To Stop a Thief
A rabbi once entered a rural synagogue and heard a preacher
rebuking his congregation. The peasants were wailing in guilt
as they heard of the terrible punishment that awaited them for their bad deeds.
Afterward, the rabbi approached the preacher. " There are two
ways to prevent a thief from pursuing his vocation," he said.
" One is by imprisoning him so he cannot go out and rob. But this
doesn't really correct the problem, because the thief remains a
thief, and he will likely steal again ince released. The second way
is to rehabilitate him by teaching him how inappropriate it is for
him to live this way. Teach him a respectable trade and evoke in him
a sense of pride and dignity that it is beneath him to stoop to
being a thief. In the long term, it is always better to inspire
rather than to criticise, to encourage rather than to demoralise.
We can see the proof of this in Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 10a.
There, we find a tale of thieves, or criminals of some sort
harrassing the town of R Meir. One night as he davened, he prayed
hey should die. Beruriah, his wife, heard this, and said to him,
"What are you thinking?( that such a prayer woud be heard?)Do you
justify it on the basis of the verse 'May sinners disappear from the
earth, and the wicked be no more'? (Tehillim 104:35) The word you
take to mean 'sinners' can also be understood as 'sins'"
The tale continues,"Rather pray that they should repent, and there
WILL be no more wicked people around!" So the rabbi prayed for them
to repent, and they did.