Ethics

For the week ending 7 January 2012 / 11 Tevet 5772

To Take or Not to Take?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: When I stay in a hotel during a business or vacation trip I am always tempted to take the unused soap and shampoo packets left in my room. I am aware that it is a common practice for people to take such items to either bring home as souvenirs or to contribute to charitable organizations, but I would like to know if it is proper to do so.

Answer: There is no uniform policy of hotels in regard to this issue. While some expect guests to leave behind what they don’t use, others are either resigned to their being taken or even welcome such behavior as a promotion of the hotel. If you are really interested in taking some of these things with you it would be best to inquire at the checkout desk if you have the hotel’s permission to do so.

The failure to even consider that there may be something dishonest about taking soap without permission has led to the practice of taking towels and other portable items that the hotel certainly is not prepared to part with. Even if the intention of the taker is to help a charitable cause there is no justification for fulfilling a mitzvah through sin.

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