Halacha Club

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried

Chapter 182 : The laws of theft and robbery


It's forbidden to rob or steal even a trifle, whether from a Jew or from a Gentile. There was a midrash, it's told about one person who wronged a Gentile in the measurement of dates that he sold him, and afterwards bought with all the money oil, and the jar broke and the oil was spilt, and I said 'Blessed be the place that there aren't any falsehoods (concealed) from Him' The text says: "Don't oppress your neighbour nor rob him" Stealing from a Gentile (is considered as) stealing.

  1. 'Tanna debe Eliyahu' - a midrash - collection of stories often quoted in the Talmud.
  2. The subject of the story.
  3. 'Hamakom' - 'the place' - one of the names for Hashem.
  4. Lev. 19:13.
  5. The Halacha makes no distinction between a Jew and a Gentile.


If it's something so insignificant that no one would bother about it, for example, to take from a bundle a toothpick to clean one's teeth, it's allowed. One who is pious should avoid doing also this.


Even to steal (from someone) with the intention of returning, because one wants to annoy him a little, or in the way of a joke, is also forbidden.


It's forbidden to oppress one's acquaintance even in the slightest degree, as it is said: "Don't oppress your neighbour". Who is an oppressor? One who has received money from his acquaintance, with his consent, for example, he has in his possession a loan or rent, and doesn't want to pay it to him, or puts him off by saying "come again" "come again". Similarly, if he has in his possession an object which was lost by a Gentile, it's forbidden to deny it, for this is considered as definitely stealing. Even more so if he bought from him an object, it's forbidden to mislead him in the reckoning of the amount of money he gives. As it is said: "and you shall reckon with his buyer" for it's like shooting the idolator, for one didn't purchase from him the object, except for the amount it's worth and mislead him in the reckoning of the money, this is like one who steals the object, and not as one who profits from a debt, and even deception which doesn't involve monetary loss is forbidden in business dealings, as we have written in Chapter 63.


Any one who covets the house or the utensils of his acquaintance, or any article that his acquaintance has no intention of selling him, and he uses the influence of friends on him, or urges him himself, until he sells it to him, then he has transgressed "You shall not covet..." From the moment his heart was enticed and he thought, "how can I buy this object" he transgressed "neither shall you desire" for there isn't any desire, except only in the heart, and desire leads to covetousness. The one who buys the object he desires, transgresses two negative commandments, therefore it was said: "You shall not covet... neither shall you desire".


It's a positive commandment on the robber to return the stolen object itself, if it's in the orignal state and has't been altered. as it is said: "he shall restore the stolen (item) which he has robbed" The same law applies to a thief. He doesn't do his duty by giving money, even if the owners had given up hope. However if it was lost or altered in a way that it can't be restored to its orginal state, or was sunk in a building and he will lose a lot of money destroying the building, he fulfills his obligation by giving an amount of money equivalent to its value at the time it was stolen. If the one who had been robbed is in another town, he doesn't have to send the money to his place, rather he should notify him to come and he will pay him. If the one who had been robbed had died, he should pay (the money) to his heirs.


One who robs the public, for example, he was a shopkeeper who measured with a short measure, or weighed with a light weight and the like, or he had a public position, and was lenient towards his relatives and strict towards others. Also one who takes interest from the public. It's hard (for any of these to effectively) repent. Therefore he should supply the needs of the public, so that also the victims will benefit from this. In any case, those that he knows he robbed from them, he is obliged to return (what was stolen) to them, and he doesn't fulfill his obligation by what he does in supplying a public need.


It's forbidden to buy from a thief or a robber the article that he stole or robbed. There is no difference (in this law) whether he's a Jew or a Gentile, for also the Gentile is commanded, about the prohibition of theft and robbery, even from his Gentile acquaintance. This is from the seven mitzvot they were commanded. It's a great sin to buy from the thief or the robber, for by this he supports the wrong-doers in their transgressions, and on this it was said: "whoever is partner with a thief hates his own soul", and causes the thief to steal more, and to steal from others. If he doesn't find a buyer, he won't steal, Although it's possible for him to take the stolen item to a place where they don't know him, this isn't very likely for him. If the buyer's intention is for the benefit of the owners in order to return it to them, then if they give him his money back it's allowed. This is only if it wasn't possible for the owners themselves to recover the item. It's similarly forbidden to receive as a surety something that has apparently been stolen or robbed.


Even to get the slightest benefit from the item that was stolen or robbed, all the time it's in the possession of the thief or the robber, is forbidden. Even if the benefit is small, so that also it's owner wouldn't be concerned over the loss, for example, changing money of equal value is forbidden with stolen or robbed money. Also, to bring into a house that was stolen, an animal (for shelter), because of the heat or in rain because of the rain, or to pass through a field that was stolen, is forbidden.


Therefore, one who is a famous thief or robber, who has no other occupation except that, and all his wealth is assumed to be from stealing or robbery, one is forbidden to have any benefit from him, and it's forbidden for a poor person to accept charity from him.


Similarly, if some one wants to sell an item that appears to be stolen, for example, fruit watchmen who sell fruit in a secluded place, or a seller who carries secretly the item to for sale, or who says to the buyer: "hide it", it's forbidden to buy. Even to buy from a woman an item, when there is a suspicion that she sells it without the knowledge of her husband, or to buy from a man an item of woman's jewelry or clothing, when there is a suspicion that he sells it without the knowledge of his wife, is forbidden.


One whose dishes were exchanged at a banquet or the like, he shouldn't use these dishes which came to him (but) are not his, and when the owner of the item comes he needs to return it to him, even though his dishes have got lost. Similarly, one who sends his washing to a public laundry, and they send to him a robe which isn't his, it's forbidden to wear it rather he needs to return it to it's owner, even though his one was lost. However, if it was with him a long time, so that it would be impossible for it's owner not to have asked in the meanwhile, after his item, then it's allowed for him to wear it, because we can assume that the laundry's owner has settled with the owner and paid him for the robe.


It's forbidden to benefit from anything of one's acquaintance without his knowledge, even though it's obvious to one that when it's owner comes to know, he will be happy, and will show him, because of his love for him, in any event, is forbidden. Therefore one who enters the orchard or the garden of his acquaintance, it's forbidden for him to pick fruit without the knowledge of it's owners, even though the orchard's owner and the garden's owner, love and esteem him like themselves, and will certainly be happy and be glad when they learn that he benefited from it's fruits, in any case, since at this moment, they don't know about this, he would be getting benefit illegally. One should warn the public, who err in this due to lack of knowledge.


In any case, it's allowable for a member of someone's household to give bread to a poor person or to the son of the beloved friend of the master of the house without his knowledge. For this is how the house owner's behave, and this isn't termed without the owners' knowledge, since this is how the owners behave, we know that it's a recognized custom. For this reason, it's allowed to receive (as) charity from the women, something small, without the knowledge of the husbands, since it's their (the wives) custom to do this, and the husbands know this is their custom to do. Similarly, in an orchard, if one is used (to being) in there, one can eat its fruits with the knowledge of the owners, it's allowed. This (is the rule) for any similar case.


One who finds fruit on a road underneath a tree, which comes out over the road, if they are fruits which normally fall from the tree, and by falling become spoiled, or even they aren't spoiled, rather the majority of passersby there, are not Jewish, or there are fruits which customarily animals eat them, and they pass by on the road there, then the owners have already given up (their rights) to them, and it's allowed. However, if they are fruits that aren't spoiled when they fall, and the majority of the passersby there are Jewish, it's forbidden because (it's considered as) robbery. If they (belong to) young orphans, it's forbidden (to take them) under any circumstances, for (with) children giving up doesn't apply, and their forgiveness doesn't count.


The law of the land (is also for the Jews there) the law.