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