Tzemach Tzadik by Rabbi Leone di Modena Chapter 21 Evil and Theft


Back to chapter 20 about justice and fairness

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

Evil and crime:

Evil and crime are the antithesis of justice and fairness and they involve distorting what is right and behaving in an improper manner. This takes various forms: the first is spilling innocent blood; the second is abusing one's fellow man; the third forcing and compelling somebody to act against his will; the forth is damaging somebody's person or property; the fifth is covertly stealing; the sixth is robbing overtly and by force; the seventh is giving directives which are contrary to the Law, convicting the innocent and acquitting the guilty: in effect, this was the sin of the generation of the flood, which exceeded the limits in this respect, as it is written (Genesis 6, 11): "And the Earth became corrupted before the Lord and the Earth was filled with crime". Our Sages of blessed memory said (Talmud Bavli, tractate Sanhedrin 108a): "Even though they were guilty of idol worship, forbidden relations and bloodshed and all the iniquities in the world, their final verdict was only sealed as a result of robbery and crime".

We can attribute this evil trait to the Satan, who will never be the repository of righteousness and whose purpose is to constantly do only evil and harm those who serve Hashem and to cause them suffering and repay evil instead of good. Torah says (Deut. 25, 16): "Since all who behave in this way and commit crimes are an abomination to Hashem". King David said (Psalm 37, 1) "Do not envy evil doers. He further said (ibid. 125, 3): "In order that the righteous will not commit crimes". King Solomon said (Proverbs 30, 21): "Because of three [things] the earth trembles etc.: because of a slave who becomes a king and a villain who prospers; and a despicable woman who finds a mate etc.", since all these things are contrary to law and correct behavior.

Our Sages of blessed memory said (Talmud Bavli, tractate Baba Batra 88b1): "Rabbi Levi said: the punishment for [owning] bad measures is more severe than for forbidden relationships, since the former uses [the stronger word] 'El', while the latter employs [the word] 'Eleh' etc.". They were strict in their interpretation to such an extent that they said in tractate Peah that one who does not allow the poor to collect their portion, or allows one to collect and not another, steals; and it is said about him (Proverbs 22, 28 and 23, 10): "Do not push aside the established limits". In the book Ben Sira it is written "You will be assessed with the same measure with which you assess [others]". King Solomon said (Eccl. 10, 8-9): "One who digs a trench will himself fall into it [...]; one who transports stones will be hurt by them". A wise man said "Nothing done in an improper manner can succeed". Someone else said that one who harms his fellow man will himself be harmed and will not know the source of what comes upon him.

We find it written that the Satan decided to marry a woman to bear for him daughters in order to bring sons-in-law to his home, which is the Gehenna. He therefore took as his wife the Evil, who bore him seven daughters. These are the names of the daughters whom he married off and the names of his sons-in-law: Pride the eldest was given to the Rich; he gave Stinginess, the second, to the Multitude; the third, Deceit, he gave to the Villagers; the forth, Envy, he gave to Craftsmen; he gave the fifth, Flattery and Simulation2 to Hypocrites who feign piousness; the sixth, Haughtiness, he gave to the Women; the seventh, Immorality, he did not want to marry off but he allowed her to wander spreading perversion all over the world in order to continuously cause much death. All these daughters were born to Evil and she did not close her mouth.

Note of the translators:
[1] The Hebrew text refers to folio 28b but this seems to be a typo.
[2] The terms used in the original text suggest the classic example of the pig showing off his seemingly kosher trotters while hiding his unkosher signs and pretending to be holy.

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 21 about evil and crime is found at pages 45-46.