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The First Thief in the Torah

If the sun rises on him [a thief], he must make whole. [pay restitution]. (Ex. 22:2).

Is this phrase like Homer’s “rose-fingered dawn”? It might seem that way. But if we look at the text more carefully, an entirely different meaning comes out.

The first time in the Torah in which “the sun rises” on someone, it exposes Jacob, after he wrestled with the angel. Jacob was on his way to a confrontation with his brother Esau, who was supposedly waiting to meet Jacob as he crossed back into the land of Canaan.

After Jacob reconciles with Esau, bowing down to him multiple times, and giving him a myriad of “gifts,” the Torah tells us that Jacob was then “whole.”

The text is telling us, obliquely, that Jacob was the first thief to make restitution to the victim.  Interestingly, the text tells us that Jacob was the one who was “whole” – and if we look at Ex. 22:2 again, it is interesting that the text does not tell us which party – the thief or the victim – is made whole! Indeed, the text may be telling us that when someone steals from another person, the thief is also harmed.

As a result, when restitution is made, both parties are made whole.

Comments are welcome!