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Do Not Steal1 Part 18

We have seen over the past several months that taking items or money in an unjust fashion constitutes at least one transgression of Torah law.[2]

In addition to the seriousness of transgressing Torah laws, there is another serious consequence for one who steals. A person may, on occasion be required to testify In Jewish law courts[3] , however there are a number of requirements necessary for a person to be a valid witness. One of them is that one who has knowingly transgressed the Torah laws of stealing, and has not repented for his actions, is invalid as a witness.

This is of particular relevance to another situation - being a witness at a wedding. In order for a couple to be married according to Torah law, the signing of the marriage contract (kesubah) and the act of betrothal (kiddushin) must be witnessed by two valid witnesses. A person who has knowingly stolen and not repented is invalid to be a witness. Therefore, one who suspects that a transaction he once did, or goods he once took, might be considered stealing according to Torah law, should not accept the honor of being a witness to a kesubah or a kiddushin.[4]

However, one who stole as a result of ignorance of the law is not considered invalid to be a witness. For example, it is sadly common for some people to believe that it is permissible to steal from non-Jews. Accordingly, one who did so because of ignorance, is not invalid to be a witness.

Furthermore, as we mentioned above, if the guilty person repented his actions in the proper fashion, then he may once again be a valid witness. Included in the repentance process is returning the wrongfully taken money or item.[5]


[1] Much of the information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.

[2] See 'Do Not Steal', part 1 for the specific mitzvos that may be transgressed when one steals.

[3] Known as 'Beis Din' - it is a Jewish court of law where disputes are resolved according to Torah law. In general a Jew is obligated to go to Beis Din as opposed to secular courts, although there are rare exceptions to this law - one should consult an Orthodox Rabbi in as to the law in eac specific situation.

[4] Until he repents in the proper fashion - see further in this essay.

[5] In the coming weeks we will discuss the specific details of how one goes about returning stolen items.


 

Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and Torah.org

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