There we were, sitting in our home office and talking, when suddenly, my husband shot up and bolted out the back door. As I followed him, I heard him scream that some kid had just stolen our 4-year-old daughter's bicycle, which she had received as a birthday gift.
As my husband bolted after this kid and his two friends, the boy dropped the bike to lighten his load and kept going. A block later, he made the mistake of dropping his backpack with his identification inside.
To make a long story short, the boy came back to our house later that evening with his mother, hoping to be able to pick up his backpack. In regards to the bike, he wasn't stealing it, he said; he was just borrowing it, and planned on returning it.
By the time he came over, we had already called the police, filed a claim, and they had his backpack and knew exactly who he was. I tried to explain to him that there is no such thing as entering a fenced backyard, picking up something that isn't yours, running through another yard with it on your shoulder, and then claiming that you were only "borrowing" the item. It was stealing, plain and simple, and I absolutely didn't believe that he had any intension of returning it.
But even if he had, it didn't matter. What mattered was not what he intended to do, but was he actually did. He stole the bike. He did something wrong. And at the end of the day, our actions are what counts.
Hamaaser hu haikar, as the sages explain. It is what we do that matters most.
The holiday of Shavuot -- the giving of the Torah -- is encapsulated by the phrase, Naaseh v'Nishmah: "We will do and we will understand."
Often, the explanation is that, first we will do as we are commanded, and then we will worry about understanding the meaning behind the commandments. This is the point of the phrase at its most basic level. This is the concept of hamaaseh hu haikar, the action is what counts. This is the "just-do-it" approach.
The Proper Actions
But there is another explanation -- a deeper way of understanding this concept.
And that is na'aseh, "we will do" in order that "we understand," nishmah -- that only through doing what is right will we come to understand and appreciate the meaning behind it. When our actions are proper, we can then retroactively find meaning in them, even if we didn't understand when we initially acted.
This is why only after really investing in working out and eating healthy will you understand how it makes you feel better. Only after having a child can you understand why anyone would go through the pain and effort of pregnancy and birth. And only when willing to live the commandments can we understand, feel and recognize their meaning and beauty.
Regarding my daughter's bike: It is back, safe and sound, in our backyard.
Yet the kid who took it had to go to school today without his backpack since the police were still holding on to it.
We are not pressing charges. But he will need to do some community service. And I am glad. He will need to rectify his negative actions with positive ones. And by doing the right thing, it may affect him, and he will come to understand why stealing was so very wrong.
Sara Esther Crispe is editor of TheJewishWoman.org. E-mail her at: [email protected] . com.