Do Not Steal1 Part 21
This week, we continue with the laws of rectifying the sin of stealing.
What should the guilty person do in the event that he does not know the
identity of his victims. This can occur when a person cheated the public in
some way. For example, he may have used false weights or deliberately given
too little change on many occasions, over the course of a significant period
of time. In such instances, it is extremely unlikely that he will remember
all the people that he cheated.
The first stage of rectification is to try to determine the total amount of
money stolen. If that is impossible, then he should estimate an amount that
he believes equals or exceeds what he actually took.
Then he should try to fund a community need such as a library, or a mikva.
In this way, he can, in time, hopefully reimburse his victims the amount of
money that he stole from them. The money should be given in an anonymous
manner if at all possible, so that he should not receive any undeserved
recognition for his 'donation'. It is insufficient to give stolen money to
poor people or a charity that does not serve communal needs, because this
would not benefit the victim. Needless to say, it is almost impossible for
the guilty person to fully compensate all his victims - this should be a
forewarning as to the seriousness of stealing, and how difficult it is to
rectify this sin.
If the victim is no longer alive, one must make restitution to the victim's
 Much of the information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other
People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.