Tevet 18, 5779
Is one obligated to ask a company for a forgotten bill?
Mr. Cohen hired Ace Company (a non-Jewish owned company) to do some bathroom remodeling work. He was told that the work would cost approximately $3500.
The work was completed satisfactorily and it is now 3 months later and he has never received a bill or request for payment.
Is Mr. Cohen obligated to call the company and ask why he has not received a bill?
Mr. Cohen should definitely call the company and ask them why he has not received the bill yet.
See the Be’er Hagolah on Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 348, 2.
Among his words, the Be’er Hagolah says as follows: “I am writing this for future generations, as I saw many who grew wealthy from misleading the pagans. They ended up not being successful. They lost all their property, and did not leave any blessing (inheritance) behind. As is written in Sefer Chasidim 1074: Many who have sanctified the name of G-D by returning substantial amounts which were lost from the pagans by mistake, ended up growing rich, successful and leaving over a substantial inheritance to their descendants”.
There is a famous story in the Jerusalem Talmud [Bava Metzia 2.5]: Shimon ben Shetach was struggling in the flax business. His students said: Rabbi, abandon this business, and let us buy you a donkey, and you will not have to work so hard. They went and bought a donkey from an Ishmaelite, which had a jewel hanging on its neck. They returned to him happily, saying, thanks to this good luck you’ll never have to work again! When he learned about the jewel he asked his students whether the owner of the donkey knew of it at the time of the sale. When they said no, he ordered them to return the jewel. [The voice of the Talmud’s editor intervenes, and asks:] But why should this be so?! For later, in Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi’s time it was ruled that although stealing from pagans is forbidden, one may keep an item that a pagan has lost. [So why did Shimon ben Shetach not permit himself to benefit from the pagan’s mistake?] Do you think Shimon ben Shetach is a barbarian?! Shimon ben Shetach would prefer to hear the words “Blessed be the God of the Jews” than all the money in the world.
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