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Theft in Our Chabad

Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 1:36 pm

robbery.jpgLast Monday, a staff member approached me and asked if I knew what had happened to her ipod over the weekend. She had left it in a specific place on Friday, and it was no longer there.

I hadn’t seen it, but offered to look through our security camera footage and see if we could figure it out. Fortunately we have high resolution cameras recording at all times, so I rewound to Friday afternoon and we started watching. Lo and behold, we see that at 2:00pm our cleaner came—not our regular cleaner, but a new one the company had sent—walked around, and noticed the ipod and speakers. He looked over his shoulder, realized no one was watching, and calmly slipped it into his pocket.

So, great, now we know what happened, but what next? How do I deal with the thief?

Our Chassidic masters explain that there are two ways to deal with everything in life: the long-short way and the short-long way. In this instance, the long-short way would mean calling the thief, engaging him in real conversation to understand the underlying reason of why he stole. Perhaps he’s poor, or had a troubled upbringing, and maybe he was simply tempted in the moment and regretted it immediately afterwards. It would take time and patience to build a relationship and get to the point where the thief was able to be vulnerable enough to truly open up and expose himself. And then you can come up with a solution. That might entail giving him a job, or helping him find one on his own, maintaining a connection, etc. This is surely the best and most effective method, but it is undeniably long and all-consuming.

The short-long method, on the other hand, would be to threaten him with police involvement, which would solve the immediate problem only. He would return the ipod, but would likely steal again. Nothing has really changed.

When it comes to our own problems, we have the same methods at our disposal. We can use the short-long method, which might smooth things over in the here and now, but it’s not the real work. The real work is the long-short method, which takes year of introspection, analysis and character building, but yields true, long-term results.

In this case, I must confess that I chose the short-term solution. I confronted the thief, insisted he return the ipod immediately or I would call the police, and he did. But had I had more time to invest, I should have spent the time working with him to understand and resolve the underlying issues.

In the moment, it is harder. It takes time and the results are not as immediate. But in the long term, if we want to effect real change—in ourselves or others—there is only one way: the long short way

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