The Obligation to protect other people’s belongings
The prohibition of theft
When you find something that belongs to someone else, even a penny, you should give it back. This way you show that you have respect for someone else’s stuff, you would want that too. If someone’s name is on it, or if it has recognizable features, it’s easy to return it. If you don’t know who it belongs to, it’s best to leave it alone. If it has value to the owner, he will certainly look for it.
You can keep a found object if you are sure it no longer belongs to someone. That means you know for sure that the owner won’t look for it again. This is not about the value of an object. After all, a pen that is not valuable to you can be very valuable to someone else because it has an emotional charge.
So try to track down the owner or leave it and only take it with you if you’re sure no one is looking for it anymore. In this way we create a just society without theft.
By Angelique Sijbolts
Sources: The Divine Code by rabbi Moshe Weiner and Dr. Michael Schulman 4e edition, Aish Article: The Jewish Ethicist: Finders Keepers?
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