I admit that I sometimes just can't keep my fingers to myself. I felt thirsty so I took a refreshing ginger ale from my neighbour's freezer.

I typed into Google 'thou shall not steal' after realizing that I committed a sin (one day after Yom Kippur... sigh). The Wikipedia entry states:

"Steal" in this commandment has traditionally been interpreted by Jewish commentaries to refer to the stealing of an actual human being, that is, to kidnapping, including human trafficking. With this understanding, a contextual translation of the commandment in Jewish tradition would more accurately be rendered as "Thou shalt not kidnap". Kidnapping would then constitute a capital offence and thus merit its inclusion among the Ten Commandments.

Nevertheless, this commandment has come to be interpreted, especially in non-Jewish traditions, as the unauthorized taking of private property (stealing or theft), which is a wrongful action already prohibited elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible that does not ordinarily incur the death penalty.

Before reading the first paragraph I totally held the second paragraph to be the only truth when it comes to this commandment — and atonement for this sin by repaying the stolen object ("eye for eye, tooth for tooth"). The first paragraph puts it in a different light.

Please elaborate on the idea that stealing in that context might actually mean stealing a human being / human trafficking.

(Is the original Hebrew different and it was mistranslated into English, or did Chazal interpret it this way?)

  • 2
    While that one reference is understood to be kidnapping, the law against stealing property is also from the Torah, Lev 19:11 "You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another." I'm also not sure I agree with the causal claim that because something merits a death penalty, it is viable to be in the 10 statements.
    – rosends
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 20:57
  • @rosends Right: "Kidnapping would then constitute a capital offence and thus merit its inclusion among the Ten Commandments:" What about desiring another man's goods? Capital offense? Desiring another man's wife? Capital offense?
    – SolaGratia
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


"Don't steal" includes don't steal someone's soda.

The "don't steal" commandment appears in both Exodus and Leviticus. Leviticus refers to property, as the next phrase is -- and don't lie or deny about it.

Yes, the Talmud says the verse in Exodus refers to kidnapping. But regardless of which verse it is, don't steal! (The punishment is to pay back double, by the way; that way, the thief loses as much as s/he intended to inflict on the other person.)

The reason the Talmud had to identify one verse about kidnapping is an interesting pattern in the Torah -- anytime we find if one does X, they are liable to the death penalty, there has to be some other verse that says thou shalt not do X. Take a look at Leviticus Ch. 18, for example; there's a series of thou shalt not vis-a-vis relationships; then a few chapters later the penalties are listed. So Exodus a few chapters later will say if someone kidnaps the penalty is death, which means there must have first been a thou-shalt-not? The Talmud therefore says it was the "don't steal" in the Ten Commandments.

This is all at a very nitty-gritty level. The Ten Commandments are broad and encompass many types of sins; thus, don't steal encompasses everything from the harshest possible, kidnapping, to something much smaller.

  • There are all types of "stealing", incidentally - some we don't normally think of as "stealing", e.g. "stealing" one's time, by, e.g. browsing in a store when you never had an intention to buy anything. What can prob, be said about any type of stealing is that it may violate a separate prohibition of not "oppressing" your neighbor.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 21:30

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