RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY: Stealing people’s mind

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In the previous weeks we explained the prohibition of lying. Today we will start to explore a similar concept which is called in Hebrew genebat da’at. genebat da’at could be understood as a form of “stealing” (stealing one’s mind).As such, this prohibition is learn from the pasuq in Vayqra lo tignobu (19:11) “You shall not steal”.

It is important to clarify that this prohibition is different from the Eighth of the Ten Commandments. The Eighth Commandment is understood in Judaism in the context of “stealing another human being”, in other words “kidnapping”, while the Pasuq in Vayiqra applies to stealing valuables.

In any case, some Rabbis (Ritba) explained that the pasuq of Vaiqra also extends to other forms of stealing, among them genebat da’at, stealing people’s mind. Other Rabbis asserted that the source of genebat da’at is a different Mitzva (Vayqra 19:18) “And you shall love your fellowman as yourself”, which means, do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you. Stealing one’s mind is different from stealing, because the intention is not to steal money from the victim. Stealing people’s minds is when I pretend that I care about someone and I do everything as if I’m trying to help that person, but after all, I just care about my own interest, which I will do every possible effort to conceal.

A common example of the transgression of genebat da’at is if a politician disguises his own personal interest and agendas, and acts as if he would care just for the poor or the weak, etc. concealing his intention for advancing his own private agenda. To achieve that, such a politician would hire professionals to teach him techniques to create a convenient perception in the public’s opinion and to build a image of himself as champion of somebody else’s cause. Obviously, genebat da’at does not occur solely in the world of politics, it could also take place in the world of business, in dating, in our social life, and much more. (to be continued…) From the book Penine Halakha