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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Thirteen, Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Fourteen, Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Fifteen

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Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Thirteen

1

When a person finds a lost object that he is obligated to return, he is obligated to announce its discovery and make it known, saying: "Whoever lost this type of article should come, identify it with marks and take it."

Even if the article was worth a p'rutah at the time of its discovery, but depreciated in value, the finder is required to announce its discovery.

There was a large stone outside of Jerusalem on which the announcements would be made.

א

הַמּוֹצֵא אֲבֵדָה שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב לְהַחְזִירָהּ חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז עָלֶיהָ וּלְהוֹדִיעָהּ וְלוֹמַר מִי שֶׁאָבַד לוֹ מִין פְּלוֹנִי יָבוֹא וְיִתֵּן סִימָנִין וְיִטּל. אֲפִלּוּ הָיְתָה שָׁוָה פְּרוּטָה בְּעֵת הַמְּצִיאָה וְהוּזְלָה חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז עָלֶיהָ. וְאֶבֶן גְּבוֹהָה הָיְתָה חוּץ לִירוּשָׁלַיִם שֶׁעָלֶיהָ הָיוּ מַכְרִיזִין:

2

How is an announcement made? If a person discovered money, he announces: "Whoever lost coins should come...." Similarly, he announces "Whoever lost a garment..." "... an animal..." or "... promissory notes should come, identify them with marks and collect them."

He need not worry because he mentioned the type of object that was discovered, for he will not return it until it is identified with distinctive marks.

ב

כֵּיצַד מַכְרִיז. אִם מָצָא מָעוֹת מַכְרִיז מִי שֶׁאָבַד לוֹ מַטְבֵּעַ. וְכֵן מַכְרִיז מִי שֶׁאָבַד לוֹ כְּסוּת אוֹ בְּהֵמָה אוֹ שְׁטָרוֹת יָבוֹא וְיִתֵּן סִימָנִים וְיִטּל וְאֵינוֹ חוֹשֵׁשׁ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוֹדִיעַ מִין הָאֲבֵדָה לְפִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַחְזִירוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּתֵּן סִימָנִים מֻבְהָקִין:

3

If the owner of the lost object came and identified it with marks that are not distinctive, it should not be returned to him until he identifies it with distinctive marks.

When a person is known as a deceiver, a lost article should not be returned to him even if he identifies it with distinctive marks. He must bring witnesses who testify that the article is his. Our Sages said: "Deuteronomy 22:2: "It shall remain in your possession until your brother asks... ," can also be interpreted to mean that one must examine the person to see whether or not he is a deceiver.

ג

בָּא בַּעַל הָאֲבֵדָה וְנָתַן סִימָנִים שֶׁאֵינָן מֻבְהָקִין אֵין מַחֲזִירִין לוֹ עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר סִימָנִים מֻבְהָקִין. וְהָרַמַּאי אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאָמַר סִימָנִים מֻבְהָקִין אֵין מַחֲזִירִין לוֹ עַד שֶׁיֳּבִיא עֵדִים שֶׁהִיא שֶׁלּוֹ. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים (דברים כב ב) "וְהָיָה עִמְּךָ עַד דְּרשׁ אָחִיךָ" עַד שֶׁתַּחְקֹר אַחֲרָיו אִם רַמַּאי הוּא אִם לָאו:

4

At first, whenever a person lost an article and came and identified it with marks, it would be returned to him, unless he was known as a deceiver. When the amount of deceivers proliferated, the court ordained that when a person claimed a lost object, he would be told: "Bring witnesses that you are not a deceiver. Then you may take it."

ד

בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה כָּל מִי שֶׁאָבַד לוֹ אֲבֵדָה וּבָא וְנָתַן סִימָנֶיהָ מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתָהּ לוֹ אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הֻחְזַק רַמַּאי. מִשֶּׁרַבּוּ הָרַמָּאִין הִתְקִינוּ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁיְּהוּ אוֹמְרִין לוֹ הָבֵא עֵדִים שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה רַמַּאי וְטל:

5

Distinctive marks are relied upon and used as the basis for court rulings in all matters according to Scriptural law. An object's measure, weight, its number or the place where it was lost are considered distinctive marks.

ה

הַסִּימָנִים הַמֻּבְהָקִין סוֹמְכִין עֲלֵיהֶם וְדָנִין עַל פִּיהֶם בְּכָל מָקוֹם דִּין תּוֹרָה. וְהַמִּדָּה אוֹ הַמִּשְׁקָל אוֹ הַמִּנְיָן אוֹ מְקוֹם הָאֲבֵדָה סִימָנִין מֻבְהָקִין הֵן:

6

If two people come, and both identify the article by its marks in the same manner, the article should not be given to either of them. Instead it should remain in the finder's possession until one of them acknowledges his colleague's claim or they arrive at a compromise.

If one of them identifies the article by marks and the other brings witnesses who testify that the article is his, the article is given to the one who brought witnesses.

If both claimants identify the article with marks and one brings one witness to support his claim, the presence of the witness is not considered of consequence, and the article should remain in the finder's possession.

ו

בָּאוּ שְׁנַיִם זֶה נָתַן סִימָנֵי הָאֲבֵדָה וְזֶה נָתַן סִימָנֵי הָאֲבֵדָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁנָּתַן הָאַחֵר לֹא יִתֵּן לֹא לָזֶה וְלֹא לָזֶה אֶלָּא תִּהְיֶה מֻנַּחַת עַד שֶׁיּוֹדֶה הָאֶחָד לַחֲבֵרוֹ אוֹ יַעֲשׂוּ בֵּינֵיהֶן פְּשָׁרָה. נָתַן הָאֶחָד אֶת הַסִּימָנִים וְהַשֵּׁנִי הֵבִיא עֵדִים יִתֵּן לְבַעַל הָעֵדִים. זֶה נָתַן סִימָנִים וְזֶה נָתַן סִימָנִים וְעֵד אֶחָד הֲרֵי הָעֵד הָאֶחָד כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ וְיַנִּיחַ:

7

If a person finds a dress or an article of that nature and there are two claimants, one brings witnesses who testify that it was woven for him and one brings witnesses who testify that it fell from his possession, it should be given to the one whose witnesses testify they saw the article fall.

If one identifies it by stating its length and the other identifies it by stating its width, it should be given to the one who stated its length, for it is possible for a deceiver to deduce its width by watching its owner when wearing it.

If one identifies it by stating its length and width, and the other identifies it by stating its weight, it should be given to the one who stated its weight. If one identifies it by stating its length and width, and the other identifies it by stating the measure of its fringes, it should be given to the one who stated its length and width.

ז

מָצָא שִׂמְלָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ וְזֶה הֵבִיא עֵדֵי אֲרִיגָה שֶׁאֲרָגוּהָ לוֹ וְזֶה הֵבִיא עֵדִים שֶׁנָּפְלָה מִמֶּנּוּ יִתֵּן לְעֵדֵי נְפִילָה. זֶה נָתַן מִדַּת אָרְכָּהּ וְזֶה נָתַן מִדַּת רָחְבָּהּ יִתֵּן לְמִי שֶׁנָּתַן מִדַּת אָרְכָּהּ שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיְּשַׁעֵר הָרַמַּאי מִדַּת רָחְבָּהּ כְּשֶׁהָיָה בְּעָלֶיהָ מִתְכַּסֶּה בָּהּ. זֶה נָתַן מִדַּת אָרְכָּהּ וְרָחְבָּהּ וְזֶה כִּוֵּן מִשְׁקְלוֹתֶיהָ יִתֵּן לְמִי שֶׁכִּוֵּן מִשְׁקָלָהּ. זֶה נָתַן מִדַּת אָרְכָּהּ וְרָחְבָּהּ וְזֶה נָתַן מִדַּת הָאִמְרִיּוֹת שֶׁבָּהּ יִתֵּן לְמִי שֶׁנָּתַן מִדַּת אָרְכָּהּ וְרָחְבָּהּ:

8

Originally, whoever would find a lost object would announce its discovery at three successive pilgrimage festivals. On the first festival he would say that he was making this announcement for the first time. On the second festival, he would say it was the second time.

On the third festival, he would announce the discovery of the article without mentioning the number of times, lest a listener hear incorrectly and confuse the second announcement with the third. After the third festival, he should wait seven days and make a fourth announcement. This provision enabled a person who heard to travel home in three days, check his household articles and return in three days. Thus, he could meet the person when he made the fourth announcement on the seventh day.

ח

בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה כָּל מִי שֶׁמָּצָא אֲבֵדָה הָיָה מַכְרִיז עָלֶיהָ שְׁלֹשָׁה רְגָלִים. רֶגֶל רִאשׁוֹן אוֹמֵר רִאשׁוֹן. שֵׁנִי אוֹמֵר שֵׁנִי. שְׁלִישִׁי מַכְרִיז סְתָם כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִתְחַלֵּף לוֹ שֵׁנִי בִּשְׁלִישִׁי. וְאַחַר רֶגֶל הָאַחֲרוֹן בְּשִׁבְעַת יָמִים מַכְרִיז פַּעַם רְבִיעִית. כְּדֵי שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ הַשּׁוֹמֵעַ לְבֵיתוֹ בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וִימַשֵּׁשׁ כֵּלָיו וְיַחְזֹר בִּשְׁלֹשֶׁת הַיָּמִים וְיִמְצָא זֶה הַמַּכְרִיז מַכְרִיז בַּשְּׁבִיעִי:

9

When the Temple was destroyed, our Sages ordained that announcements should be made in synagogues and houses of study.

When there was an increase in the number of men of violence who say: "All lost objects belong to the king," our Sages ordained that announcements should be made discreetly to one's neighbors and associates. That is sufficient.

ט

מִשֶּׁחָרַב בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁיְּהוּ מַכְרִיזִין בְּבָתֵּי כְּנֵסִיּוֹת וּבְבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת. מִשֶּׁרַבּוּ הָאֳנָסִין וְאָמְרוּ הַמְּצִיאָה שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ הִיא הִתְקִינוּ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מוֹדִיעִין לִשְׁכֵנָיו וְלִמְיֻדָּעָיו וְדַיּוֹ:

10

If an announcement or notification was made and the owner did not come to claim the discovered object, it should remain in the possession of the finder until Elijah the prophet comes.

If it is lost or stolen while it is in the finder's possession, he is responsible for it. If it is destroyed by forces beyond his control, he is not liable. The rationale is that a person who cares for a lost object is considered a paid watchman. For he is involved in the performance of a mitzvah, and as such is freed from the obligation to perform several positive commandments as long as he is occupied with guarding it.

י

הִכְרִיז אוֹ הוֹדִיעַ וְלֹא בָּאוּ הַבְּעָלִים תִּהְיֶה הַמְּצִיאָה מֻנַּחַת אֶצְלוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא אֵלִיָּהוּ. וּבְכָל זְמַן שֶׁהָאֲבֵדָה אֶצְלוֹ אִם נִגְנְבָה אוֹ אָבְדָה חַיָּב בְּאַחֲרָיוּתָהּ. וְאִם נֶאֶנְסָה פָּטוּר שֶׁשּׁוֹמֵר אֲבֵדָה כְּשׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר הוּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא עוֹסֵק בְּמִצְוָה וְנִפְטָר מִכַּמָּה מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהוּא עוֹסֵק בִּשְׁמִירָתָהּ:

11

The finder must pay attention to the lost article and inspect it so that it will not become spoiled and ruined over the course of time. This may be inferred from Deuteronomy 22:2, which states: "And you shall return it to him." Implied is that one must see to it that the article will in fact be returned intact.

What is implied? If one finds a woolen garment, one should shake it out every 30 days. He should not shake it out using a staff, nor with two people.

He may spread it out on a couch for its benefit alone, but not for its benefit and for his benefit. If guests visit him, he should not spread it out in their presence even for its own benefit, lest it be stolen.

יא

וְצָרִיךְ לְבַקֵּר אֶת הָאֲבֵדָה וּלְבָדְקָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תִּפָּסֵד וְתֹאבַד מֵאֵלֶיהָ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כב ב) "וַהֲשֵׁבֹתוֹ לוֹ" רְאֵה הֵיאַךְ תְּשִׁיבֶנּוּ לוֹ. כֵּיצַד. מָצָא כְּסוּת שֶׁל צֶמֶר מְנַעֲרָהּ אַחַת לִשְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם. וְלֹא יְנַעֲרֶנָּה בְּמַקֵּל וְלֹא בִּשְׁנֵי בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְשׁוֹטְחָהּ עַל גַּבֵּי מִטָּה לְצָרְכָּהּ בִּלְבַד אֲבָל לֹא לְצָרְכָּהּ וּלְצָרְכּוֹ. נִזְדַּמְּנוּ לוֹ אוֹרְחִים לֹא יִשְׁטְחֶנָּה בִּפְנֵיהֶם וַאֲפִלּוּ לְצָרְכָּהּ שֶׁמָּא תִּגָּנֵב:

12

If one finds wooden utensils, he should use them so that they do not rot. If he finds copper utensils, he should use them for hot substances, but he should not expose them to fire, because they become worn. Silver utensils should be used only for cold substances, but not for hot substances, because they become discolored.

If one finds rakes or hatchets, one should use them with soft substances, but not with hard ones, lest their value deteriorate. If one finds golden utensils, glass utensils or linen garments, one should not touch them until Elijah arrives.

The same principles that apply to a lost object which one discovered apply to an entrusted object whose owner undertook a long journey.

יב

מָצָא כְּלֵי עֵץ מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֵרָקְבוּ. כְּלֵי נְחשֶׁת מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן בְּחַמִּין אֲבָל לֹא עַל יְדֵי הָאוּר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמַּשְׁחִיקָן. כְּלֵי כֶּסֶף מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן בְּצוֹנֵן אֲבָל לֹא בְּחַמִּין מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמַּשְׁחִירָן. מָצָא מַגְּרֵפוֹת וְקַרְדֻּמּוֹת יִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן בְּרַךְ אֲבָל לֹא בְּקָשֶׁה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמַּפְחִיתָן. מָצָא כְּלֵי זָהָב וּכְלֵי זְכוּכִית וּכְסוּת שֶׁל פִּשְׁתָּן הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא אֵלִיָּהוּ. וּכְדֶרֶךְ שֶׁאָמְרוּ בַּאֲבֵדָה כָּךְ אָמְרוּ בְּפִקָּדוֹן שֶׁהָלְכוּ בְּעָלָיו לִמְדִינַת הַיָּם:

13

If he finds scrolls, he should read them once in 30 days. If he does not know how to read, he should roll them every 30 days. One should never study a subject for the first time, [from the scrolls], nor should one read a passage and repeat it or translate it.

One should not open the scroll more than three columns wide. Two people should not read two different subjects from the same scroll, lest each pull it to himself and ruin the scroll. Two people may, however, read the same subject. Three people may not read from the same scroll, however, even if they are reading about the same subject.

יג

מָצָא סְפָרִים קוֹרֵא בָּהֶן אַחַת לִשְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וְאִם אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִקְרוֹת גּוֹלְלָן כָּל שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם. וּלְעוֹלָם לֹא יִלְמֹד בָּהֶן לְכַתְּחִלָּה. וְלֹא יִקְרָא פָּרָשָׁה וְיִשְׁנֶה. וְלֹא יִקְרָא פָּרָשָׁה וִיתַרְגֵּם. וְלֹא יִפְתַּח בּוֹ יֶתֶר מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה דַּפִּין. וְלֹא יִהְיוּ שְׁנַיִם קוֹרִין בִּשְׁנֵי עִנְיָנִין שֶׁמָּא יִמְשֹׁךְ זֶה וְיִמְשֹׁךְ זֶה וְיִבְלֶה הַסֵּפֶר. אֲבָל קוֹרִין הֵן בְּעִנְיָן אֶחָד. וְלֹא יִקְרְאוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה בְּסֵפֶר אֶחָד וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּעִנְיָן אֶחָד:

14

If one finds tefillin, he may have their value appraised and don them.

The rationale is that tefillin are common-place articles, possessed by everyone, and their purpose is only for the sake of the fulfillment of the commandment.

יד

מָצָא תְּפִלִּין שָׁם דְּמֵיהֶן וּמֵנִיחָן עָלָיו שֶׁדָּבָר מָצוּי הוּא בְּיַד הַכּל וְאֵין עֲשׂוּיִין אֶלָּא לְמִצְוָתָן בִּלְבַד:

15

The following rules apply if a person finds a living being that must be fed. If the found object may be used to earn money although it eats - e.g., a cow or a donkey - the finder should care for them twelve months from the day of their discovery. He should hire them out and feed them. If the rental he receives for their hire exceeds the cost of their food, the additional amount belongs to the owner. Similarly, if one finds chickens, one should sell their eggs and feed them for twelve months.

From this time onward, one should have their value assessed, and they are considered as belonging in partnership to the finder and the original owner. The arrangement is governed by the laws applying to one who raises livestock for a colleague.

טו

מָצָא דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ רוּחַ חַיִּים שֶׁהֲרֵי צָרִיךְ הוּא לְהַאֲכִילוֹ. אִם הָיָה דָּבָר שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה וְאוֹכֵל כְּגוֹן פָּרָה וַחֲמוֹר מְטַפֵּל בָּהֶן שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ מִיּוֹם הַמְּצִיאָה וּמַשְׂכִּירָן וְלוֹקֵחַ שָׂכָר וּמַאֲכִיל. וְאִם הָיָה שְׂכָרָן יֶתֶר עַל אֲכִילָתָן הֲרֵי הַיֶּתֶר לַבְּעָלִים. וְכֵן הַתַּרְנְגוֹלִין מוֹכֵר בֵּיצֵיהֶן וּמַאֲכִילָן כָּל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ. מִיכַּן וְאֵילָךְ שָׁם דְּמֵיהֶן עָלָיו וַהֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁלּוֹ וְשֶׁל בְּעָלִים בְּשֻׁתָּפוּת כְּדִין כָּל הַשָּׁם בְּהֵמָה מֵחֲבֵרוֹ:

16

If one finds calves or ponies that pasture, he should care for them for three months. If he finds beasts that must be fed, he should care for them for 30 days.

If he finds large geese or roosters, he should care for them for 30 days. If he finds younger fowl and any other live being whose care is more costly than the wage that may be earned with it, he should care for them for three days. Afterwards, he should sell them in the presence of a court.

Similarly, if produce has begun to rot, or other similar things occur to a lost object, it should be sold in the presence of a court.

טז

מָצָא עֲגָלִים וּסְיָחִין שֶׁל רְעִי מְטַפֵּל בָּהֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה חֳדָשִׁים. וְשֶׁל בְּרִיאָה שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם. אֲוָזִים וְתַרְנְגוֹלִין גְּדוֹלִים מְטַפֵּל בָּהֶן שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם. מָצָא קְטַנִּים וְכָל דָּבָר שֶׁטִּפּוּלוֹ מְרֻבֶּה מִשְּׂכָרוֹ מְטַפֵּל בָּהֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים. מִכַּן וְאֵילָךְ מוֹכְרָן בְּבֵית דִּין. וְכֵן פֵּרוֹת שֶׁהִתְחִילוּ לְהַרְקִיב וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן מוֹכְרָן בְּבֵית דִּין:

17

What should be done with the money from the sale? It should be given to the finder. He has permission to use it as a loan.

Therefore, if the money is lost by forces beyond his control - e.g., it was plundered by an attacking force or it sank in the sea - he is liable for its repayment even if he never made use of it. Since he has permission to use it, it is as if he borrowed it.

יז

מַה יַּעֲשֶׂה בַּדָּמִים. יִנָּתְנוּ לַמּוֹצֵא וְיֵשׁ לוֹ רְשׁוּת לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן. לְפִיכָךְ אִם נֶאֶנְסוּ כְּגוֹן שֶׁטְּרָפָם גַּיִס אוֹ טָבְעוּ בַּיָּם חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן שֶׁכֵּיוָן שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ רְשׁוּת לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן הֲרֵי הֵן אֶצְלוֹ כִּשְׁאֵלָה:

18

Which funds may a finder make use of? The money received for the sale of a lost object. Since he cared for the object he is given this privilege. If, however, a person finds money, he should not make use of it. Therefore, if it is lost because of forces beyond his control, he is not liable, for he is considered a paid watchman, as explained above.

יח

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בִּדְמֵי הָאֲבֵדָה הוֹאִיל וְנִטְפַּל בָּהֶן. אֲבָל מְעוֹת אֲבֵדָה לֹא יִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן. לְפִיכָךְ אִם אָבְדוּ בְּאֹנֶס פָּטוּר שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא שׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ:

19

During the entire time in which the finder cares for the lost animal before selling it in court, if he feeds it from his own resources, he must be reimbursed by the owner. It appears to me that he is entitled to collect this sum without supporting his claim with an oath. This is a decree ordained for the benefit of society.

יט

כָּל אוֹתָן הַיָּמִים שֶׁמְּטַפֵּל בָּאֲבֵדָה קֹדֶם שֶׁיִּמְכְּרֶנָּה בְּבֵית דִּין אִם הֶאֱכִילָם מִשֶּׁלּוֹ נוֹטֵל מִן הַבְּעָלִים. וְיֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁהוּא נוֹטֵל בְּלֹא שְׁבוּעָה מִפְּנֵי תִּקּוּן הָעוֹלָם:

20

When a person finds a lost object, he is not required to take an oath. This is a decree ordained for the benefit of society. For if a finder of a lost article were required to take an oath, he would ignore the lost article and proceed on his way, so that he would not be required to take the oath.

Even if a person found a wallet, and the owner of the wallet claimed that there was another wallet tied together with it, and it would be impossible to find one without finding the other tied to it, the finder is not required to take an oath.

כ

הַמּוֹצֵא מְצִיאָה לֹא יִשָּׁבַע מִפְּנֵי תִּקּוּן הָעוֹלָם שֶׁאִם אַתָּה אוֹמֵר יִשָּׁבַע יַנִּיחַ הַמְּצִיאָה וְיֵלֵךְ לוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשָּׁבַע. אֲפִלּוּ מָצָא כִּיס וְטָעַן בַּעַל הַמְּצִיאָה שֶׁשְּׁנֵי כִּיסִים קְשׁוּרִים הָיוּ וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּמְצָא הָאֶחָד אֶלָּא אִם נִמְצָא הָאַחֵר הַקָּשׁוּר עִמּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִשָּׁבַע:

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Fourteen

1

Deuteronomy 22:1-3 states: "Do not watch your brother's ox or sheep going astray and ignore them.... Return them to him.... This is what you must do to his donkey and to his garment and to all lost articles that your brother will lose and you will find."

A garment is included in the general category of "all lost articles that your brother will lose," as is an ox, a sheep and a donkey. Why then does the Torah mention a donkey individually? To teach that it should be returned when there is an identifying mark on its cushion and not on the donkey itself. Although the mark is on a matter of secondary importance, it should be returned.

Why does the Torah mention an ox and a sheep individually? To teach that the shearings of a sheep and even the shearing of the tail of an ox, which is an insubstantial matter, must be returned.

Why does the Torah mention a garment individually? To teach the following concept. A garment is unique in that it has marks by which it could be identified, and we presume that its owner would seek its recovery. It thus becomes a paradigm, and any article that has marks and has owners who seek its recovery must be returned. If, however, a lost article no longer has owners who seek it, for they have despaired of its recovery, it belongs to its finder, even if it has marks by which it can be identified.

א

הַשִׂמְלָה בִּכְלַל (דברים כב ג) "כָּל אֲבֵדַת אָחִיךָ" הָיְתָה וְכֵן הַשּׁוֹר וְהַשֶּׂה וְהַחֲמוֹר. וְלָמָּה פֵּרֵט הַכָּתוּב (דברים כב ג) "חֲמוֹר" לְהַחְזִירוֹ בְּסִימָנֵי מִרְדַּעַת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַסִּימָן בְּדָבָר הַטָּפֵל לוֹ יַחְזִיר. וְלָמָּה פֵּרֵט שׁוֹר וְשֶׂה לְהַחְזִיר אֲפִלּוּ גִּזַּת הַשֶּׂה אוֹ גֵּז זְנַב שׁוֹר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא דָּבָר מוּעָט. וְלָמָּה פֵּרֵט הַשִּׂמְלָה לִלְמֹד מִמֶּנָּה מָה הַשִּׂמְלָה מְיֻחֶדֶת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָהּ סִימָנִין וְחֶזְקָתָהּ שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָהּ תּוֹבְעִין וְחַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר אַף כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ סִימָנִים הֲרֵי הוּא בְּחֶזְקַת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ תּוֹבְעִין וְחַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר. אֲבָל דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ תּוֹבְעִין אֶלָּא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ מִמֶּנּוּ הַבְּעָלִים הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סִימָנִים:

2

This principle must be followed with regard to a lost article: Whenever an article does not have a mark by which it can be identified - e.g., one nail or one needle - as soon as the owners knew that it is lost, we presume that the owners despaired of its recovery. For they cannot provide a mark by which it can be identified and returned to them. Therefore, it belongs to the finder.

ב

זֶה הַכְּלָל בַּאֲבֵדָה כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָבַד וְיָדְעוּ בּוֹ הַבְּעָלִים שֶׁאָבַד הֲרֵי זֶה בְּחֶזְקַת שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ בְּעָלָיו מִמֶּנּוּ. כְּגוֹן מַסְמֵר אֶחָד אוֹ מַחַט אַחַת אוֹ מַטְבֵּעַ שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵינָן יְכוֹלִים לִתֵּן סִימָן לְהַחְזִירוֹ לָהֶן וּלְפִיכָךְ הֲרֵי הוּא לָזֶה שֶׁמְּצָאוֹ:

3

When by contrast an article has a mark by which it can be identified - e.g., a garment or an animal - we presume that the owners have not despaired of its recovery. For they think that they will be able to identify it by its marks, and it will be returned to them.

For this reason, a person who finds it is obligated to announce its discovery unless he knows that the owners have despaired of its recovery - e.g., he heard them saying, "How terrible a loss!" or other things that indicate that they despaired of its return. In such an instance, the lost article belongs to its finder.

ג

וְכָל דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סִימָן כְּגוֹן שִׂמְלָה וּבְהֵמָה הֲרֵי זֶה בְּחֶזְקַת שֶׁלֹּא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ מִמֶּנּוּ בְּעָלָיו שֶׁהֲרֵי דַּעְתָּן תְּלוּיָה לִתֵּן סִימָנִין שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ וְיַחְזֹר לָהֶן לְפִיכָךְ הַמּוֹצְאוֹ חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יָדַע שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים כְּגוֹן שֶׁשָּׁמַע אוֹתָם אוֹמְרִים וַי לְחֶסְרוֹן כִּיס וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ שֶׁמַּרְאִין שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ הֲרֵי אוֹתָהּ הָאֲבֵדָה שֶׁל מוֹצְאָהּ:

4

Similarly, if a person finds an article that has a mark by which it can be identified - in the sea, in a river or the like, or in a place where the majority of people are gentiles - he may presume that its owners despaired of its recovery at the time that it fell. It therefore belongs to the finder, even though he has not heard that the owners despaired of its recovery.

ד

וְכֵן אִם מָצָא דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סִימָן בַּיָּם וּבַנָּהָר וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אוֹ בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁרֻבּוֹ עַכּוּ''ם הֲרֵי זֶה בְּחֶזְקַת שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ בְּעָלָיו מִמֶּנּוּ מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁנָּפַל. וּלְפִיכָךְ הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאָן וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא שָׁמְעוּ הַבְּעָלִים שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ מִמֶּנּוּ:

5

When the owner of an article does not know of its loss, he is not considered to have despaired of its recovery, even if it does not have a mark by which it can be identified.

What is implied? If a person dropped a dinar and did not realize that he dropped it, he is not considered to have despaired of its recovery until he becomes aware that he dropped it. Even though he will certainly despair of its recovery when he realizes that he dropped it it is forbidden to take the article until that time.

Moreover, if an owner is unaware that an article was dropped, even though he is aware of its absence, but thinks, "Maybe I gave it to so and so," "... placed it in a cabinet," "... made a mistake in my accounts," or the like, he is not considered to have despaired of the article's return.

ה

יֵאוּשׁ שֶׁלֹּא מִדַּעַת אֲפִלּוּ בְּדָבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן אֵינוֹ יֵאוּשׁ. כֵּיצַד. נָפַל מִמֶּנּוּ דִּינָר וְלֹא יָדַע בּוֹ שֶׁנָּפַל אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁכְּשֶׁיֵּדַע בּוֹ שֶׁנָּפַל יִתְיָאֵשׁ הֲרֵי זֶה אֵינוֹ יֵאוּשׁ עַתָּה עַד שֶׁיֵּדְעוּ הַבְּעָלִים שֶׁנָּפַל. אֲבָל אִם עֲדַיִן אוֹמְרִים הַבְּעָלִים שֶׁמָּא נְתַתִּיו לִפְלוֹנִי אוֹ בְּמִגְדָּל הוּא מֻנָּח אוֹ שֶׁמָּא טָעִיתִי בַּחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְכַיּוֹצֵא בְּאֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים אֵין זֶה יֵאוּשׁ:

6

When a person sees a colleague drop a dinar on the ground without being aware of it and takes the dinar before his colleague despairs of its recovery, he transgresses a positive commandment and two negative commandments, as we have explained.

Even if he returns the dinar to his colleague after the latter has despaired of its recovery, the return of the money is not significant. It is as if he is giving him a present, and he is considered to have already violated the transgressions.

ו

הָרוֹאֶה חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁנָּפַל מִמֶּנּוּ דִּינָר עַל הָאָרֶץ וְלֹא יָדַע בּוֹ וְנָטַל הַדִּינָר קֹדֶם יֵאוּשׁ עוֹבֵר עַל עֲשֵׂה וְעַל שְׁנֵי לָאוִין כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וַאֲפִלּוּ הֶחְזִיר לוֹ הַדִּינָר לְאַחַר שֶׁנִּתְיָאֵשׁ מַתָּנָה הִיא זוֹ וּכְבָר עָבַר עַל הָאִסּוּרִים:

7

If the finder takes the dinar before the owner despairs of its return, with the intent of returning it, and after the owner despairs of its return decides to take it as his own, he transgresses only the positive commandment, Deuteronomy 22:1: "You shall certainly return it."

If he waits and does not notify the owners, but does not take the dinar until the owners become aware that it fell, at which time they will despair, as we have explained, and then he takes the dinar from the ground, he transgresses only the commandment ibid.: "You may not ignore it." The same applies in all similar situations.

ז

נָטַל הַדִּינָר לִפְנֵי יֵאוּשׁ עַל מְנָת לְהַחְזִירוֹ וּלְאַחַר יֵאוּשׁ נִתְכַּוֵּן לִגְזל אוֹתוֹ עוֹבֵר מִשּׁוּם (דברים כב א) "הָשֵׁב תְּשִׁיבֵם". הִמְתִּין לָהּ וְלֹא הוֹדִיעַ לַבְּעָלִים וְלֹא נָטַל הַדִּינָר עַד שֶׁיָּדְעוּ הַבְּעָלִים שֶׁנָּפַל שֶׁהֲרֵי נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ וְאַחַר כָּךְ נָטַל הַדִּינָר מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ אֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר אֶלָּא מִשּׁוּם (דברים כב ג) "לֹא תוּכַל לְהִתְעַלֵּם". וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

8

A person who sees a sela or another coin drop from even three people, even though there is not a p'rutah's worth for each of them, is obligated to return it. The rationale is that they might all be partners, and one may have been willing to forgo his share in favor of a colleague. Thus, that person has a share in the lost article worth more than a p'rutah.

ח

רָאָה סֶלַע אוֹ מַטְבֵּעַ שֶׁנָּפַל אֲפִלּוּ מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה בְּנֵי אָדָם וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ שְׁוֵה פְּרוּטָה לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר שֶׁמָּא שֻׁתָּפִין הֵן וּמָחַל אֶחָד מֵהֶן חֶלְקוֹ לַחֲבֵרוֹ וְנִמְצֵאת אֲבֵדָתוֹ שֶׁל זֶה שְׁוֵה פְּרוּטָה:

9

When a person sees a dinar fall from a colleague into sand or into dust and escape the colleague's vision, it is as if it fell into the sea or into a river, and it belongs to the finder. For the owner despairs of its recovery, since it does not have a mark by which it can be identified.

Even if he saw the original owner bring a sifter to search for the lost dinar, the owner is considered to have given up hope. He is searching out of wishful thinking, as would other seekers who search in the dust although they have not lost anything, in the hope that they will find what someone else has lost. The owner is searching in such a manner; it is not that he has not despaired of the recovery of his money.

ט

רָאָה חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁנָּפַל מִמֶּנּוּ דִּינָר בְּתוֹךְ הַחל אוֹ בְּתוֹךְ הֶעָפָר וְנִתְעַלֵּם מִמֶּנּוּ הֲרֵי זֶה כְּנוֹפֵל לַיָּם אוֹ לַנָּהָר וַהֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאוֹ. שֶׁהֲרֵי נִתְיָאֵשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן. וַאֲפִלּוּ רָאָה אוֹתוֹ מֵבִיא כְּבָרָה לְחַפֵּשׂ אַחֲרָיו. בְּדַעַת רְעוּעָה הוּא מְחַפֵּשׂ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁמְּחַפְּשִׂים בֶּעָפָר שְׁאָר הַבַּלָּשִׁין שֶׁלֹּא נָפַל מֵהֶן כְּלוּם שֶׁמָּא יִמְצְאוּ מַה שֶּׁנָּפַל לַאֲחֵרִים כָּךְ הוּא זֶה מְחַפֵּשׂ לֹא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלֹּא נִתְיָאֵשׁ:

10

The following rules apply when a person finds a sela in the market place. If a colleague finds him and tells him: "It is mine. It is new; it comes from this and this country and was issued by this and this king" - indeed, even if he says "My name was written on it" - his words are of no consequence, and the finder is not obligated to return it.

The rationale is that the marks on a coin are not an accepted means of identification, because we can assume that a coin will be used for spending. Thus, we can say, "It was his, but he spent it, and it fell from the possession of another person."

Since the marks on a coin are not relied upon as means of identification, as soon as a person realizes that a coin has fallen, he despairs of its recovery. Therefore, it becomes the property of the finder.

י

הַמּוֹצֵא סֶלַע בַּשּׁוּק. מְצָאוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ וְאָמַר לוֹ שֶׁלִּי הִיא וַחֲדָשָׁה הִיא וְשֶׁל מְדִינָה פְּלוֹנִית הִיא וְשֶׁל מֶלֶךְ פְּלוֹנִי הִיא. אֲפִלּוּ אָמַר שְׁמִי כָּתוּב עָלֶיהָ לֹא אָמַר כְּלוּם וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר. שֶׁאֵין סִימָנֵי הַמַּטְבֵּעַ סִימָן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁחֶזְקָתוֹ לְהוֹצָאָה. וְאָנוּ אוֹמְרִין שֶׁלּוֹ הָיְתָה וְהוֹצִיאָהּ מִיָּדוֹ וְנָפְלָה מִיַּד אַחֵר. וְהוֹאִיל וְאֵינוֹ סִימָן שֶׁסּוֹמְכִין עָלָיו מִשְּׁעַת נְפִילָה נִתְיָאֵשׁ וַהֲרֵי הִיא שֶׁל מוֹצְאָהּ:

11

When a person finds an article that does not possess a mark by which it can be identified, next to an article that possesses such a mark, the finder is obligated to announce the discovery of both articles.

If the owner of the article which possesses a mark by which it can be identified comes and takes his article, but says that he lost only this article, the finder acquires the article lacking the mark by which it can be identified.

יא

הַמּוֹצֵא דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן בְּצַד דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סִימָן חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. בָּא בַּעַל הַסִּימָן וְנָטַל אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ וְאָמַר שֶׁזֶּה בִּלְבַד נָפַל מִמֶּנּוּ זָכָה הַמּוֹצֵא בַּדָּבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן:

12

The following laws apply when a person finds an earthenware utensil or any other type of utensil that is made in a standard manner. If new utensils are found, they are acquired by the finder. For they are like a dinar, and there is no difference between one dinar and another, and thus no way of identifying them. Similarly, the owner cannot identify these earthenware utensils; he does not know whether this jar or this vial is his or if it belongs to someone else.

If, however, the earthenware utensils have been in their owner's possession for an extended period, and have become familiar to his eye, the finder is obligated to announce their discovery. For if a Torah scholar will come and say: "Although I cannot identify this utensil with a mark, I can recognize it as my own," the finder is obligated to show it to him. And if the scholar claims to recognize it and says that it belongs to him, it should be returned to him.

יב

הַמּוֹצֵא כְּלֵי חֶרֶשׂ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן מִכֵּלִים שֶׁצּוּרַת כֻּלָּן שָׁוָה. אִם כֵּלִים חֲדָשִׁים הֵן הֲרֵי הֵם שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי הֵן כְּמוֹ דִּינָר מִשְּׁאָר הַדִּינָרִים שֶׁאֵין לוֹ סִימָן וְאֵין הַבְּעָלִים מַכִּירִים אוֹתָן. שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ אִם פַּךְ זֶה אוֹ צְלוֹחִית זוֹ שֶׁלּוֹ אוֹ שֶׁל אַחֵר. וְאִם הָיוּ כֵּלִים שֶׁשְּׂבָעָתַן הָעַיִן חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. שֶׁאִם יָבוֹא תַּלְמִיד חָכָם וְיֹאמַר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִתֵּן בִּכְלִי כָּזֶה סִימָן יֵשׁ לִי בּוֹ טְבִיעוּת עַיִן חַיָּב לְהַרְאוֹתוֹ לוֹ, אִם הִכִּירוֹ וְאָמַר שֶׁלִּי הוּא מַחֲזִירִין לוֹ:

13

When does the above apply? To a refined sage who does not tell any falsehoods except to promote peace, or with regard to the tractate he is studying, the bed that he slept on or the house in which he stays.

What is meant by the above? If he was studying the tractate of Niddah and said that he was studying the tractate of Mikvaot, so that he would not be asked about the Niddah laws.

He slept in one bed, but said that he slept in another, lest signs of a seminal emission be discovered in the bed in which he slept.

He stayed at Reuven's home, but said that he stayed at Shimon's, so that others would not trouble Reuven.

He made peace between two people and added and subtracted from the statements each one of them made to heighten their feelings of closeness. Such deceptions are permitted. If, however, witnesses came and testified that he made other false statements, there is no obligation to return an article that he claims to have recognized.

יג

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּתַלְמִיד וָתִיק שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְשַׁנֶּה בְּדִבּוּרוֹ כְּלָל אֶלָּא בְּדִבְרֵי שָׁלוֹם אוֹ בְּמַסֶכְתָּא אוֹ בְּמִטָּה אוֹ בְּבַיִת שֶׁהוּא מִתְאָרֵחַ בּוֹ. כֵּיצַד. הָיָה עוֹסֵק בְּמַסֶּכְתָּא דְּנִדָּה וְאָמַר בְּמִקְוָאוֹת אֲנִי שׁוֹנֶה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁאָלוּהוּ שְׁאֵלוֹת בְּעִנְיַן נִדָּה. אוֹ שֶׁיָּשַׁן בְּמִטָּה זוֹ וְאוֹמֵר בְּזוֹ אֲנִי יָשֵׁן שֶׁמָּא יִמָּצֵא שָׁם קֶרִי. אוֹ שֶׁנִּתְאָרֵחַ אֵצֶל שִׁמְעוֹן וְאָמַר אֵצֶל רְאוּבֵן אֲנִי מִתְאָרֵחַ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יַטְרִיחַ עַל זֶה שֶׁנִּתְאָרֵחַ אֶצְלוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁהֵבִיא שָׁלוֹם בֵּין אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ וְהוֹסִיף וְגָרַע כְּדֵי לְחַבְּבָן זֶה לָזֶה הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר. אֲבָל אִם בָּאוּ עֵדִים שֶׁשִּׁנָּה בְּדִבּוּרוֹ חוּץ מִדְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֵין מַחֲזִירִין לוֹ בִּטְבִיעוּת עַיִן:

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Fifteen

1

Whenever a person finds an article that appears to have been intentionally placed down, it is forbidden for him to touch it. This applies whether or not it has a mark by which it can be identified.

The rationale is that perhaps the owner of the article left it there until he returns. Thus, if the finder takes it he will have ill-treated the owner. If the article does not have a mark by which it can be identified, he has purposefully caused his colleague financial loss, for the article does not have a mark that will enable it to be identified and returned. Even if it has a mark, he has wronged him, for he has troubled him to search for the article and identify it by its marks. Therefore, it is forbidden for the finder to touch it, unless it appears to have fallen.

Even if the finder is in doubt and does not know whether the article was lost or placed down, he should not touch it. If he transgressed and took it, he is forbidden to return it to its place. If it is an article that does not have a mark by which it can be identified, the finder acquires it; he is not obligated to return it.

א

כָּל הַמּוֹצֵא אֲבֵדָה בֵּין שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ סִימָן בֵּין שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ סִימָן אִם מְצָאָהּ דֶּרֶךְ הַנָּחָה אָסוּר לִגַּע בָּהּ שֶׁמָּא בְּעָלֶיהָ הִנִּיחוּהָ שָׁם עַד שֶׁיַּחְזְרוּ לָהּ וְאִם יָבוֹא לִטְּלֶנָּה וְהָיָה דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן הֲרֵי אִבֵּד מָמוֹן חֲבֵרוֹ בְּיָדוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין לוֹ בָּהּ סִימָן לְהַחְזִיר בּוֹ. וְאִם הָיָה דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ סִימָן הֲרֵי זֶה הִטְרִיחָן לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֶיהָ וְלָתֵת סִימָנֶיהָ. וּלְפִיכָךְ אָסוּר לוֹ שֶׁיִּגַּע בָּהּ עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָאֶנָּה דֶּרֶךְ נְפִילָה. וַאֲפִלּוּ נִסְתַּפֵּק לוֹ הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָדַע אִם דָּבָר זֶה אָבוּד אוֹ מֻנָּח הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בּוֹ. וְאִם עָבַר וּנְטָלוֹ אָסוּר לוֹ לְהַחְזִירוֹ לְשָׁם. וְאִם הָיָה דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סִימָן זָכָה בּוֹ וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְהַחְזִירוֹ:

2

Whenever a person takes an article that can be identified with a mark, whether originally it had been placed down or had dropped, whether in a private domain or in the public domain, he is obligated to announce its discovery.

What is meant by an article that appears to have been intentionally placed down? If a person finds a donkey or a cow pasturing on the road during the day, or he finds a utensil buried in a garbage heap, he should not touch them, for Deuteronomy 22:1, the verse that commands the return of a lost object, speaks of an ox or a sheep "going astray" in the way.

If, however, he found a donkey with its gear overturned, a cow running through vineyards or a utensil lying openly in a garbage heap, it is considered a lost article. It should be taken and its discovery announced.

ב

וְכָל דָּבָר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סִימָן בֵּין בְּדֶרֶךְ הַנָּחָה בֵּין בְּדֶרֶךְ נְפִילָה בֵּין בִּרְשׁוּת הַיָּחִיד בֵּין בִּרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. כֵּיצַד. דֶּרֶךְ הַנָּחָה כְּגוֹן שֶׁמָּצָא חֲמוֹר אוֹ פָּרָה רוֹעִים בַּדֶּרֶךְ בַּיּוֹם אוֹ שֶׁמָּצָא כְּלִי מְכֻסֶּה בָּאַשְׁפָּה הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כב א) "נִדָּחִים בַּדֶּרֶךְ". אֲבָל אִם מָצָא חֲמוֹר וְכֵלָיו הֲפוּכִים וּפָרָה רָצָה בֵּין הַכְּרָמִים אוֹ כְּלִי מְגֻלֶּה בָּאַשְׁפָּה הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲבֵדָה וְנוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז:

3

If one sees a donkey or a cow pasturing in an ordinary place and manner at night, the animal is considered lost.

If he saw the animal pasturing at twilight or at dawn for three consecutive days, it is considered a lost article; it should be taken and its discovery announced.

The following laws apply when a person sees a cow running down a road. If it is facing the city, it is not considered a lost article. If it is not facing the city, it is considered a lost article.

ג

רָאָה חֲמוֹר אוֹ פָּרָה רוֹעִים בַּאֲפָר כְּדַרְכָּן בַּלַּיְלָה הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲבֵדָה. בִּפְנוֹת הַיּוֹם וּבַנֶּשֶׁף אִם רָאָה אוֹתָן שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים זֶה אַחַר זֶה הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲבֵדָה וְנוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז. רָאָה פָּרָה רָצָה בַּדֶּרֶךְ אִם פָּנֶיהָ כְּלַפֵּי הָעִיר אֵין זוֹ אֲבֵדָה. כְּלַפֵּי הַשָּׂדֶה הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲבֵדָה:

4

If a person finds a cow pasturing among the vineyards, he is obligated to return the animal to its owner because of the damage that will be done to the property.

Therefore, if the vineyards belong to a gentile, the animal is not considered lost and there is no obligation to return it. If he suspects that perhaps the gentile will kill the animal when he finds it because it spoiled his vineyard, it is considered a lost article; it should be taken and its discovery announced.

ד

מְצָאָהּ רוֹעָה בֵּין הַכְּרָמִים חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר מִשּׁוּם אֲבֵדַת הַקַּרְקַע. לְפִיכָךְ אִם הָיוּ הַכְּרָמִים שֶׁל עַכּוּ''ם אֵינָהּ אֲבֵדָה וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר. וְאִם חָשַׁשׁ שֶׁמָּא יַהַרְגֶנָּה הָעַכּוּ''ם כְּשֶׁיִּמְצָאֶנָּה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהִפְסִידָה הַכֶּרֶם הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲבֵדָה וְנוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז:

5

The following rules apply if a person finds a cow in the public domain. If it is found beyond the Sabbath limits of the city, he is obligated to return it. If it was pasturing in the grass or located in a barn that is neither a totally secure place nor one from where it will definitely flee, the finder should not touch it; this is not a lost article.

If he found a garment or an axe at the side of a wall, he should not touch them. If he found them in a thoroughfare, he should take them and announce their discovery. The same applies in all similar instances.

ה

מָצָא פָּרָה בִּרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים אִם עוֹמֶדֶת חוּץ לַתְּחוּם חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר. הָיְתָה רוֹעָה בָּעֲשָׂבִים אוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה בְּרֶפֶת שֶׁאֵינָהּ מִשְׁתַּמֶּרֶת וְאֵינָהּ מְאַבֶּדֶת לֹא יִגַּע בָּהּ שֶׁאֵין זוֹ אֲבֵדָה. מָצָא טַלִּית אוֹ קַרְדֹּם בְּצַד הַגָּדֵר הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן. בִּסְרַטְיָא הֲרֵי זֶה נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

6

If a person finds young doves whose wings are tied together and they are hopping behind a stone wall, a wooden fence or in a lane in the fields, he should not touch them, since it is possible that their owner left them there. If, however, he takes them, they become his property.

If they were found tied with a unique knot that can serve as a mark of identification, the finder is obligated to announce their discovery. Similarly, if he found them located in a fixed place, he is obligated to announce their discovery, for the place where an object is discovered can serve as a mark of identification.

ו

מָצָא גּוֹזָלוֹת מְקֻשָּׁרִין בְּכַנְפֵיהֶן וּמְדַדִּין אַחַר הַגָּדֵר אוֹ אַחַר הַגַּפָּה אוֹ בַּשְּׁבִילִין שֶׁבַּשָּׂדוֹת הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן שֶׁמָּא בַּעֲלֵיהֶן הִנִּיחוּם שָׁם. וְאִם נְטָלָן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וְאִם הָיוּ קְשׁוּרִין קֶשֶׁר שֶׁהוּא סִימָן חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. וְכֵן אִם מְצָאָן קְבוּעִים בִּמְקוֹמָן חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז שֶׁהַמָּקוֹם סִימָן:

7

If a person finds a utensil buried in a garbage heap, he should not touch it, as mentioned above. If the garbage dump is not usually cleared away, and its owner decides to clear it away, he should take the utensil and announce its discovery, even though it is buried. If he discovers small utensils - e.g., a knife, a spit or the like - he should take them and announce their discovery, even though they were buried.

ז

מָצָא בָּאַשְׁפָּה כְּלִי מְכֻסֶּה הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בּוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְאִם אַשְׁפָּה שֶׁאֵינָהּ עֲשׂוּיָה לְהִתְפַּנּוֹת הִיא וְנִמְלַךְ עָלֶיהָ לְפַנּוֹתָהּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמְּצָאוֹ מְכֻסֶּה נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז. וְכֵן אִם הָיוּ כֵּלִים קְטַנִּים כְּגוֹן סַכִּין וְשִׁפּוּד וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ מְכֻסִּין בָּאַשְׁפָּה הַקְּבוּעָה נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז:

8

If a person finds scattered produce that appears to have been intentionally placed down, he should not touch it. If it appears that it has fallen, he may keep it.

Similarly, if he finds small sheaves of grain in the public domain, he may keep them, for they do not have a mark. The same applies if he finds cakes of pressed figs, a baker's loaves, a string of fish, pieces of meat, raw wool as it comes from the country, bundles of flax or stretches of purple wool, for they also do not have marks by which they can be identified.

If an item has a mark by which it can be identified, the finder should take it and announce its discovery. Although the mark will ultimately be worn off by trampling, it is still considered a valid mark of identification.

ח

מָצָא פֵּרוֹת מְפֻזָּרִין דֶּרֶךְ הַנָּחָה לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן. דֶּרֶךְ נְפִילָה הֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁלּוֹ. וְכֵן אִם מָצָא כְּרִיכוֹת קְטַנּוֹת שֶׁל שִׁבֳּלִים בִּרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין בָּהֶן סִימָן. אוֹ שֶׁמָּצָא עִגּוּלֵי דְּבֵלָה וְכִכָּרוֹת שֶׁל נַחְתּוֹם וּמַחְרוֹזוֹת שֶׁל דָּגִים וַחֲתִיכוֹת שֶׁל בָּשָׂר וְגִזֵּי צֶמֶר הַבָּאוֹת מִמְּדִינָתָן וַאֲנִיצֵי פִּשְׁתָּן וּלְשׁוֹנוֹת שֶׁל אַרְגָּמָן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶן סִימָן. וְאִם יֵשׁ בָּהֶן סִימָן נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז שֶׁסִּימָן הֶעָשׂוּי לִדָּרֵס הֲרֵי הוּא סִימָן:

9

If, however, a person finds bread baked by an ordinary person,wool that has been dyed by a craftsman, jugs of wine or jugs of oil, he is obligated to announce their discovery, for all these articles possess distinctive marks by which they can be identified.

If, however, this occurs during the season when the stores of wine and oil are opened, the jugs belong to the finder even when the seal is marked. For all the jugs will be marked in the same fashion. The jugs will thus resemble loaves of bread coming from a baker, which all possess a standard shape and weight.

ט

אֲבָל אִם מָצָא כִּכָּרוֹת שֶׁל בַּעַל הַבַּיִת וְגִזֵּי צֶמֶר הַלְּקוּחוֹת מִבֵּית הָאֻמָּן כַּדֵּי יַיִן וְכַדֵּי שֶׁמֶן חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז שֶׁכָּל אֵלּוּ יֵשׁ לָהֶם סִימָנִין מֻבְהָקִין. וְאִם נִפְתְּחוּ הָאוֹצָרוֹת שֶׁל יַיִן וְשֶׁל שֶׁמֶן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵם רְשׁוּמִין. שֶׁכָּל הַכַּדּוֹת כָּךְ הָיוּ רְשׁוּמוֹת וְנִמְצְאוּ אֵלּוּ הַכַּדִּין כְּכִכְּרוֹת הַנַּחְתּוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ צוּרָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּן וּמִשְׁקָל אֶחָד לְכֻלָּם:

10

The following laws apply if a person finds small sheaves in a private domain: If it appears that they have fallen, he may keep them. If it appears that they have been intentionally placed there, he must announce their discovery.

The rationale is that although they do not have a mark by which they can be identified, the place where they are discovered can serve as a mark of identification, even though it is not a distinctive mark of identification.

If he finds large sheaves, whether in the private domain or in the public domain, he should take them and announce their discovery.

י

מָצָא כְּרִיכוֹת בִּרְשׁוּת הַיָּחִיד אִם דֶּרֶךְ נְפִילָה הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וְאִם דֶּרֶךְ הַנָּחָה חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם סִימָן הַמָּקוֹם סִימָן (אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ סִימָן מֻבְהָק). מָצָא אֲלֻמּוֹת בֵּין בִּרְשׁוּת הַיָּחִיד בֵּין בִּרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז:

11

If a person finds a cake of pressed figs that contain a shard, a loaf of bread that contains a coin, a piece of meat that is cut in an abnormal fashion, a fish that has been bitten and any similar item, he is obligated to announce their discovery. The rationale is that they possess an abnormal factor, and we can assume that their owner did this only so that it would serve as a mark of identification.

יא

מָצָא עִגּוּל וּבְתוֹכוֹ חֶרֶשׂ. כִּכָּר וּבְתוֹכוֹ מָעוֹת. חֲתִיכָה שֶׁל בָּשָׂר שֶׁהוּא מְשֻׁנֶּה בַּחֲתִיכוֹת. דָּג נָשׁוּךְ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בְּאֵלּוּ הוֹאִיל וְיֵשׁ בָּהֶן שִׁנּוּי חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. שֶׁלֹּא עֲשָׂאוּם בַּעֲלֵיהֶן אֶלָּא לְסִימָן:

12

The following rules apply when a person finds scattered fruit in the place of the grain heaps. If there was a measure approximately the size of a kav in a square four cubits by four cubits or in a larger area, it may be kept by the finder. The rationale is that the owners will no longer trouble themselves to collect it.

If the produce was scattered in a smaller space, a finder should not touch it, for perhaps it was intentionally left there by the owner.

Our Sages were in doubt with regard to the following situations: If half a kav was left in a square two cubits by two cubits, two kabbim in a square eight cubits by eight cubits, or a kav of two or three types of produce - e.g., dates, sesame seeds and pomegranates in a square four by four. Therefore, at the outset, one should not take such produce. If, however, one takes it, one is not obligated to announce its discovery.

יב

מָצָא פֵּרוֹת מְפֻזָּרִין בְּמָקוֹם הַגֳּרָנוֹת אִם הָיוּ כְּמוֹ קַב בְּתוֹךְ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת אוֹ בְּיֶתֶר עַל אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין הַבְּעָלִים מְטַפְּלִים בַּאֲסִיפָתָן. הָיוּ מְפֻזָּרִין בְּפָחוֹת מֵאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן שֶׁמָּא הַבְּעָלִים הִנִּיחוּם שָׁם. הָיוּ כְּמוֹ חֲצִי קַב בִּשְׁתֵּי אַמּוֹת אוֹ קַבַּיִם בִּשְׁמוֹנֶה אַמּוֹת אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה הַקַּב מִשְּׁנַיִם וּשְׁלֹשָׁה מִינִין כְּמוֹ תְּמָרִים שֻׁמְשְׁמִין [וְרִמּוֹנִים] כָּל אֵלּוּ סָפֵק לְפִיכָךְ לֹא יִטּל. וְאִם נָטַל אֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז:

13

A person who finds a collection of fruit, fruit in a container, or an empty container is obligated to announce the discovery of these objects.

If one finds a container with fruit in front of it, one may keep the fruit, but one must announce the discovery of the utensil. For it is likely that the utensil belongs to one person and the produce to another, and there is no mark by which to identify the produce. If it appears that the produce and the container belong to the same person, one must also announce the discovery of the produce.

יג

הַמּוֹצֵא צִבּוּרֵי פֵּרוֹת אוֹ פֵּרוֹת בִּכְלִי אוֹ כְּלִי כְּמוֹת שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. מָצָא כְּלִי וּלְפָנָיו פֵּרוֹת הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ הַפֵּרוֹת. וְהַכְּלִי נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז. שֶׁאֲנִי אוֹמֵר הַכְּלִי שֶׁל אֶחָד וְהַפֵּרוֹת שֶׁל אַחֵר וַהֲרֵי אֵין בּוֹ סִימָן. וְאִם מַרְאִין הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁהֵן שֶׁל אָדָם אֶחָד חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז:

14

What is implied? If the back of the container is facing the produce, he may keep the produce. If, however, the front of the container is facing the produce, we suspect that the produce fell from the container. Nevertheless, even in such a situation, if the container has a rim, and it is totally empty, the finder may keep the produce. For if it had fallen from the container, the rim would have caused something to remain. If some fruit were in the container and some were on the ground, the finder is obligated to announce the discovery of the entire amount.

יד

כֵּיצַד. הָיוּ אֲחוֹרֵי הַכְּלִי לִפְנֵי הַפֵּרוֹת הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. הָיוּ פְּנֵי הַכְּלִי לִפְנֵי הַפֵּרוֹת חוֹשְׁשִׁין שֶׁמָּא מִן הַכְּלִי נִשְׁפְּכוּ. וְאִם הָיוּ אָגֳּנִים לַכְּלִי אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁפָּנָיו כְּלַפֵּי הַפֵּרוֹת הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁאִלּוּ נִשְׁפְּכוּ מִן הַכְּלִי הָיָה נִשְׁאַר מֵהֶן בְּתוֹכוֹ מִפְּנֵי הָאָגֳּנִים. הָיוּ מִקְצָת הַפֵּרוֹת בַּכְּלִי וּמִקְצָתָן בָּאָרֶץ חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז:

15

When a person finds berries set out to dry in the road, even if he finds them next to a field of berries, they may be kept by the finder. Similarly, when a berry bush hangs over a road and berries are found under it, one is permitted to take them; the prohibition against robbery does not apply.

The rationale for these rulings is that a berry becomes repulsive when it falls in the dust. Such berries are considered ownerless, and thus there is no requirement that a tithe should be given. These concepts do not apply to olives, carobs and other similar fruit; they are forbidden to be taken by the finder.

טו

הַמּוֹצֵא קְצִיעוֹת (נ"א קציצות) בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּצַד שְׂדֵה קְצִיעוֹת (נ"א קציצות) הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וְכֵן תְּאֵנָה שֶׁהִיא נוֹטָה לַדֶּרֶךְ וְנִמְצְאוּ תְּאֵנִים תַּחְתֶּיהָ מֻתָּרוֹת מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל. שֶׁהַתְּאֵנָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ עִם נְפִילָתָהּ נִמְאֶסֶת. וּפְטוּרוֹת מִשּׁוּם מַעֲשֵׂר. אֲבָל זֵיתִים וְחָרוּבִין וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אֲסוּרִין:

16

Dates that are blown off a tree by the wind may be taken, for we assume that the owners forgo ownership over them in favor of anyone who finds them. If, however, they belong to orphans below the age of majority, they are forbidden to be taken, because a minor does not have the legal prerogative to waive his ownership over property.

Similarly, if the owner of the field takes care not to lose any of his produce and has surrounded the trees with a fence or put nets under the trees so that the fruit that drops should fall there until he gathers them, it is forbidden to take this fruit, for he has shown that he is not willing to forgo ownership.

טז

תְּמָרִים שֶׁמְּשִׁירָן הָרוּחַ מֻתָּרוֹת שֶׁהַבְּעָלִים מְחָלוּם לְכָל אָדָם וְזוֹ הִיא חֶזְקָתָן. וְאִם הָיוּ שֶׁל יְתוֹמִים שֶׁאֵינָן בְּנֵי מְחִילָה אֲסוּרִין. וְכֵן אִם הִקְפִּיד בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה וְהִקִּיף מְקוֹם הָאִילָנוֹת אוֹ תִּקֵּן מָקוֹם שֶׁיִּפְּלוּ בּוֹ הַנּוֹבְלוֹת עַד שֶׁיְּלַקְּטֵם הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ אֲסוּרוֹת שֶׁהֲרֵי גִּלָּה דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא מָחַל:

17

A perverse cat that kills young children may not be kept by its owner. Hence, taking it from its owner is not considered robbery, nor is one obligated to return it, even though its hide has some worth. Instead, whoever finds it acquires it. He should kill it, and the hide belongs to him.

יז

חָתוּל רַע שֶׁהוֹרֵג אֶת הַקְּטַנִּים אָסוּר לְקַיְּמוֹ וְאֵין בּוֹ מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל וְאֵין בּוֹ מִשּׁוּם הֶשֵּׁב אֲבֵדָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעוֹרוֹ מוֹעִיל אֶלָּא כָּל הַמּוֹצְאוֹ זָכָה בּוֹ וְהוֹרְגוֹ וְהָעוֹר שֶׁלּוֹ:

18

The following laws apply to a young dove that is found close to a dovecote. If it is found within 50 cubits of the dovecote, it belongs to the owner of the dovecote. If it is found beyond 50 cubits of the dovecote, it belongs to whoever finds it, for a young dove does not hop more than 50 cubits.

If a young dove is found between two dovecotes, it is granted to the owner of the closer one. If it is found midway between the two, its value should be divided.

When does the above apply? When there are an equal number of doves in each dovecote. But if there are more doves in one dovecote than another, we assume that it came from the majority, even though it is further away.

יח

גּוֹזָל הַנִּמְצָא קָרוֹב לַשּׁוֹבָךְ בְּתוֹךְ חֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל בַּעַל הַשּׁוֹבָךְ חוּץ לַחֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאוֹ שֶׁאֵין הַגּוֹזָל מְדַדֶּה יֶתֶר עַל חֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה. נִמְצָא בֵּין שְׁנֵי שׁוֹבָכוֹת הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל קָרוֹב. מֶחֱצָה לְמֶחֱצָה יַחֲלֹקוּ. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיוּ יוֹנֵי שְׁתֵּי הַשּׁוֹבָכוֹת שָׁוִים בְּמִנְיָן. אֲבָל אִם הָיוּ יוֹנֵי הָאֶחָד רַבִּים הַלֵּךְ אַחַר הָרֹב אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא רָחוֹק:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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