Jan 21, 2013

Interesting Psak: Keeping Stolen Money

I saw a very interesting psak written on a sign in shul (it is an advertising sign that has a section with a discussion of halachic issues), and Bechadrei is reporting on the same psak.

An incident happened in which someone collecting tzedakka money abroad for an Israeli yeshiva was mugged. The driver had dropped him off at the guest house where he was staying, and on his way up with his case containing the money he had collected 2 muggers attacked him and ran off with his case.

He called for help and people from around came over to assist him. He pointed at the muggers running away and said throwing his hands up in despair that he has been destroyed, all the money is lost.

A few of these avreichim chased after the muggers, and actually caught them and obtained the case of money which was returned to the grateful meshulach.. One of the avreichim mentioned, explaining how much of a chessed it really was, that because the meshulach had given up hope, really when they retrieved the case of money they could have kept it for themselves. Giving it back to the meshulach was really a tremendous chessed.

Upon the meshulach's return to Eretz Yisrael, he went to Rav Wosner to ask about that.

Rav Wosner paskened that it was not a chessed, but was rightfully his. his despair had no affect on the status of the money, because he had no authority to give up hope. The money was not his that his despair would change its ownership status. Because the money belonged to the yeshiva, only the owners of the money, the yeshiva administration, can give up hope and make it hefker, but because they had not even known about it, the money belonged to the yeshiva all along and those avreichim would not have been allowed to keep it.

It is not addressed in the psak, but I wonder about the percentage taken by the meshulach. if he takes 40% (or whatever the actual number is), perhaps 40% of the money returned should be considered a chessed. It might depend on whether all the money goes to the yeshiva, and then the yeshiva pays the collector his commission, or if the collector takes his commission off the top.

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  1. I wonder if he really did give up hope completely. When he saw them running after the mugger, it's hard to believe he had no hope at all that they would catch him.

  2. Does anybody why people give cash not to mention laws about bring cash into Israel???

    1. http://www.finance.gov.il/customs/halbanat_hon.htm

      The law in Israel is that a person pay bring in up to 100,000 NIS (at the current exchange rate = a bit over $27,000).

    2. Should read:
      The law in Israel is that a person may bring in up to 100,000 NIS (at the current exchange rate = a bit over $27,000), without needing to declare it.

      A new "oleh" may bring in 1,125,000 NIS (approx. $304K) without needing to declare it.

      It should be noted, that in any event, any amount of money can legally be brought in, as long as it is declared.

  3. What a chutzpah that these guys' heads are so full of pilpul they can't just take pride in helping a fellow Jew but have to drool about it.

    Or is it they're so destitute because of their own kollel lifestyle?

  4. I think the point is being missed. If they are allowed to keep it, and they give it back as a chesed then they have to give maaser on it. To that Rav Wosner says no, they had an obligation to return it.

  5. Interesting idea. However, the translation above looks accurate to me.

    But anyway I'm not sure that would be an issue - if they technically found or earned the money, but donate it all, they wouldn't owe more than the original sum. Maybe it would be relevant if they gave it to the meshulach as a personal present, but I don't think that's what they meant when pointing out that they could have kept it for themselves but instead did him a chessed.

    Perhaps the avreichim didn't realize he was collecting for a yeshiva versus hachnasas kallah for his daughter, etc. and therefore mistakenly suggested the money was in his reshus.


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