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Halacha Overview - Chapter 66 Robbery and Loss-Gezeilah va-Aveidah

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Azriel Rosenfeld

Mar 28, 2001, 12:19:37 PM3/28/01
66. Robbery and Loss - Gezeilah va-Aveidah

It is forbidden to rob or to cheat (i.e., to retain someone's property
forcibly even if it was acquired legally), as it says "You shall not cheat
your friend and you shall not rob".1 If one does so he must return what he
stole or (if it is no longer intact) pay for it, as it says "And he shall
return the thing that he stole [or the thing that he cheated]".2 If the
person who was robbed dies the goods are returned to his heirs. It is
forbidden to buy from a robber; one who does so is like one who buys from a

It is forbidden to covet someone's property, as it says "You shall not
desire...",3 and there is a special prohibition against inducing him to
give or sell it to you, as it says "You shall not covet",3,4 for coveting
leads to robbery, as it says "And they coveted fields and stole".5,b

If someone owes a person real, movable property and denies it and swears
falsely and later confesses he must pay the owner 5/4 of the principal and
bring a ram guilt-offering, as it says "If a person... lied to his friend
regarding a deposit... or robbery, or cheated his friend, or found lost
property and lied about it, and swore falsely... he shall pay it and add a
fifth to it... and bring his guilt-offering to Ha-Shem...".6 If the owner
was a proselyte and dies leaving no heirs the payment is given to the
priests on duty, as it says "[They shall confess the sin that they did and
pay the guilt and add a fifth to it and give it to the one against whom
(they were) guilty;] and if the man has no redeemer to whom the guilt can
be returned, the guilt [is] returned to Ha-Shem, to the priest".7,c

We are forbidden to ignore lost property and we are commanded to return it,
as it says "[You shall not see your brother's ox or sheep wandering and
ignore them;] you shall return them to your brother... you must not
ignore".8 Similarly, we are commanded to prevent a loss to someone if it is
in our power to do so, as it says "[And thus shall you do] to any loss of
your brother's".8 If the owner is not known one must advertise what was
found and return it to whoever can identify it or prove that it is his. But
if it is certain that the owner must have given up hope of recovering it,
the finder may keep it.d

1. Lev. 19:13 a. 1:1,4-5; 2:1; 5:1,7; 8:1
2. Lev. 5:23 b. 1:9-11
3. Deut. 5:18 c. 7:1-2,8,14; 8:5-6. On the "fifth" see Shavuos, Note c.
4. Ex. 20:17 d. 11:1,20; 13:1,3; 14:1-4
5. Micah 2:2
6. Lev. 5:2lff
7. Num. 5:6-8
8. Deut. 22:1-3

Halacha-Overview, Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld and
Project Genesis, Inc. The author is Director of the Center for Automation
Research at the University of Maryland in College Park.

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