text

Leviticus 19 lays out a series of ethical laws, not all apparently related to each other. Abraham ibn Ezra establishes possible connections leading from one topic to the next. Leviticus 19:10-11 reads, “You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I Adonai am your God. You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another.”

Ibn Ezra’s Teaching

וטעם לא תגנבו. אחר כך. כי כן צויתיך שתתן משלך אל העניים לכבוד השם אף שתקח מה שהוא לאחרים: וטעם תגנובו. כי הרואה ומחריש גם הוא גנב

Leviticus 19:11 YOU SHALL NOT STEAL. This follows the laws of leaving part of the produce to the poor, for Scripture, as it were, says I have commanded that you give from your property to the poor out of respect for God. You shall certainly not take what belongs to others. Scripture employs the plural you, for the one who sees and is silent is also a thief. (Translation based on Strickman and Silver)

Reflections for the Path

Ibn Ezra links theft with not just a deviation from a baseline “what’s mine is mine”, but rather to an opposite extreme of our aspirational awareness that “not everything that is mine is mine”. Part of what we think we own, we really owe to the poor. To steal is therefore doubly insulting to God, and doubly disastrous for the character we are supposed to be cultivating.

Then Ibn Ezra goes one step further and calls out those who let theft happen and don’t speak up against it. They too are thieves, perhaps of integrity and justice.

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.