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Jul 10, 2008

falafel for a mitzva

Last night we hosted a Sheva Brachos dinner in our house for a cousin who just got married the night before (my speech, sans post drasha blessings to the couples).

During the dinner, one of my boys found, floating in the toilet, a 200NIS bill. He took it out and wanted to keep it. My wife asked the various people there who it might have fallen from, and eventually found the owner.

My son did not want to return it. Being that he is an eleven year old talmid chacham learning in a cheder, he came up with some good svara why he can keep it. He compared it to a case the mishna and gemara discuss in which somebody retrieves something from the mouth of a lion. he can keep it in that case because the owner would otherwise have lost it completely anyway. He said this would have been lost - flushed down the toilet, so he should be alowed to keep it.

I thought he should return, even if just for chinuch reasons. I thought it wrong to keep something that was lost at a party in our house, when we know who lost it. Also I suggested that he clearly had found it before the owner had given up hope of finding it (yi'ush) - as the owner of the money only realized it had fallen after we asked about it. Being that he found it before yi'ush, he would have to return it.

He was very upset because he really wanted to keep the money.

The one who lost the money agreed that it would be good for him to know we asked a Rav the shailoh, and whatever the Rav decides is how we would proceed.

So I asked my Rav the shailoh. The Rav answered that there are a numbers of reasons that for chinuch he should have to return it. And while the logic he used was good (comparing it to the case of the item in the lion's mouth), it is not definite that it would have been lost from the loser and from all people (maybe it would have floated and not been flushed down? maybe somebody else would have gone to use the toilet and found it?), and therefore not comparable to the case of the lion.

My son was very disappointed because he really thought he should be able to keep it. We told him that the mitzva is worth so much for than 200 shekels, and is worth even more because the nisayon is so difficult for him.

As a motivational celebration, we went out for dinner to falafel, as per his preference, and celebrated his big mitzva of hashavas aveida.

And I told him I would post it on my blog, to which he smiled and then waved his hand and 'pooh poohed' it...


  1. How about just returning it because clearly the Torah wants you to return lost objects whenever possible?

    Yes, there are certain times that you can keep things, but I think it's also pretty clear that the right thing to do is to return it anyway when possible.

    Nonetheless, congrats to him for even bringing it up. He could have just pocketed it without saying anything to anyone.

    The Wolf

  2. wolf - easy to say, but it is not so easy for an 11 year old kid to pass it up when the halacha says he can keep it (which he thought it did based on his logic).
    We tried to persuade him, based on the mitzva alone, to return it, but that was not good enough because he thought there is no mitzva in this case.

  3. Fair enough... having had three eleven year olds, I can certainly understand that.

    The Wolf

  4. a sharp mind, boldness and he's willing to get his hands dirty to make a buck.

    this one's going far. treat him well. my bet is he's the child that will be able to care of you financially in your old age.

  5. btw, i don't know if you check old posts on your other blog, but i responded to the post about ephraim (see hizkuni for a partial answer)

  6. This is great. Your son is a normal kid who knows how difficult it is to be financially solvent, especially in Israel, eh?
    I would think the reason for returning it is because it was not in רשות הרבים but rather in your own home, רשות היחיד , and you knew who the guests were: it was merely a matter of asking the guests who was missing 200 shekel.
    Then, if nobody was missing anything, perhaps he would have been permitted to keep it?
    At that age, your יצר הרע is kinda strong, though...
    That was a nice 'positive reinforcement' touch, treating him to falafel as a reward for doing a mitzvah!

  7. LOZ - saw it. thanks. will check.

    he might be the one, but he will probably hate us or something and just throw us in some nursing home to rot away... :-)

    Lady-Light - it really was..

  8. I disagree with you Rafi. The proper chinuch is to follow the din. Your son should be congatulated for a good sevara. At the same time, he should realize he's a nogea b'davar. Therefore a shaila needs to be asked. Wolf, the Torah wants him to keep it if it's his. That would be kosher money.

  9. You can also show him the gemara (B.M. 30b) that says Yerushalayim was destroyed because people were judging strictly by the book, and not going above and beyond for their fellow Jews.
    Even if he were correct, this would seem to be a good example of such a case. And by returning the money, he is bringing us all one step closer to the geulah!

  10. Wolf, the Torah wants him to keep it if it's his. That would be kosher money.

    I wasn't disputing the fact that if the halacha says he can keep it that it's within his rights to do so.

    Nonetheless, if you can identify the owner, I think that the right thing to do is return it. When you say "the Torah wants him to keep it," are you saying that it would be *against* the Torah's wishes to return it anyway?

    Personally (and yes, I'm cognizant of the fact that I'm not an eleven year old), if I could identify the owner, I'd return it, regardless of whether halacha tells me I can keep it or not. I do that simply because that's how I would want to be treated in return.

    The concept of lifnim m'shuras hadin can be taught as well.

    The Wolf

  11. I disagree with you Rafi. The proper chinuch is to follow the din.
    like by a mishepara where the din is clearly no backs?
    BTW why wouldn't your chatzer have been koneh and cqan't you charge an 11 year old for resources above a minimum?
    BTW how does chinuch countermand the din?

    Joel Rich

  12. But is one not mechuyav to return it al pi midat chasidut? While you may not be able to force this, I'm surprised the Rav never mentioned it.

  13. r' chaim,

    mechuyav and midas chasidus are mutually exclusive!

    midas chasidus means it's an elective behavior - above the normal requirments of halacha.

  14. metzias katan liaviv. Rafi used the money to buy his kid a falafel.


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