Do Not Steal1
Last week we discussed various situations in which one may believe that it
is permitted to steal, and we saw that in many of these cases it is
nevertheless considered to be stealing.
The question arises with regard to taking an item from relatives or close
friends without asking them - is the law more lenient in such a case ?
There are a number of variables that effect the answer to this question. If
one cannot be certain that the relative would be happy to give that item,
then it is considered to be stealing. If, however, in the past, the
relative gave him express permission to take this type of item then it is
not considered stealing when he now takes this item without the owner's
permission. The reason for this is that we view it as if the relative
pre-consented to let him take it. For example, John regularly visits his
parent's house and they offer him food and drink. On one occasion, John is
alone in the house; he is permitted to take food and drink without his
parent's prior knowledge.
What is the case if one has never taken this item in the past, but is sure
that his relative will not mind? Most poskim hold that this is
forbidden. This is the case, even in the event that the relative did not
mind when he found out what happened. For example, Brian needed a new pen,
and he knew that his brother, Dave owned many pens. He took one of Dave's
pens without permission. When Dave found out, he was very glad for his
brother to have the pen. Nonetheless, Brian's action is considered
stealing. In this case, we do not look at it as if Dave had given prior
permission because he had never allowed Brian to take this kind of item in
the past .
The laws relating to taking from a relative also relate to a husband and
wife. A husband may not take his wife's personal property without her
consent, or vice versa. A wife may not give away her husband's assets
without his consent. Therefore, she may not give a donation of a greater
amount that her husband would want her to give, without his prior awareness.
However, if the husband authorizes her to give the amount she desires, then
she may do so. Moreover, if she tells a collector that her husband allows
her to give this sum, they may believe her and take it.
 Much of the information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other
People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.
 Note - there are two types of taking that will be discussed in the
coming weeks. One is taking an item in such a way that it is used up, for
example, eating food. The other is borrowing an item and returning it in
the same form - for example, using someone else's chair and then returning
it. In this article we are only discussing the first form of taking whereby
one does not return the item in the same form.
A posek is the hebrew word for an authority in Torah law.
 It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the reasoning behind
this law in further detail - see, "Halachos of other People's Money", p.27-8
in hebrew footnotes.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and Torah.org
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