Jun 11, 2009

Have you found this Mattress?

The story of the lady in Israel who wanted to surprise her mother with a nice gift but ended up causing a disaster has been picked up by news media all around the world, even CNN.

She bought her mother a new mattress and threw out the old one, hoping to surprise her mother. When dear mother came home and saw the new mattress, she freaked out, as she had been socking away her life's savings in her mattress - to the tune of $1,000,000!

Needless to say, the mattress by then was gone and they could not find it.

The story stopped there, with a nice quote from the daughter about how one must accept the good and the bad.

The story, however, does not really end there. The papers and radio discussed the situation with her. She has not given up and accepted the bad. She is looking for the mattress and money.

She has gone down to the dumping ground for the area, where the municipalities dump all the trash, and she has been searching for it. Knowing people would come looking for it, the administrator placed security guards there to keep them out. Unable to find it, but still looking, the woman said dejectedly that she probably will never find it - a security guard told her that had he found it he would just have pocketed it, walked away and not said a word to anybody, and she realizes that that is probably what happened.



There are two questions this raises in my mind:
  1. If I was the security guard (or even if not - if I found the money), would I do the same? Would I just take the money and disappear, or would I return it? $1,000,000 is a lot of money, but it is also a lot of guilt to live with...
  2. I wonder halachically if the person who finds it would be allowed to keep it. Clearly there is a siman - it is in a mattress stored in a certain way, which we know is a good siman even for money which usually has no siman. Also, she is looking for it, so there is no yi'ush. But on the other hand, despite the fact that she is looking for it, she has expressed yi'ush saying that she will probably never find it.
I actually wonder about the first question more than the second. I think I would like to believe that if I found it I would return it. But $1,000,000 is a pretty big test....

4 comments:

  1. I learned hilchos hashovas aveida b'iyun not too long ago.

    If an item was lost in an area where the majority of people are not Jewish, or do not keep mitzvos (specifically the mitzva of hashovas aveida), then b'al korchah there is yeiush, since she knows whoever finds it will probably keep it. The only doubt the finder might have is whether or not the owner is aware of the loss - if not, you can't have yeiush shelo mida'as. But here she is clearly aware of the loss, and since most people in Tel Aviv are not shomer mitzvos, there is clear yeiush.

    So Rafi, there's your heter. If you find the money, you can keep it!

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  2. In addition, if you believe the CNN article, Anat's mother told her to forget about the money. It doesn't matter whether Anat was m'ya'eish or not; the money belongs to her mother, and her mother explicitly was m'ya'eish. Anat is technically no different than any of the other treasure hunters.

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  3. no guilt...could i forget??

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