For the week ending 3 November 2007 / 22 Heshvan 5768

A Lesson from the Deluge

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I recently became aware of a truck carrying a load of surplus fruits and vegetables to a dumping destination. When it came to a brief halt very near where I stood I was very tempted to help myself to this produce that was in any case going to waste. What was the right thing to do?

Answer: A similar question was put to Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein by someone who had already surrendered to such temptation and asked whether he had acted in a proper fashion.

His response was that as long as the produce belonged to someone who, for marketing considerations, insisted on its destruction, it was illegal for anyone to avail himself of it. As support for labeling such action theft he cited the Midrash about G-d commanding Noach to avoid stealing from anyone in order to provide for his family and all the animals a year's supply of food while they were in the ark. Although Noach realized that all of this food — and its owners — would in any case be destroyed in the deluge, he refrained from stocking up with anything that he had not purchased.

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