Rabbi Daniel Lapin
August 4, 2013
Like many guys, I derive deep enjoyment from owning and using high quality tools. I'm not saying women don't own or use tools. Many do. I know because I once saw pink toolboxes at a large retail chain. (Though women callers to my radio show, whenever I discuss tools, assure me they'd never buy a pink toolbox.) But to most women, tools are just that-tools; the means to getting a job done. That would be Susan. To most men, tools are an extension of their identity. That would be me.
For a long time, the Snap-On man in his familiar white truck would make a stop at my home every month or two. Seldom did he leave without a sale, and my wife, God bless her, never ever asked whether I really needed a new tool or how much it cost.
How did the Snap-On man come to stop at my home? Well, the mechanic to whom I entrusted my car's major maintenance allowed me to hang out in his shop and watch him work. It was like witnessing a Swiss watchmaker meticulously mending a fine miniature movement. Except, there was nothing miniature about my four-liter V-12 engine. He worked calmly and smoothly, always confident that when he finally called out, "Okay, start 'er up," that remarkable piece of machinery would leap to life with a glorious-sounding snarl in stereo from the dual exhausts.
And he used Snap-On tools. Occasionally from beneath my car he'd say, "Could you get me a nine millimeter wrench, please?" I'd step over to the shiny red tool cabinet, find the needed tool and pass it to my mechanic. I loved those times.
One day I noticed attached to his tool cabinet, an attractive silver sign reading:
"Don't ask to borrow these tools; I use them to make my living."
I instantly envisioned how cool that sign would look attached to one of my bookcases in which reside hundreds of volumes of ancient Jewish wisdom. In response to my inquiry, he told me that the Snap-On man gifts those silver signs to his best customers. In short order, I met my neighborhood Snap-On man, became a good customer, and acquired my prized silver sign.
The tools for making one's living should always be regarded as sacrosanct and in most cultures, are.
Consider this verse:
If a man steals an ox or a sheep and then kills it, or sells it, he must pay the value of five oxen for an ox and the value of four sheep for a sheep. (Exodus 21:37)
Why does God want the miscreant who deprives his victim of an ox to pay a higher restitution than one who deprives him of a sheep? What's the difference between on ox and a sheep?
Ancient Jewish wisdom helps us understand that a sheep in Scripture means an asset. When you own a sheep, it throws off income in the form of wool. However, an ox means a tool for earning your living. When you own an ox, you have the means to plow your field or pull your wagon to market.
Stealing a man's asset is bad enough...but stealing a tool with which he earns a living! God views that as considerably worse and requires restitution to be appropriately higher. Earning a living is a holy activity and the tools that make it possible acquire some holiness too.
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Oh, and just in case the silver sign on my bookcase doesn't deter you from asking to borrow one of my books, the answer is 'no.' But I will encourage you to buy a copy of your own. I think everyone should own tools.
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© 2013 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.
You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.
Web Site: www.rabbidaniellapin.com