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Returning Lost Objects

Returning Lost Objects

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Walking down the street, you find something. An iPod, a wallet, a lost cat. Finders keepers? Or should you leave it and walk on?

Neither.

“Do not see your brother’s ox or sheep straying and ignore them; return them . . .” (Deuteronomy 22:1)

Does it have a name on it? Or any distinctive feature?

The iPod can be identified based on the songs stored on it, or even the serial number (if the owner is really organized). And the wallet’s owner can probably be traced through its contents.

Post signs on bulletin boards; announce the find in local synagoguesSo take it home and try to locate its owner. Post signs on bulletin boards; announce the find in local synagogues. Don’t give any specifics. Just say that you found a watch, not the color or name brand. If someone identifies it, you return it.

As long as the object is in your possession, keep it safe. Put jewelry in a safe, fold clothing and put it away, keep the bicycle in a dry garage. And it’s not yours to use! Use it only if necessary for the object’s maintenance. So drive that motorcycle around the block every few weeks to keep the motor healthy, but no joyrides.

Exceptions:

  • “Finders keepers” applies to generic items that have no identifiable features. Examples: a $10 bill floating in the wind, a pen, a bag of chips (if presumably the owner despaired of retrieving the object before you came across it).
  • You can’t do one mitzvah by transgressing another one. So don’t pick up that wallet on Shabbat.
  • Items that are virtually worthless need not be returned.

Also:

Help your fellow before he loses his property. If you see your fellow’s property in danger, save it. If a flood is coming, lay down sandbags. If the wind is about to knock a branch onto her car, ring her bell and tell her to move it.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Hugh Mcdanel Moody September 20, 2017

What about things found along a interstate highway, that don't have any identifying marks? Reply

Steven Allen December 7, 2015

Well Stated! Nice commentary, and wise advice for an old friend of mine.
Best, Steven Reply

Emese Oseni Scarborough July 9, 2015

Lost Object Absolutely try to return a lost object, post signs everywhere. Every attempt should be made because it's the right thing to do.

I've found several objects in my life time, credit cards, bank cards (turned them in at the Bank) , wallet found in park (delivered it personally to the house of the individual), purse (turned in to the owner a restaurant hoping the person will remember where they left it).

It's a good feeling to return a lost item. Reply

brachah Port Saint Lucie, FL December 11, 2012

returning lost objects Several months ago, I hung my purse on the chair of a fort lauderdale, FL Starbuck;s and left the premises without it. When I returned a gentleman seated in front of me had turned it in and the employees had it in the back of the store. It was returned with everything in it. A few days ago outside under a table at the Port Saint Lucie Starbuck's, I found a man's wallet. I brought it inside to the employees. I could just sense how happy the man was going to be that is wallet was returned. What goes around comes around. It felt wonderful to return it. Reply

Dr. Bernie Siegel Woodbridge, CT/USA March 21, 2012

lost health as maimonides said we are to help restore what our neighbor has lost and that includes one's health as well. disease is not about god punishing us but something we have lost; our health. Reply

Israel Lemuel Carranza manaoag, Pangasinan September 5, 2011

wow.. this message enlightened me.thanks. Reply

keren san rafael, CA, USA September 5, 2011

finding lost objects on the sabbath Would you pick it up on the sabbath if it were your own wallet? Are you going to leave it for someone who might not be honest to find it?
Such old fashioned thinking, that's why my grandfather took his family out of the faith.
The rest of the story is very nice and the other comments helpful, too. Reply

Baruch Beit El, Israel January 14, 2011

be careful that the owner won't come back If you see an object that you think is lost, maybe the owner will come back for it and he will despair looking for it. I accidentally dropped a keychain, and less than 5 mins after it happened I went back. It was already gone. We had posted on our community's internet newsletter. We had searched all over for it. We had already made new keys which made us embarrassed to contact our bosses for new keys since they were work keys. A week later it was published in the weekly community newsletter that they were lost. IT took us a week to lose these keys when the keys should have remained in their spot or at least put in a less conspicuous spot. If after several hours, the keys are still there then they are lost. This was not returning lost objects This was taking an object that the owner would come back for and then giving it back after he had given up hope. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA January 5, 2010

Finding lost "pets" I have "acquired" a couple of pets in the last couple of years from animals, mostly cats, wandering around our city streets. The first cat I adopted was hanging around my apt for several mos before I finally took her in one very cold Jan night. She was always sleeping in the same spot, curled up next to church steps. Last June I saw a young cat hanging around the neighborhood, and called to it. It came over right way, and I brought him inside. There are a lot of stray cats that just seem to wander the city streets, no one puts up signs indicating lost pet. He likes to go outside, and sometimes stays away for a day or two, but always comes back when I call him. We have a big problem in my city, with people who don't neuter their cats, the females have babies and they are wanted when they are no longer kittens. I don't feel bad at all, I feel that I am giving an otherwise unwanted animal a good home. I named her Rebecca Ilana, call her Becky, he is Gabriel Adam, I call him Gabe. Reply

Anonymous Pittsford, NY January 4, 2010

Return through propper channels Report the lost item to law enforcement and han it over to them. Binging something you found into your own home makes you in possesion of stolen property - especially with that bike example. Reply

Sonny Kosky Southend-on-Sea, UK January 4, 2010

Finders keepers Why not take it to a police station, or a lost property office if found in a railway or bus station. Reply

Julietta Wilder BronxvILLE, nY January 4, 2010

Finding lost objects - what to do?? Interesting that you felt a need to tell people this. I would think anyone with a slight grain of ethics would know this by the time they are 12 I do like your postings, though. They transcend the usual hair-splitting Torah interpretations that you hear from a lot of people. I like that you are concerned in preventing loss, especially due to natural accidents. This impressed me. Allstate may be grateful also! Happy New Year and may we all find peace and happiness, those we can return to others again and again! Reply

Inge Reisinger January 4, 2010

Thank you, your words are so clear and easy to understand even for those who do not believe in the words of the "Old Books." Reply

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