Ask the Rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • General Questions

Hefker or not


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Adar I 17, 5776
Shalom dear Rabbi, a nonjewish person who lives abroad happens to find items that seem to be abandoned when she is abroad. Some are found at the side of a road, some on other places. It seems that some might have been lost a longer time ago, even though some could have been lost not that long before she found them. Some were more visible than others. However, at the place abroad where she lives this does not happen very often (maybe 3 times a year). This person sometimes visits Israel and here in Israel (Tel-Aviv) it is more common to find items like sweaters lying on the pavement. There are also cases where a single item of clothes is folded and put on a concrete "fence" (not really a fence, and only 1 to 1.5 meters high) that mark the boundary between the pavement and the adjacent private property where the building stands. In some cases several articles of clothing are folded and stacked one on the other, in other cases there is only a single item (sometimes also not folded). The person relatively frequently finds these items and takes them with her, saying that she thinks that they were abandoned or in her words ’somebody didn’t need them anymore’ In summary, the cases are 1. a single item (such as a sweater) lying in the middle, or at the side of a pavement of a busy street in Tel-Aviv (also frequented by tourists) 2. several items folded and stacked on a concrete "fence" 3. a single item folded and on a concrete "fence" 4. a single item not folded (and perhaps simply put on) a concrete "fence" My thoughts are that there are cases where an item is abandoned on purpose and intentionally (the owner doesn’t want it anymore and agrees that anyone can take it) but also cases where the owner accidentally lost an item, and sometimes would like to retrieve it and hopes to somehow find it again or he sometimes gives up on the item (even though the question is at what point in time after he lost the item (he may simply after a certain time has passed give up hope)) I personally am very reluctant to pick up things that are found lying somewhere because I think that the owner might come back (even by chance because he often walks on that road/sidewalk) and find the item. I don’t know if refraining to pick something up can count as a the mitzvah of returning lost property, but my intention is certainly that that result should be achieved. I think that in a case where an item (such as a sweater) lies at the side of a sidewalk the item MIGHT have been put there purposely, but if the item was lost it is unclear if the person who lost it gave up her claim to it. I do think that there otherwise may be a non-negligible chance that the owner might find his property. In the case where a single item is folded an put on a concrete "fence", the same may be true, (in that the item was on the sidewalk, a passer-by folded it and put in on a concrete "fence") In the cases where several items are folded and stacked on a concrete "fence", I tend to think that they are probably given up (even though there is no 100% certainty). I wanted to ask what your opinion is, and if the items can be seen as hefker and if someone (the person from abroad mentioned above) may take those items, or if she should rather leave them there. Thank you in advance.
ב"ה Shalom. It seems to me that this is theoretical question, since a non-Jewish woman is not bound to Halacha. So, my understanding is that you are asking, if you were to find the objects positioned as you described, how should you act. From what you described, the items were found on fence which according to Halacha is considered a place which is partially protected. In addition the clothing were folded and not strewn which is a "siman", therefore the items are not "hefker" and must be proclaimed so the loser can claim them. (See (שולחן ערוך חו"מ סי' ר"ס סעיף ט-י וברמ"א סעיף י, השבת אבידה כהלכה עמ' כח All the best
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר