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Do Not Steal1 Part 16

Up to this point, we have focused on various forms of stealing. There is a different but connected prohibition to take an item against the owner's will and pay for it. Even though the person paid the money, he transgressed the prohibition known as 'chamas' in hebrew.

For example, a person aggressively bargained with his friend to sell him an item[2] . The friend refused to sell, so the person grabbed the item and put the money on the table. Since the owner did not agree to sell at that price, the grabber was guilty of chamas.

However, if the owner in some way demonstrated that he agreed to the sale, then there is no transgression of chamas. For example, if he gave the buyer change for the money he put out, then he shows that he has consented to the transaction.

Another prohibition relating to other people's money and property is to not cheat buyers by giving short weights or measures. One who does so, not only transgresses the commandment not to steal, but also the specific command not to cheat with weights and measures[3]. Accordingly, retail store owners should be careful to tell their sales help to properly operate their scales, and on how to set the tare to deduct the weight of the bag, wrappers or container.[4]

It should be noted that this prohibition applies to non-Jews as well as Jews, and applies to stealing very small percentages of the weight or measure.

[1] Much of the information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.
[2] We will see in a future article that, this form of bargaining is often forbidden in and of itself.
[3] Vayikra, 19:35-6.
[4] Bodner, p.76.

Text Copyright 2009 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and

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