Sam Benson, the most notorious thief in the entire Jewish community, called on the town rabbi.
“Sir, I found a purse full of gold. If it had been dropped by a Christian, I would keep it for myself as a mitztvah*. But since I can tell that it wasn’t dropped by a Christian because of this little Star of David sewn into the corner, I would like you to help me locate the owner.”
“Why of course!” exclaimed the surprised rabbi. “I’ll make an announcement in the synagogue. The owner will undoubtedly claim his property.”
A few minutes after Benson left, the rabbi discovered that his watch was missing. He immediately sent his shammes* to bring the man back, and sure enough, Benson had it in his pocket.
“I just can’t figure you out,” said the exasperated rabbi. “Here you return a purse full of gold and then you steal a watch that costs less than five dollars. I don’t understand you at all.”
“What’s to understand?” answered Benson. “When it comes to returning a lost article, that’s a mitzvah. But when it comes to stealing, that’s business!”
- [*”Mitzvah”, a good deed. “Shammes”, a sexton of a synagogue.]