In the past weeks we have been discussing cases in which the finder does
not have to return an item and can keep it for himself in most
Another scenario in which the finder need not return the object is with
regard to the lost item of a non-Jew. This also applies where one find an
item in an area in which the majority of people are non-Jews even though
there is a significant minority of Jews in the area. In order to
understand this law, it is necessary to discuss a principle that underlies
the Torah outlook towards inter-personal relationships. The Torah
stresses that every human being is created in the Image of G-d and
accordingly, must be treated in a respectful manner. However, it is
understood that people treat members of their family in a more favorable
manner than everyone else. Thus, it is normal for people to lend each
other money and charge interest, whereas one would not charge interest on
a loan to his brother or son.
The Torah teaches us that the Jewish people are equivalent to
one 'family'. Although all Jews are not necessarily genetically related
to each other , nonetheless we are spiritually related in a common
covenant that makes us like one family. Accordingly, whilst a Jew treats
everyone with care and concern, he acts towards his fellow Jew with extra
consideration. Thus, for example a Jew is forbidden from lending his
fellow Jew with interest. Similarly, it is normal for non-Jews not to
return lost objects, so too Jews are not obligated to return lost objects
of non-Jews. It is however, praiseworthy to do so in that it demonstrates
that Jews do care about the property of all people.
1. The information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other
People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.
2. This is certainly the case because of the numerous converts that have
joined Judaism throughout history.
3. Parshas Mishpatim, 22:24.