Ethics

For the week ending 26 July 2008 / 23 Tammuz 5768

Who Gets the Cash?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: In our Parshat Bechukotai "The Human Side of the Story" feature the story was told about a group of girls in Petach Tikvah who found $33,000 in an abandoned dresser and divided the money among themselves. When the mother of one of them discovered what had happened she alerted the police who found the owner and returned all the money to her. From a halachic point of view did the girls have a right to keep the money?

Answer: The Torah obligates a Jew who finds a lost object to make an effort to locate its owner and return it to him. If there is no indication of the identity of the owner an effort must be made to publicize the find in the hope that the owner will come to claim it by providing proof that it belongs to him.

In the above-mentioned case the young ladies were negligent in failing to search the drawers in the hope of finding papers that would identify the owner. After all, this is what the police simply did!

This should serve as a lesson to all finders of treasure that "all that glitters you cannot hold."

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