The other sins the generation was involved in had much more serious consequences, but they didn’t include a lack of respect for others, and therefore didn’t carry this element of changing the system of judgment. It was stealing alone that sealed their fate because it changed the system of judgment.
Living in the 21st Century
This concept is especially applicable in our times. Never before in the history of humanity has so much wealth been accessible to so many. Kings of yesteryear could not envision or imagine the luxuries that the common man today takes for granted. Yet it seems to be more difficult than ever to earn a living. The great test of life is not earning a living; but how you earn your living. Are you honest? Are you scrupulous? Do you have standards and immutable rules?
While the primary motivation for honesty in business is that it is the right way to act, this Chazal demonstrates to us another reason: it changes the way Hashem acts toward us. It would be difficult to imagine the man who can say to Hashem, “I am entitled to earn a living! Based on my calculations of what You have given me and what I have done for You, You owe me.” Therefore, it is ill advised for a person to enter into calculations with Hashem, demanding his needs. Far wiser is the man who recognizes that we exist because of mercy. Before Hashem creates us, we do nothing to deserve being created, and after Hashem creates us we aren’t any different. We depend on Hashem’s mercy.
If we wish to gain favor in Hashem’s eyes, we need to utilize the systems He has created. By respecting other people and being scrupulously honest in our business dealings, we make it far more likely for Him to judge us with mercy and take care of us.
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