We all know the rule on the ark. You have to come in pairs. What about demons and spirits? Same rule applied. So when the demon of Deceit (שיקרא) approached Noach about boarding the ark he was told that he needed a partner. (This Midrash* is quoted by the classic work on the Parsha – Chofetz Chaim on the Torah**).
Deceit (שיקרא) quickly approached the demon of (פחתא) Loss, and asked if he would be his partner so they can both survive the flood and ply their tools in the new world, after the flood,
(פחתא) Loss wasn’t born yesterday and asked what he gets out of the deal. Deceit (שיקרא) assured him that all the material gains that he ‘collected’ will go straight to (פחתא) Loss. It seems that Deceit (שיקרא) derived so much joy from acquiring ill-gotten material wealth that he didn’t even necessarily need to enjoy what he acquired.
Sure enough when they left the Ark together, after the flood was over, Deceit (שיקרא) immediately began to accumulate substantial possessions. All of which (פחתא) Loss promptly took for himself. When Deceit (שיקרא) noticed that everything seemed to have disappeared, he inquired of (פחתא) Loss, about his missing possessions. (פחתא) Loss, reminded him about the original deal – Deceit (שיקרא) ‘acquired’ it and (פחתא) Loss, gets to keep it. Now that Deceit (שיקרא) was reminded of the arrangement, he was perfectly fine with it.
God’s automatic disposal of ill-gotten gains
The “Chofetz Chaim on the Torah” (Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan ZT’L) brings this Midrash down to portray a reality of the way God designed the world. This should have a great impact on the temptation to steal from someone else.
Let’s first introduce the characters. Deceit (שיקרא) probably needs no introduction. He goes by many different aliases: stealing, lying, cheating, embezzling, white collar crime, theft, skimming off the top, armed robbery, etc. Before the flood, God was more forgiving about thievery but now, after the flood, God has a built-in mechanism to take action against those who steal. That’s where our second character, (פחתא) Loss, makes a cameo appearance. He assures that ill-gotten gains will vanish. How will they vanish? Getting caught, a huge medical bill, someone embezzles the embezzler, an IRS audit, a market crash – God has countless ways. It is not necessarily going to happen instantly. It take many years, even generations.
Regardless, the central point of the story, you won’t get to enjoy what you stole.
But why did Noach allow demons on the ark
Yes, the ill-gotten gains won’t last but why build that into the plan? Why not avoid all that pain, suffering and misery? Of course anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Midrash knows that this is a major and consistent theme. People grow from adversity. Growth is what we are after in this world. The divine scheme of reward and punishment would not work unless unpleasant things happen. We have the free will to steal. The amazing insight of the Chofetz Chaim is that we don’t have the free will to perpetually enjoy what we stole. Sooner or later (פחתא) Loss will prevail.
* מדרש תהילים ז׳ ,ילקוט שמעוני על התורה נ״ו & ילקוט שמעוני על נ”ך תרל״ח
** Chofetz Chaim Al Ha’Torah is a sefer of the Chofetz Chaim’s divrei Torah on the Chumash, written by his trusted talmid, Rav Shmuel Greinemann zt”l. Special thanks to one of my two amazing Chavrutot, Yisrael Eisenberg, for bringing it to my attention.