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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Four, Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Five, Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Six

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Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Four

1

Our Sages penalized robbers and gave the person whose property was taken the prerogative of taking an oath to support his claim regarding the value of the goods taken. He may then collect that money from the robber, provided that there are two witnesses who testify that this person robbed him.

א

קְנָּס קָנְסוּ חֲכָמִים לַגַּזְלָנִין שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַנִּגְזָל נִשְׁבָּע עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁיִּטְעֹן וְנוֹטֵל מִן הַגַּזְלָן. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה זֶה מֻחְזָק שֶׁגְּזָלוֹ בִּשְׁנֵי עֵדִים:

2

What is implied? A person came into a colleague's home to collect collateral. He was observed by two witnesses. When he entered he was not carrying anything under his cloak, and when he departed he was carrying utensils under his cloak, but the witnesses were not able to discern what the utensils were, and the owner of the home states: "He robbed me of this and this."

Regardless of whether the robber claimed: "I never entered his home and I did not take anything," "I entered his home as the witnesses observed, but I did not take anything. The utensils under my cloak were mine," or he said: "I took this utensil," and the owner claims that he took another utensil besides the one he admits - in all instances the owner of the home must take an oath while holding a sacred article to affirm his claim. He may then collect everything that he claims.

ב

כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְתוֹךְ בֵּית חֲבֵרוֹ לְמַשְׁכְּנוֹ בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים וְלֹא הָיָה כְּלוּם תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו וְיָצָא וְכֵלִים מֻטָּלִין לוֹ תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו וְלֹא יָדְעוּ הָעֵדִים מַה הֵן וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת אוֹמֵר כָּךְ וְכָךְ גְּזָלְתַּנִי. בֵּין שֶׁאָמַר הַגַּזְלָן מֵעוֹלָם לֹא נִכְנַסְתִּי וְלֹא נָטַלְתִּי כְּלוּם. בֵּין שֶׁאָמַר נִכְנַסְתִּי לְמַשְׁכֵּן כְּמוֹ שֶׁרָאוּ הָעֵדִים אֲבָל לֹא נָטַלְתִּי וְלֹא הָיָה תַּחַת כְּנָפַי אֶלָּא כֵּלִים שֶׁלִּי. בֵּין שֶׁאָמַר נָטַלְתִּי כְּלִי זֶה וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת טוֹעֵן שֶׁנָּטַל זֶה וּכְלִי אַחֵר. הֲרֵי בַּעַל הַבַּיִת נִשְׁבַּע בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ וְנוֹטֵל כָּל מַה שֶּׁיִּטְעֹן:

3

When does the above apply? When the owner claims that the robber took articles that one might assume that he owned or that it was possible that such goods would be entrusted to him for safekeeping, and it was possible for those articles to be taken out by the robber under his cloak, as the witnesses testify.

ג

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁטָּעַן דְּבָרִים שֶׁהוּא אָמוּד בָּהֶן אוֹ שֶׁהוּא אָמוּד שֶׁמַּפְקִידִין אֶצְלוֹ אוֹתָן דְּבָרִים שֶׁטָּעַן וְטָעַן בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּנָּטְלוּ תַּחַת הַכְּנָפַיִם כְּמוֹ שֶׁהֵעִידוּ הָעֵדִים:

4

Different rules apply, however, when witnesses observe a person enter a colleague's home to take collateral, but do not see him depart, or they see him depart without appearing to be carrying any utensil under his cloak. Although the owner claims that the defendant took such and such, the defendant is not held liable. This applies even if the defendant denies entering the home and thus contradicts the testimony of the witnesses.

The rationale is that if he claimed: "I entered his home but I did not take anything," he would be required to support his claim with a Rabbinic oath, and then he would be exonerated. For it is possible that he entered with the intent of committing robbery, but did not.

ד

רָאוּהוּ עֵדִים שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְמַשְׁכֵּן אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ וְלֹא רָאוּהוּ בְּעֵת שֶׁיָּצָא אוֹ שֶׁיָּצָא וְאֵין נִרְאֶה תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו כְּלוּם וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת טוֹעֵן וְאוֹמֵר כָּךְ וְכָךְ נָטַל. אֲפִלּוּ אוֹמֵר מֵעוֹלָם לֹא נִכְנַסְתִּי שֶׁהֲרֵי מַכְחִישׁ אֶת הָעֵדִים הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר. שֶׁאִם אָמַר נִכְנַסְתִּי וְלֹא נָטַלְתִּי נִשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעַת הֶסֵּת שֶׁלֹּא נָטַל כְּלוּם וְהוֹלֵךְ. שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס לִגְזל וְלֹא גָּזַל:

5

Different rules apply when one witness testifies that a person entered a colleague's home and removed utensils under his cloak, but the witness was unable to recognize which utensils were taken, and the person who entered states: "I did not take anything," or he says, "I took goods that you gave to me because of a debt." The person who entered must take an oath while holding a sacred article that he did not commit robbery. He is given this prerogative because he is not considered to be a robber unless two witnesses testify against him.

ה

הָיָה עֵד אֶחָד מְעִידוֹ שֶׁנִּכְנַס וְנָטַל כֵּלִים תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ מַה הֵן. וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לֹא גָּזַלְתִּי כְּלוּם אוֹ שֶׁאָמַר בְּחוֹבִי נָטַלְתִּי. הוֹאִיל וְאֵין הָעֵד יוֹדֵעַ מֶה הָיָה תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבָּע בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ שֶׁלֹּא גָּזַל. שֶׁאֵינוֹ מֻחְזָק בְּגַזְלָנוּת אֶלָּא בִּשְׁנֵי עֵדִים:

6

Just as the owner of a home is entitled to take an oath and collect his due from the robber in the instances mentioned in Halachot 1-3, so too, a watchman appointed by the home owner, or even the wife of a watchman, may take such an oath, stating that the person took goods. This obligates the robber to pay.

ו

כְּשֵׁם שֶׁבַּעַל הַבַּיִת נִשְׁבָּע וְנוֹטֵל מִן הַגַּזְלָן כָּךְ שׁוֹמֵר שֶׁל בַּעַל הַבַּיִת אֲפִלּוּ אִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁל שׁוֹמֵר נִשְׁבַּעַת שֶׁזֶּה נָטַל כָּךְ וְכָךְ וּמְשַׁלֵּם הַגַּזְלָן:

7

If, however, the robber was observed by merely a worker or a harvester of the homeowner, they are not given the prerogative of taking an oath to allow the homeowner to collect against his claim. The person whose property was taken is not given the prerogative of taking the oath, because he was not at home at the time of the robbery. The witnesses are not able to identify the articles that the robber took under his cloak, so their testimony does not obligate him to make restitution. Nor is the robber given the opportunity to clear himself by taking an oath, for we suspect that he might take a false oath.

ז

הָיָה שָׁם לְקִיטוֹ אוֹ שְׂכִירוֹ שֶׁל בַּעַל הַבַּיִת אֵינָן נִשְׁבָּעִין וְנוֹטְלִין. וְאֵין הַנִּגְזָל יָכוֹל לִשָּׁבַע שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הָיָה בְּבֵיתוֹ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנִּגְזַל וְאֵין הָעֵדִים יוֹדְעִים מַה נָּטַל תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו כְּדֵי לְחַיֵּב הַגַּזְלָן לְהַחְזִיר. וְאֵין מַשְׁבִּיעִין אֶת הַגַּזְלָן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא חָשׁוּד עַל הַשְּׁבוּעָה:

8

How is this matter resolved? The home owner has a ban of ostracism issued against any person who took goods from his home and does not admit the matter to a court.

Even if the robber admits to having taken certain articles, he is required to return only what he admits, for the owner cannot lodge a definite claim against him.

ח

וְכֵיצַד עוֹשִׂים בְּדִין זֶה. מַחֲרִים בַּעַל הַבַּיִת חֵרֶם סְתָם עַל מִי שֶׁנָּטַל מִבֵּיתוֹ כְּלוּם וְאֵינוֹ מוֹדֶה בְּבֵית דִּין. וַאֲפִלּוּ הוֹדָה הַגַּזְלָן שֶׁגָּזַל קְצָת מַחְזִיר הַמִּקְצָת שֶׁהוֹדָה בָּהּ בִּלְבַד שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין בַּעַל הַבַּיִת טוֹעֲנוֹ טַעֲנַת וַדַּאי:

9

The following rules apply when a person robs one of five people, but does not know whom he robbed, and each of the five claims that it was he whom he robbed. Although there are no witnesses that this person robbed, each of the plaintiffs may take an oath, and then the robber is obligated to pay each the amount he admits.

This is also a penalty enforced by the Sages because he transgressed and robbed. According to Scriptural Law, however, he has no obligation to pay, because the identity of the person whom he robbed is a matter of doubt.

ט

הַגּוֹזֵל אֶחָד מֵחֲמִשָּׁה וְאֵין יָדוּעַ מִי הוּא הַנִּגְזָל וְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵהֶן תּוֹבְעוֹ וְאוֹמֵר לִי גָּזַלְתָּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם עֵדִים שֶׁגָּזַל הֲרֵי כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן נִשְׁבָּע שֶׁזֶּה גְּזָלוֹ וּמְשַׁלֵּם גְּזֵלָה לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. אַף דָּבָר זֶה קְנָס הוּא שֶׁקְּנָסוּהוּ חֲכָמִים מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעָבַר עֲבֵרָה וְגָזַל. אֲבָל דִּין תּוֹרָה אֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם מִסָּפֵק:

10

The following laws apply when a person tells two colleagues, "I robbed one of you" - or "...one of your fathers..." - "of a maneh, but I don't know whom." If he desires to fulfill his moral and spiritual obligation, he must pay the full amount of the robbery to each of the persons. The law, however, requires only that he give the value of the robbery, and they divide it among themselves.

The rationale is that neither of them knows that he has been robbed; it is the robber himself who is notifying them. Our Sages did not impose a penalty in this instance, because no one is lodging a claim against the robber.

י

אָמַר לִשְׁנַיִם גָּזַלְתִּי אֶחָד מִכֶּם אוֹ אָבִיו שֶׁל אֶחָד מִכֶּם וְאֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ אֵיזֶהוּ. אִם בָּא לָצֵאת יְדֵי שָׁמַיִם חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם גְּזֵלָה לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. אֲבָל בְּדִין אֵינוֹ נוֹתֵן אֶלָּא גְּזֵלָה אַחַת וְהֵן חוֹלְקִין אוֹתָהּ בֵּינֵיהֶן. שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין אֶחָד מֵהֶן יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁנִּגְזַל אֶלָּא זֶה בָּא וְהוֹדִיעָם. וְלֹא קָנְסוּ חֲכָמִים בְּדָבָר זֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ תּוֹבֵעַ:

11

The following laws apply when a person lodges a claim against a colleague, saying: "You robbed me of a maneh." If the defendant replies: "I did not rob from you," he is required to take a sh'vuat hesset, as is the case with regard to any defendant.

If he admits that he robbed him of 50 zuz, he must pay the fifty he admits owing and take an oath required by Scriptural Law with regard to the remainder, as is the case with regard to any person who admits a portion of a claim. He is allowed to take this oath because witnesses did not establish that he was a robber.

Similarly because it was not established that a person was a robber, he is given the benefit of the doubt in the following situation: a person claimed that a colleague entered his home and stole utensils from him. The colleague replied that he took the utensils as collateral for a debt that that person owed him. The owner of the home denied the debt. Although the colleague admitted that he took the collateral without permission, since there are no witnesses who testify that he committed robbery, he is permitted to take an oath and collect the debt he claims from the collateral. For the very mouth that created the problem, rationalized it. Since he is taking an oath and collecting money, he must take an oath while holding a sacred article, as will be explained in Hilchot To'en.

יא

הַטּוֹעֵן אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ וְאָמַר לוֹ גְּזָלְתַּנִי מֵאָה. אִם אָמַר לֹא גָּזַלְתִּי נִשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעַת הֶסֵּת כְּדִין כָּל נִתְבָּע. וְאִם הוֹדָה שֶׁגְּזָלוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים מְשַׁלֵּם חֲמִשִּׁים וְנִשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעַת הַתּוֹרָה עַל הַשְּׁאָר כְּדִין כָּל מוֹדֶה בְּמִקְצָת שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הֻחְזַק גַּזְלָן בְּעֵדִים. וְכֵן הַטּוֹעֵן אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְבֵיתוֹ וּגְזָלוֹ כֵּלִים וְהוּא אוֹמֵר דֶּרֶךְ מַשְׁכּוֹן לָקַחְתִּי בְּחוֹב שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִי אֶצְלְךָ וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת אוֹמֵר אֵין לְךָ בְּיָדִי כְּלוּם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוֹדָה שֶׁמִּשְׁכְּנוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִּרְשׁוּת הוֹאִיל וְאֵין שָׁם עֵדִים שֶׁמְּעִידִים שֶׁגָּזַל הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבָּע וְגוֹבֶה חוֹבוֹ מִן הַמַּשְׁכּוֹן שֶׁהַפֶּה שֶׁאָסַר הוּא הַפֶּה שֶׁהִתִּיר. וְהוֹאִיל וְהוּא נִשְׁבָּע וְנוֹטֵל הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבָּע בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּהִלְכוֹת טוֹעֵן:

12

The following laws apply when witnesses observe a person enter a colleague's home when the owner is not home, and take utensils. These laws apply even when he does not conceal the utensils, and even when the owner of the home frequently sells his household articles.

If the owner claims: "He robbed them from me," and the defendant claims: "I entered with your permission, and you sold them to me," "...you gave them to me," or "I took them as payment for a debt you owe me," the defendant's claim is not accepted. The rationale is that whenever a person enters a colleague's home when he is not present and takes utensils and removes them in the presence of witnesses, we presume that he is a robber.

Therefore, he must return the utensils to the homeowner. The homeowner is not even required to take an oath, for the witnesses saw that the intruder committed robbery. After the defendant returns the utensils, he may lodge a suit against the homeowner according to his claims, and the judgment will be rendered according to law.

יב

רָאוּהוּ עֵדִים שֶׁנִּכְנַס לְתוֹךְ בֵּית חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִּפְנֵי בַּעַל הַבַּיִת וְנָטַל מִשָּׁם כֵּלִים. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוֹצִיאָן מְגֻלִּין וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבַּעַל הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה עָשׂוּי לִמְכֹּר אֶת כֵּלָיו. אִם טָעַן וְאָמַר דֶּרֶךְ גֵּזֶל לְקָחָן וְהַלָּה אוֹמֵר בִּרְשׁוּתְךָ בָּאתִי וְאַתָּה מְכַרְתָּם לִי אוֹ נְתָתַּם לִי אוֹ בְּחוֹב שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִי אֶצְלְךָ תְּפַשְׂתִּים אֵינוֹ נֶאֱמָן. שֶׁכָּל הַנִּכְנָס לְבֵית חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְּפָנָיו וְנָטַל כֵּלִים מִשָּׁם וְהוֹצִיאָן בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים הֲרֵי זֶה בְּחֶזְקַת גַּזְלָן. לְפִיכָךְ מַחְזִיר הַכֵּלִים לְבַעַל הַבַּיִת וְאֵין כָּאן שְׁבוּעָה שֶׁהֲרֵי הָעֵדִים רָאוּ מַה גָּזַל. וְאַחַר שֶׁיַּחְזִיר חוֹזֵר וְתוֹבֵעַ אֶת בַּעַל הַבַּיִת בְּכָל מַה שֶּׁיִּטְעֹן וְהַדִּין בֵּינֵיהֶן:

13

Similarly, if only one witness observed the intruder taking the article, and the homeowner claims that the intruder robbed him of the article, while the defendant claims that he purchased it, he took it as payment for a debt, or it was his and was entrusted to the homeowner for safekeeping, the intruder is obligated to return the article to the homeowner, and the homeowner is not even required to take an oath.

The rationale is that if two witnesses had observed the matter, the defendant would have been obligated to pay. Since there is only one witness, the defendant is required to take an oath. And in this instance he cannot take the oath, because he does not deny the statement of the witness. Therefore, we follow the principle: Whenever a person is obligated to take an oath and cannot take that oath, he must pay.

Accordingly, different rules apply if the defendant denied the matter, saying: "I never entered his house, nor did I take anything." Since there is only one witness, and the defendant denies his testimony, he is obligated to take an oath mandated by Scriptural Law, stating that he did not take anything from the home. With this, he is exonerated.

יג

וְכֵן אִם הָיָה שָׁם עֵד אֶחָד בִּלְבַד וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת טוֹעֵן שֶׁגָּזוּל הוּא כְּלִי זֶה בְּיָדוֹ וְהַלָּה אוֹמֵר לָקוּחַ הוּא בְּיָדִי אוֹ בְּחוֹב גְּבִיתִיו אוֹ שֶׁלִּי הָיָה וּפִקָּדוֹן הוּא אֶצְלְךָ הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר הַכְּלִי לִבְעָלָיו בְּלֹא שְׁבוּעָה שֶׁאִלּוּ הָיוּ שָׁם שְׁנֵי עֵדִים הָיָה חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם וְעַכְשָׁו שֶׁאֵין שָׁם אֶלָּא עֵד אֶחָד חַיָּב שְׁבוּעָה וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִשָּׁבַע שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵינוֹ מַכְחִישׁ אֶת הָעֵד וְכָל הַמְחֻיָּב שְׁבוּעָה וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִשָּׁבַע מְשַׁלֵּם. לְפִיכָךְ אִם כָּפַר וְאָמַר לֹא נִכְנַסְתִּי לְבֵיתוֹ וְלֹא נָטַלְתִּי כְּלוּם הוֹאִיל וְאֵין שָׁם אֶלָּא עֵד אֶחָד וְהוּא מַכְחִישׁוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעַת הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁלֹּא לָקַח מִבֵּיתוֹ כְּלוּם וְנִפְטָר:

14

The following incident occurred. A person took a slab of silver from a colleague in the presence of one witness. The person who took the silver said: "Yes, I took it; and it was mine." Our Sages obligated him to return the silver, because the testimony of the witness obligates him to take an oath. He cannot take the oath, because he admits to what the witness says.

Had there not been a witness involved, he would have been able to take a Rabbinic oath that the silver he seized belonged to him.If he denied the statements of the witness and said, "I never took the silver," he would be required to take an oath required by Scriptural Law that he did not take it. This judgment should be followed universally in all analogous cases.

יד

מַעֲשֶׂה בְּאֶחָד שֶׁחָטַף לָשׁוֹן שֶׁל כֶּסֶף מִיַּד חֲבֵרוֹ בִּפְנֵי עֵד אֶחָד. וּבָא הַחוֹטֵף וְאָמַר חָטַפְתִּי וְשֶׁלִּי חָטַפְתִּי. וְחִיְּבוּהוּ חֲכָמִים לְהַחְזִיר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מְחֻיָּב שְׁבוּעָה בְּעֵד זֶה וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִשָּׁבַע שֶׁהֲרֵי הוֹדָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר הָעֵד. וְאִלּוּ לֹא הָיָה שָׁם עֵד כְּלָל הָיָה נִשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעַת הֶסֵּת שֶׁשֶּׁלּוֹ חָטַף. וְאִלּוּ הִכְחִישׁ הָעֵד וְאָמַר מֵעוֹלָם לֹא חָטַפְתִּי הָיָה נִשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעַת הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁלֹּא חָטַף. וּכְדִין זֶה דָּנִין בְּכָל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה בְּכָל מָקוֹם:

15

The following rules apply if a person seizes gold coins from a colleague and the act was observed by one witness. The defendant says: "I seized my own money. There were twenty gold coins." Although the witness does not know how many coins there were, the defendant must pay twenty coins, for the witness knows that he took gold coins. If two witnesses had observed him, he would have been obligated to pay the full amount. Thus, when there is one witness, he is obligated to take an oath, but cannot, as explained above.

טו

חָטַף מִמֶּנּוּ זְהוּבִים [בְּעֵד אֶחָד] וְהוּא אוֹמֵר שֶׁלִּי חָטַפְתִּי וְעֶשְׂרִים הָיוּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הָעֵד יוֹדֵעַ כַּמָּה חָטַף הֲרֵי זֶה מְשַׁלֵּם הָעֶשְׂרִים שֶׁהֲרֵי יָדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁזְּהוּבִים חָטַף וְאִלּוּ הָיוּ שְׁנַיִם הָיָה חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם וְנִמְצָא בְּעֵד אֶחָד מְחֻיָּב שְׁבוּעָה וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִשָּׁבַע כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ:

16

There are opinions that maintain that the following rule applies when, in the above situation, the person who took the coins said: "I seized twenty gold coins; they were mine," while the person who was robbed says, "He took 100." The defendant must pay the twenty he admitted to having taken, and take an oath required by Scriptural Law with regard to the remainder, for he was obligated for a portion of the plaintiff's claim. My opinion is that he is required merely to take a Rabbinic oath, for he did not admit any liability. Instead, he said that he took what belonged to him.

טז

אָמַר הַחוֹטֵף עֶשְׂרִים חָטַפְתִּי וְשֶׁלִּי הֵן וְהַנִּגְזָל אוֹמֵר מֵאָה חָטַף הוֹאִיל וְאֵין הָעֵד יוֹדֵעַ מִנְיָנָן הֲרֵי מְשַׁלֵּם הָעֶשְׂרִים שֶׁהוֹדָה בָּהֶן שֶׁחֲטָפָן וְנִשְׁבַּע שְׁבוּעַת הַתּוֹרָה עַל הַשְּׁאָר שֶׁהֲרֵי נִתְחַיֵּב בְּמִקְצָת. וְדַעְתִּי נוֹטָה בָּזֶה שֶׁיִּשָּׁבַע הֶסֵּת שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הוֹדָה כְּלוּם אֶלָּא אָמַר שֶׁלִּי חָטַפְתִּי:

17

The following rules apply when a person enters a colleague's home when he is not present and takes utensils, while observed by one witness. The witness does not know how many utensils were taken. The owner claims that he had twenty utensils in his home, while the person who took them states: "I took only ten, and they were my own."

The defendant is required to return the ten, for he is obligated to take an oath, but cannot. He is not required to take even a Rabbinic oath concerning the remainder, because the owner cannot issue a definite claim against the robber.

יז

נִכְנַס לְבֵיתוֹ שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְּפָנָיו וְנָטַל מִשָּׁם כֵּלִים בִּפְנֵי עֵד אֶחָד וְאֵין הָעֵד יוֹדֵעַ כַּמָּה נָטַל (הֲרֵי) בַּעַל הַבַּיִת אוֹמֵר עֶשְׂרִים כֵּלִים הָיוּ בְּבֵיתִי וְהַגּוֹזֵל אוֹמֵר לֹא נָטַלְתִּי אֶלָּא עֲשָׂרָה וְהֵם שֶׁלִּי חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר הָעֲשָׂרָה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מְחֻיָּב שְׁבוּעָה וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִשָּׁבַע. וְאֵינוֹ נִשְׁבָּע עַל הַשְּׁאָר אֲפִלּוּ שְׁבוּעַת הֶסֵּת מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִטְעֹן עַל הַגַּזְלָן טַעֲנַת וַדַּאי:

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Five

1

It is forbidden to purchase an object obtained by robbery from the robber. Similarly, it is forbidden to assist him in changing its nature, so that the robber will acquire it.

Whoever acts in this manner or the like assists transgressors and violates the prohibition Leviticus 19:14: "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind."

א

אָסוּר לִקְנוֹת דָּבָר הַגָּזוּל מִן הַגַּזְלָן וְאָסוּר לְסַעֲדוֹ עַל שִׁנּוּיוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּקְנֵהוּ. שֶׁכָּל הָעוֹשֶׂה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן מְחַזֵּק יְדֵי עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵרָה וְעוֹבֵר עַל (ויקרא יט יד) "וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשׁל":

2

It is forbidden for anyone to benefit from an article obtained by robbery even after its rightful owner has despaired of its return, if one knows for certain that this object was obtained through robbery.

What is implied? If one knows for certain that a particular animal was obtained by robbery, it is forbidden to ride on it or plow with it.

ב

אָסוּר לֵהָנוֹת בְּדָבָר הַגָּזוּל וַאֲפִלּוּ לְאַחַר יֵאוּשׁ. וְהוּא שֶׁיֵּדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה הוּא הַגְּזֵלָה עַצְמָהּ. כֵּיצַד. יָדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁבְּהֵמָה זוֹ גְּזוּלָה אָסוּר לִרְכֹּב עָלֶיהָ אוֹ לַחְרשׁ בָּהּ:

3

When a person obtains a house or a field by robbery, it is forbidden to pass through it or enter it. This applies even merely to seek shade or shelter from the rain. If he lives in another person's home, he must pay rent to the legal owners, as mentioned above with regard to a person who lives in a colleague's courtyard without the owner's knowledge.

If a person cuts down palm trees and constructs a bridge from them, it is forbidden for anyone to pass over it. The same applies with regard to other similar situations.

ג

גָּזַל בַּיִת אוֹ שָׂדֶה אָסוּר לַעֲבֹר בְּתוֹכָהּ אוֹ לִכָּנֵס בָּהּ בַּחַמָּה מִפְּנֵי הַחַמָּה וּבַגְּשָׁמִים מִפְּנֵי הַגְּשָׁמִים. וְאִם דָּר בְּתוֹכָהּ חַיָּב לְהַעֲלוֹת שָׂכָר לַבְּעָלִים כְּדִין הַדָּר בַּחֲצַר חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁלֹּא מִדַּעְתּוֹ. גָּזַל דְּקָלִים וְעָשָׂה מֵהֶן גֶּשֶׁר אָסוּר לַעֲבֹר עָלָיו. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

4

If a person transgressed and ate an object obtained by robbery after the owners despaired of its return, he is not liable to compensate the owners.

If he ate the article before the owners despaired of its return the owners must be compensated. They may collect from the person who ate the article, for it is still in their possession. Or if they desire, they may collect from the robber.

ד

מִי שֶׁעָבַר וְאָכַל הַגְּזֵלָה אַחַר יֵאוּשׁ פָּטוּר מִלְּשַׁלֵּם. וְאִם אָכַל קֹדֶם יֵאוּשׁ וְרָצוּ הַבְּעָלִים לִגְבּוֹת מִן הָאוֹכֵל גּוֹבִין שֶׁעֲדַיִן בִּרְשׁוּתָן הִיא. וְאִם רָצוּ גּוֹבִין מִן הַגַּזְלָן:

5

The following rules apply when a person commits robbery and dies. There is no difference if he fed the object he obtained by robbery to his sons after the owner despaired of its return, or rather than feed it to them he sold it or it was lost.

If the robber left landed property, his heirs must reimburse the original owner. According to Talmudic law, they need not, by contrast, reimburse him if he left only movable property. For the value of the object obtained by robbery is considered to be a debt owed by the robber, and movable property is not placed on lien to a creditor after the principal's death.

ה

הַגּוֹזֵל וּמֵת בֵּין שֶׁהֶאֱכִיל אֶת הַגְּזֵלָה לַבָּנִים אַחַר יֵאוּשׁ בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא הֶאֱכִילָם אֶלָּא מְכָרָהּ אוֹ אָבְדָה. אִם הִנִּיחַ קַרְקַע חַיָּבִין לְשַׁלֵּם. אֲבָל מִן הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין אֵינָן חַיָּבִין לְשַׁלֵּם. שֶׁדְּמֵי הַגְּזֵלָה חוֹב הֵן עַל הַגַּזְלָן וְאֵין הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין מִשְׁתַּעְבְּדִין לְבַעַל חוֹב:

6

The Geonim have already ordained that a debt owed a creditor can be expropriated from the movable property in the estate. This applies even to a loan supported by a verbal commitment alone. Therefore, in the above instance, the heirs are liable to reimburse the owners from either the landed property or the movable property in the robber's estate, regardless of whether or not the heirs ate the article obtained by robbery, and whether or not the owners despaired of its return.

ו

כְּבָר תִּקְּנוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים לִגְבּוֹת בַּעַל חוֹב מִן הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּמִלְוֶה עַל פֶּה. לְפִיכָךְ חַיָּבִין לְשַׁלֵּם בֵּין אָכְלוּ בֵּין לֹא אָכְלוּ. בֵּין נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ בֵּין לֹא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ. בֵּין מִן הַקַּרְקַע בֵּין מִן הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין שֶׁהִנִּיחַ:

7

The laws applying to a person who purchases movable property from a robber are the same as those applying to one who purchases from a thief. If the reputation of the robber was a matter of public knowledge, our Sages did not grant any leniency. If the robber's reputation was not public knowledge, our Sages ordained leniency to enable uninhibited trade in the marketplace, and required the original owner to pay a purchaser the price he paid for the article taken by robbery. He may then take the article and sue the robber for the price of the article.

If the owner already despaired of the article's return, the purchaser is considered to have acquired the article itself and is not required to return it.

ז

דִּין הַלּוֹקֵחַ מִטַּלְטְלִין מִן הַגַּזְלָן כְּלוֹקֵחַ מִן הַגַּנָּב. אִם גַּזְלָן מְפֻרְסָם הוּא לֹא עָשׂוּ בּוֹ תַּקָּנַת הַשּׁוּק. וְאִם אֵינוֹ מְפֻרְסָם עָשׂוּ בּוֹ תַּקָּנַת הַשּׁוּק וְנוֹתֵן הַנִּגְזָל דָּמִים שֶׁנָּתַן וְלוֹקֵחַ גְּזֵלָתוֹ וְחוֹזֵר וְתוֹבֵעַ הַגַּזְלָן בִּדְמֵי הַגְּזֵלָה. וְאִם כְּבָר נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים קָנָה לוֹקֵחַ עַצְמָהּ שֶׁל גְּזֵלָה וְאֵינוֹ מַחְזִירָהּ:

8

It is forbidden to benefit from a robber's property. If even a minor portion of his property was legitimately his, one is allowed to benefit from his property, unless one is certain that the article from which one is benefiting was obtained by robbery.

ח

אָסוּר לֵהָנוֹת מִן הַגַּזְלָן וְאִם הָיָה מִעוּט שֶׁלּוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁרֹב מָמוֹנוֹ גָּזוּל מֻתָּר לֵהָנוֹת מִמֶּנּוּ עַד שֶׁיֵּדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה גָּזוּל בְּיָדוֹ:

9

It is forbidden to benefit from the property of people whom we can assume to be robbers, when all of their property can be assumed to have come from robbery, for their profession is based on robbery - e.g., customs-collectors and highwaymen.

We may not change money from their cash-box, for all their money can be assumed to have come from robbery.

ט

בְּנֵי אָדָם שֶׁחֶזְקָתָן גַּזְלָנִין וְחֶזְקַת כָּל מָמוֹנָן מִן הַגֵּזֶל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמְּלַאכְתָּן מְלֶאכֶת גַּזְלָנִין כְּגוֹן הַמּוֹכְסִין וְהַלִּסְטִים אָסוּר לֵהָנוֹת מֵהֶן שֶׁחֶזְקַת מְלָאכָה זוֹ שֶׁהוּא גָּזוּל וְאֵין מִצְטָרְפִים דִּינָרִים מִן הַתֵּבָה שֶׁלָּהֶן שֶׁהַכּל בְּחֶזְקַת גְּזֵלָה:

10

If a customs-collector takes a person's garment and then returns another one to him, or he takes a person's donkey and returns another one to him, the person may keep the one returned. This is considered to be a transaction, and we can assume that the original owner despaired of its return. Moreover, we do not know for certain that this object was obtained by robbery. If the recipient is diligent and is wont to be stringent concerning his personal gain, he should return the object to its original owner.

י

נָטְלוּ מוֹכְסִין כְּסוּתוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוּ לוֹ אַחֶרֶת (נָטְלוּ חֲמוֹרוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוּ לוֹ חֲמוֹר אַחֵר). הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁזּוֹ כִּמְכִירָה הִיא וְחֶזְקָתָהּ שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים מִמֶּנָּה וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁזּוֹ גְּזֵלָה. וְאִם הָיָה וָתִיק וּמַחְמִיר עַל עַצְמוֹ מַחֲזִירָן לַבְּעָלִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים:

11

When does the statement that a customs-collector is considered to be a highwayman apply? When the customs collector is a gentile, is self-appointed, or was appointed by the king but is given unlimited jurisdiction and takes whatever he wants and leaves whatever he wants.

If, however, the customs-collector was appointed by the king to take a third, a fourth or any fixed amount of the subjects' goods or their value, the customs collector appoints a Jew to collect this sum for the king, and it is known that this person is faithful and does not add anything beyond what the king decreed, this person is not considered a robber. For the law established by the king is binding law. Indeed, anyone who does not pay this tax transgresses, for he is taking what is due the king. This applies whether the king is Jewish or gentile.

יא

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁהַמּוֹכֵס כְּלִסְטִים בִּזְמַן שֶׁהַמּוֹכֵס עַכּוּ''ם אוֹ מוֹכֵס הָעוֹמֵד מֵאֵלָיו אוֹ מוֹכֵס הָעוֹמֵד מֵחֲמַת הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֵין לוֹ קִצְבָה אֶלָּא לוֹקֵחַ מַה שֶּׁיִּרְצֶה וּמֵנִיחַ מַה שֶּׁיִּרְצֶה. אֲבָל מֶכֶס שֶׁפְּסָקוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאָמַר שֶׁיִּקַּח שְׁלִישׁ אוֹ רְבִיעַ אוֹ דָּבָר קָצוּב וְהֶעֱמִיד מוֹכֵס יִשְׂרָאֵל לִגְבּוֹת חֵלֶק זֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ וְנוֹדַע שֶׁאָדָם זֶה נֶאֱמָן וְאֵינוֹ מוֹסִיף כְּלוּם עַל מַה שֶּׁגָּזַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵינוֹ בְּחֶזְקַת גַּזְלָן לְפִי שֶׁדִּין הַמֶּלֶךְ דִּין הוּא. וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁהוּא עוֹבֵר הַמַּבְרִיחַ מִמֶּכֶס זֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא גּוֹזֵל מְנַת הַמֶּלֶךְ בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַמֶּלֶךְ עַכּוּ''ם בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַמֶּלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל:

12

Similarly, if a king imposes a tax on all the inhabitants of a city, a fixed annual head tax or a fixed annual property tax, or decrees that anyone who violates a particular law will have all his property confiscated by the king, or decrees that anyone who is found in a field at the harvest time must pay the tax on it whether or not he is the owner of the field, or any similar decree, it is not considered to be robbery.

A Jew who collects these duties on behalf of the king is not considered to be a robber. On the contrary, he is considered of upright character, provided he does not add to or change the king's levy in any way, nor take any for himself.

יב

וְכֵן מֶלֶךְ שֶׁמֵּשִׂים מַס עַל בְּנֵי הָעִיר אוֹ עַל כָּל אִישׁ וְאִישׁ דָּבָר קָצוּב מִשָּׁנָה לְשָׁנָה אוֹ עַל כָּל שָׂדֶה וְשָׂדֶה דָּבָר קָצוּב. אוֹ שֶׁגָּזַר שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁיַּעֲבֹר עַל דָּבָר זֶה יִלָּקְחוּ כָּל נְכָסָיו לְבֵית הַמֶּלֶךְ. אוֹ כָּל מִי שֶׁיִּמָּצֵא בַּשָּׂדֶה בִּשְׁעַת הַגֹּרֶן הוּא יִתֵּן הַמַּס שֶׁעָלֶיהָ בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הוּא בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה בֵּין שֶׁאֵינוֹ בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה וְכָל כַּיּוֹצֵא מִדְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֵינוֹ גֵּזֶל וְיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁגָּבָה אוֹתָן לַמֶּלֶךְ אֵינוֹ בְּחֶזְקַת גַּזְלָן וַהֲרֵי הוּא כָּשֵׁר. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יוֹסִיף וְלֹא יְשַׁנֶּה וְלֹא יִקַּח לְעַצְמוֹ כְּלוּם:

13

Similarly, if a king becomes angered with a servant or an attendant who is one of his subjects and confiscates his field or his courtyard, it is not considered to be robbery, and one is permitted to benefit from it. If a person purchases it from the king, it becomes his and the original owners cannot expropriate it from him. For this is the law exercised by all kings: to confiscate all the property of their attendants if they become angered by them.

Thus, it is the king who annulled the ownership over this courtyard or field, making it ownerless. Therefore, the person buying it from the king legally acquires it.

If, however, a king confiscates a courtyard or a field from one of the subjects of his country in a manner that is not in accordance with the laws that he enacted, he is considered to be a robber, and the owners may expropriate the property from the person who purchased it from the king.

יג

וְכֵן מֶלֶךְ שֶׁכָּעַס עַל אֶחָד מֵעֲבָדָיו וְשַׁמָּשָׁיו מִבְּנֵי הַמְּדִינָה וְלָקַח שָׂדֵהוּ אוֹ חֲצֵרוֹ אֵינָהּ גֵּזֶל וּמֻתָּר לֵהָנוֹת בָּהּ וְהַלּוֹקְחָהּ מִן הַמֶּלֶךְ הֲרֵי הִיא שֶׁלּוֹ וְאֵין הַבְּעָלִים מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתָהּ מִיָּדוֹ. שֶׁזֶּה דִּין הַמְּלָכִים כֻּלָּם לִקַּח כָּל מָמוֹן שַׁמָּשֵׁיהֶם כְּשֶׁכּוֹעֲסִין עֲלֵיהֶם וַהֲרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הִפְקִיעַ שִׁעְבּוּדָן וְנַעֲשֵׂית חָצֵר זוֹ אוֹ שָׂדֶה זוֹ כְּהֶפְקֵר וְכָל הַקּוֹנֶה אוֹתָהּ מִן הַמֶּלֶךְ זָכָה בָּהּ. אֲבָל מֶלֶךְ שֶׁלָּקַח חָצֵר אוֹ שָׂדֶה שֶׁל אֶחָד מִבְּנֵי הַמְּדִינָה שֶׁלֹּא בַּדִּינִין שֶׁחָקַק הֲרֵי זֶה גַּזְלָן וְהַלּוֹקֵחַ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹצִיאִין הַבְּעָלִים מִיָּדוֹ:

14

The general principle is: Any law that a king decrees to be universally applicable, and not merely applying to one person, is not considered robbery. But whenever he takes from one person alone in a manner that does not conform to a known law, but rather seizes the property from the person arbitrarily, it is considered to be robbery.

Therefore, when the king's tax collectors and enforcement officers sell fields because the owner did not pay the fixed tax for the field, the sale is binding. A head tax, however, is the personal responsibility of each person and it may not be collected from his property. Thus, if a field was sold because an individual was delinquent in paying the head tax, the sale is not binding, unless this is the law enacted by this particular king.

יד

כְּלָלוֹ שֶׁל דָּבָר כָּל דִּין שֶׁיַּחְקֹק אוֹתוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַכּל וְלֹא יִהְיֶה לְאָדָם אֶחָד בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ אֵינוֹ גֵּזֶל. וְכָל שֶׁיִּקַּח מֵאִישׁ זֶה בִּלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא כַּדָּת הַיְדוּעָה לַכּל אֶלָּא חָמַס אֶת זֶה הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּזֶל. לְפִיכָךְ גַּבָּאֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְשׁוֹטְרָיו שֶׁמּוֹכְרִים הַשָּׂדוֹת בְּמַס הַקָּצוּב עַל הַשָּׂדוֹת מִמְכָּרָן מִמְכָּר. אֲבָל מַס שֶׁעַל כָּל אִישׁ וְאִישׁ אֵינוֹ גּוֹבֶה אֶלָּא מִן הָאָדָם עַצְמוֹ וְאִם מָכְרוּ הַשָּׂדֶה בְּמַס שֶׁעַל הָרֹאשׁ הֲרֵי זֶה אֵינוֹ מִמְכָּר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הָיָה דִּין הַמֶּלֶךְ כָּךְ:

15

The following rules apply when the law of a king is that whoever pays the tax for a particular field acquires ownership of that field. If the owner of a field flees to avoid paying the property tax, and another person pays this tax to the king and derives benefit from that field, it is not considered to be robbery.

The one who paid the taxes may reap the benefit of the field provided he continues to pay the taxes until the owners return and pay this duty. For the law of a king is binding, as stated above.

טו

מֶלֶךְ שֶׁהָיוּ דִּינָיו שֶׁכָּל שֶׁלֹּא יִתֵּן הַמַּס שֶׁעַל הַשָּׂדֶה תִּהְיֶה הַשָּׂדֶה לְנוֹתֵן הַמַּס וּבָרַח בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה מִפְּנֵי הַמַּס וּבָא זֶה וְנָתַן מַס שֶׁעָלֶיהָ לַמֶּלֶךְ וְאָכַל פֵּרוֹתֶיהָ אֵין זֶה גֵּזֶל אֶלָּא אוֹכֵל פֵּרוֹת וְנוֹתֵן הַמַּס עַד שֶׁיַּחְזְרוּ הַבְּעָלִים שֶׁדִּין הַמֶּלֶךְ דִּין הוּא כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ:

16

Similarly, if a king decrees that whoever pays a head tax for a person who has not paid acquires the delinquent person as a servant the decree is binding. If one Jew comes and pays a head tax for another indigent, he may compel him to work beyond ordinary limits, for the laws of a king are binding. He may not, however, have him toil as a slave.

טז

וְכֵן מֶלֶךְ שֶׁגָּזַר שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁיִּתֵּן מַס הַקָּצוּב עַל הָאִישׁ יִשְׁתַּעְבֵּד בָּזֶה שֶׁלֹּא נָתַן וּבָא יִשְׂרָאֵל וְנָתַן הַמַּס שֶׁעַל יִשְׂרָאֵל זֶה הֶעָנִי הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵד בּוֹ יוֹתֵר מִדַּאי שֶׁדִּין הַמֶּלֶךְ דִּין. אֲבָל אֵינוֹ עוֹבֵד בּוֹ כְּעֶבֶד:

17

When a king cuts down trees belonging to private people and uses them for a bridge, one is permitted to cross over it. Similarly, if he destroys homes in order to construct a road or a wall, it is permitted to benefit from it. The same principle applies in all analogous situations, because the laws of a king are binding.

יז

מֶלֶךְ שֶׁכָּרַת אִילָנוֹת שֶׁל בַּעֲלֵי בָּתִּים וְעָשָׂה מֵהֶן גֶּשֶׁר מֻתָּר לַעֲבֹר עָלָיו. וְכֵן אִם הָרַס בָּתִּים וַעֲשָׂאָן דֶּרֶךְ אוֹ חוֹמָה מֻתָּר לֵהָנוֹת בָּהּ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה שֶׁדִּין הַמֶּלֶךְ דִּין:

18

When does the above apply? When the coins issued by a king are the tender of the land. This indicates that the inhabitants of that land have accepted him and consider him to be their leader and themselves to be his subjects.

If, however, the coins he issues are not the tender of the land, he is considered to be a robber who takes by the force of arms. He and his servants are like a band of armed thieves, whose laws are not binding. Such a king and his servants are considered to be robbers in all respects.

יח

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּמֶלֶךְ שֶׁמַּטְבְּעוֹ יוֹצֵא בְּאוֹתָן הָאֲרָצוֹת שֶׁהֲרֵי הִסְכִּימוּ עָלָיו בְּנֵי אוֹתָהּ הָאָרֶץ וְסָמְכָה דַּעְתָּן שֶׁהוּא אֲדוֹנֵיהֶם וְהֵם לוֹ עֲבָדִים. אֲבָל אִם אֵין מַטְבְּעוֹ יוֹצֵא הֲרֵי הוּא כְּגַזְלָן בַּעַל זְרוֹעַ וּכְמוֹ חֲבוּרַת לִסְטִים הַמְזֻיָּנִין שֶׁאֵין דִּינֵיהֶן דִּין וְכֵן מֶלֶךְ זֶה וְכָל עֲבָדָיו גַּזְלָנִין לְכָל דָּבָר:

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Six

1

The following rules apply when a river washes away beams, stones, wood and the like. If the owners despaired of their return, it is permitted for the finder to keep them, and they become his property. If, however, the finder does not know whether or not the owners have despaired, he is obligated to return the objects. Needless to say, this applies if the owners are pursuing the article.

א

קוֹרוֹת וַאֲבָנִים וְעֵצִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁשְּׁטָפָם הַנָּהָר אִם נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים מֵהֶן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מֻתָּרִין וְהֵן שֶׁל מַצִּילָן. וְאִם אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ אִם נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ אִם לֹא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם הָיוּ הַבְּעָלִים מְרַדְּפִין אַחֲרֵיהֶן:

2

Therefore, the same principle is applied when a person saves an article from the bed of a sea, from a flooding river, from gentiles, from a fire, from a lion, from a bear, from a tiger or from a leopard. If one knows that the owners have despaired of the article's return, it may be kept by the finder. If one does not know, one must return it.

ב

לְפִיכָךְ הַמַּצִּיל מִן הַנָּהָר וּמִזּוּטוֹ שֶׁל יָם וּמִשְּׁלוּלִיתוֹ שֶׁל נָהָר וּמִן הָעַכּוּ''ם וּמִן הַדְּלֵקָה וּמִן הָאֲרִי וּמִן הַדֹּב וּמִן הַנָּמֵר וּמִן הַבַּרְדְּלָס. אִם יָדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וְאִם לֹא יָדַע יַחְזִיר:

3

When a person saves an article from a Jewish robber, he may keep it, for we assume that the owners despaired of its return. If, however, he knows that they did not despair of its return, he is obligated to return it.

When, by contrast, a person saves an article from a gentile robber, he is obligated to return it, for we do not assume that the owners despaired of its return. If, however, he knows that they did despair of its return, he may keep it.

Why do we say with regard to Jewish robbers that we can assume that the owners despair, while with regard to gentile robbers we do not assume that they despair? Because the owners know that the gentile authorities will require a robber to return an article obtained by robbery, although there are no witnesses that he committed robbery. Circumstantial evidence and probability are sufficient.

ג

הַמַּצִּיל מִיַּד לִסְטִים יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁסְּתָם הַדָּבָר שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים. וְאִם יָדַע שֶׁלֹּא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר. אֲבָל הַמַּצִּיל מִיַּד לִסְטִים עוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים אוֹ מוֹכֵס עַכּוּ''ם חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר שֶׁסְּתָם הַדָּבָר שֶׁלֹּא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים. וְאִם יָדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁנִּתְיָאֲשׁוּ הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וּמִפְּנֵי מָה סְתָם לִסְטִים יִשְׂרָאֵל נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ הַבְּעָלִים וּסְתָם הָעַכּוּ''ם לֹא נִתְיָאֲשׁוּ. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַבְּעָלִים יוֹדְעִים שֶׁהָעַכּוּ''ם מַחֲזִירִין מִיַּד הַגַּזְלָן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם עֵדִים שֶׁגָּזַל אֶלָּא בִּרְאָיוֹת רְעוּעוֹת וּבְאֹמֶד הַדַּעַת:

4

It is not considered robbery to take fresh cress that grows among flax, because it harms the flax belonging to the owner of the field. If the cress has become dry, taking it is considered robbery, because it has already caused whatever damage it might cause.

If it grows on the border of the rows of flax, it is forbidden to be taken even if it is fresh.

ד

שַׁחֲלַיִים הַצּוֹמְחִים בְּתוֹךְ הַפִּשְׁתָּן הַמְלַקְּטָן כְּשֶׁהֵן לַחִין אֵין בּוֹ מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן מַפְסִידִין הַפִּשְׁתָּן שֶׁל בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה. וְאִם יָבְשׁוּ אֲסוּרִין מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל שֶׁכְּבָר הִפְסִידוּ מַה שֶּׁהִפְסִידוּ. וְאִם הָיוּ עַל הַגְּבוּל אֲסוּרִין אֲפִלּוּ כְּשֶׁהֵן לַחִין:

5

We have stated in Hilchot Nizkei Mammon that taking straw and hay that a person has placed in the public domain is not considered robbery. If, however, a piece of feces is placed in the public domain, whether during the time when taking out wastes is permitted or at other times, taking it is considered to be robbery.

ה

כְּבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ בְּנִזְקֵי מָמוֹן שֶׁהַמּוֹצִיא תִּבְנוֹ וְקַשּׁוֹ לִרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים אֵין בָּהֶם מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל. אֲבָל הַמּוֹצִיא הַגָּלָל לִרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים בֵּין בִּשְׁעַת הוֹצָאַת זְבָלִים בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא בִּשְׁעַת הוֹצָאַת זְבָלִים חַיָּבִין עֲלֵיהֶם מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל:

6

When a person's clothes were exchanged for those belonging to another person at a house of mourning or a place of celebration, he should not use the article in his possession unless the owner comes and returns the original article and takes his own.

Slightly different rules apply if a person's articles become exchanged for another's in the home of a craftsman. If the craftsman's wife or children gave him the articles, or the craftsman gave him the articles and told him: "Take your articles," the person should not use the articles in his possession unless the owner comes and returns the original articles and takes his own.

If, however, the craftsman tells him: "Take this article," he may use it until the owner comes and returns the original articles and takes his own. For it is possible that the article belongs to the craftsman, or that the owner of the article told the craftsman to sell it for him. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

ו

מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַלְּפוּ לוֹ כֵּלָיו בְּכֵלִים אֲחֵרִים בְּבֵית הָאָבֶל אוֹ בְּבֵית הַמִּשְׁתֶּה הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא הַלָּה וְיַחְזִיר וְיִטּל אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ. נִתְחַלְּפוּ לוֹ בְּבֵית הָאֻמָּן אִם אִשְׁתּוֹ וּבָנָיו שֶׁל אֻמָּן נָתְנוּ לוֹ אוֹ שֶׁנָּתַן לוֹ הָאֻמָּן וְאָמַר לוֹ טֹל כֵּלֶיךָ הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא הַלָּה וְיַחְזִיר וְיִטּל אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ. אָמַר לוֹ הָאֻמָּן טֹל כְּלִי זֶה הֲרֵי זֶה יִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא הַלָּה וְיַחְזִיר וְיִטּל אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁמָּא כֵּלָיו שֶׁל אֻמָּן הוּא אוֹ בַּעַל הַכְּלִי צִוָּה אֶת הָאֻמָּן לְמָכְרוֹ לוֹ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

7

Our Sages forbade many acts, classifying them as robbery - e.g., one who sets doves into flight or plays dice. If a person transgresses these prohibitions, he is considered a robber by Rabbinic decree.

What is meant by setting doves into flight? A person should not set doves into flight in a settled area, because he will take property belonging to others unjustly. For he will send out a male and it will bring a female from another dovecote; he will send out a female and it will bring a male.

This does not apply to doves alone. Instead, anyone who performs a like act with regard to other fowl, beasts or domesticated animals is considered to be a robber by Rabbinic decree.

ז

דְּבָרִים הַרְבֵּה אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים מִשּׁוּם גֵּזֶל וְהָעוֹבֵר עֲלֵיהֶן הֲרֵי זֶה גַּזְלָן מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם. כְּגוֹן מַפְרִיחֵי יוֹנִים וְהַמְשַׂחֲקִים בְּקֻבִּיָּא. מַפְרִיחֵי יוֹנִים כֵּיצַד. לֹא יַפְרִיחַ אָדָם בְּתוֹךְ הַיִּשּׁוּב שֶׁהֲרֵי לוֹקֵחַ מָמוֹן אֲחֵרִים שֶׁלֹּא כַּדִּין מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמְּשַׁלֵּחַ זָכָר וְיָבִיא נְקֵבָה מִשּׁוֹבָךְ אַחֵר אוֹ נְקֵבָה וְתָבִיא זָכָר. וְלֹא יוֹנִים בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא כָּל הָעוֹשֶׂה כָּזֶה בִּשְׁאָר עוֹפוֹת אוֹ חַיָּה וּבְהֵמָה הֲרֵי זֶה גַּזְלָן מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם:

8

Similarly, our Sages forbade snaring doves within a settled area, for we can assume that the doves belong to others. One may not set a snare for doves unless one places a distance of four mil between the snare and the settled area. Moreover, if the settled area is composed of vineyards, one should not set a snare even within 100 mil, for the doves belong to the owners of the vineyards.

Similarly, a person should not set a snare among dovecotes even if he owns those dovecotes, or they belong to a gentile or are ownerless, even if the dovecotes are more than 100 mil from the settled area, for the doves from the settled area will come to the area of the dovecotes.

ח

וְכֵן אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים לָצוּד יוֹנִים בְּתוֹךְ הַיִּשּׁוּב מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן שֶׁל אֲחֵרִים. וְאֵין פּוֹרְשִׂין נִישׁוֹבִין לְיוֹנִים אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הִרְחִיק מִן הַיִּשּׁוּב אַרְבָּעָה מִילִין. וְאִם הָיָה יִשּׁוּב כְּרָמִים אֲפִלּוּ מֵאָה מִיל לֹא יִפְרשֹׁ שֶׁהַיּוֹנִים שֶׁל בַּעֲלֵי כְּרָמִים הֵם. וְכֵן לֹא יִפְרשֹׁ בְּתוֹךְ הַשּׁוֹבָכִין אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן שֶׁלּוֹ אוֹ שֶׁל עַכּוּ''ם אוֹ שֶׁל הֶפְקֵר וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהִרְחִיק מִן הַיִּשּׁוּב מֵאָה מִיל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַיּוֹנִים בָּאוֹת לְיִשּׁוּב הַשּׁוֹבָכִין:

9

When constructing a dovecote, a person should position it at least 50 cubits from the village. Similarly, a person should not construct a dovecote in his field unless he owns the property in a radius of 50 cubits on all sides, so the doves will not be drawn forth and damage the fields of others by eating their produce.

If a person purchased a dovecote from another person, he may continue using it even if there is only a distance in which a quarter of a kav of grain can be sown between the dovecote and the beginning of his colleague's field. We do not require him to move it further away.

ט

מַרְחִיקִין אֶת הַשּׁוֹבָךְ מִן הָעִיר חֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה. וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם שׁוֹבָךְ בְּתוֹךְ שָׂדֵהוּ אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יֵשׁ לוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה לְכָל רוּחַ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִמָּשְׁכוּ הַגּוֹזָלוֹת וְיַפְסִידוּ בַּשָּׂדוֹת וְיֹאכְלוּ מִשֶּׁל אֲחֵרִים. וְאִם לְקָחוֹ מֵאַחֵר אֲפִלּוּ הָיָה בֵּינוֹ וּבֵין תְּחִלַּת שְׂדֵה חֲבֵרוֹ בֵּית רֹבַע בִּלְבַד הֲרֵי הוּא בְּחֶזְקָתוֹ וְאֵין מְחַיְּבִין אוֹתוֹ לְהַרְחִיק:

10

What is meant by dice players? People who play with pieces of wood, pebbles, bones or the like and establish a condition that whoever will better a colleague in this sport is entitled to take a certain amount of money from him. This is robbery according to Rabbinic decree. Although the person himself consents to the other person's taking his money, since he is taking it for nothing, as part of the frivolous sport, it is considered to be robbery.

Similarly, those who gamble with regard to domesticated animals, beasts or fowl, making a condition that whosoever's animal will vanquish or outrace the other one's is entitled to take a certain amount of money from him - this and all forms of gambling are forbidden and considered to be robbery by Rabbinic decree.

י

הַמְשַׂחֲקִין בְּקֻבִּיָּא כֵּיצַד. אֵלּוּ שֶׁמְּשַׂחֲקִין בְּעֵצִים אוֹ בִּצְרוֹרוֹת אוֹ בַּעֲצָמוֹת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן וְעוֹשִׂים תְּנַאי בֵּינֵיהֶם שֶׁכָּל הַנּוֹצֵחַ אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְּאוֹתוֹ שְׂחוֹק יִקַּח מִמֶּנּוּ כָּךְ וְכָךְ הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּזֶל מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבִּרְצוֹן הַבְּעָלִים לָקַח הוֹאִיל וְלָקַח מָמוֹן חֲבֵרוֹ בְּחִנָּם דֶּרֶךְ שְׂחוֹק וְהִתּוּל הֲרֵי זֶה גּוֹזֵל. וְכֵן הַמְשַׂחֲקִים בִּבְהֵמָה אוֹ בְּחַיָּה אוֹ בְּעוֹפוֹת וְעוֹשִׂים תְּנַאי שֶׁכָּל שֶׁתְּנַצֵּחַ בְּהֶמְתּוֹ אוֹ תָּרוּץ יוֹתֵר יִקַּח מֵחֲבֵרוֹ כָּךְ וְכָךְ וְכָל כַּיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ הַכּל אָסוּר וְגֵזֶל מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם הוּא:

11

When a person plays dice with gentiles, he does not violate the prohibition against robbery. He does, however, violate the prohibition against occupying oneself with empty matters. It is not fitting for a person to spend any of his days occupied in anything other than words of wisdom or pursuits that lead to a stable world.

יא

וְהַמְשַׂחֵק בְּקֻבִּיָּא עִם הָעַכּוּ''ם אֵין בּוֹ אִסּוּר גֵּזֶל אֲבָל יֵשׁ בּוֹ אִסּוּר עוֹסֵק בִּדְבָרִים בְּטֵלִים שֶׁאֵין רָאוּי לְאָדָם שֶׁיַּעֲסֹק כָּל יָמָיו אֶלָּא בְּדִבְרֵי חָכְמָה וּבְיִשּׁוּבוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם:

12

The following principle applies with regard to snares for beasts, fowl and fish: If an animal falls into such a snare and another person takes it, this is considered robbery by Rabbinic law. It is not considered to be robbery by Scriptural law because they have not as yet entered the possession of the person who acquires them.

יב

מְצוּדוֹת חַיָּה וְעוֹפוֹת וְדָגִים שֶׁנָּפְלוּ מִינֵי הַחַיָּה לְתוֹךְ הַמְּצוּדָה וּבָא אַחֵר וּנְטָלָן הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּזֶל מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעֲדַיִן לֹא הִגִּיעוּ לְיַד הַזּוֹכֶה בָּהֶן:

13

A river and a stream that flow belong to all people.

When a poor person climbs to the top of an olive tree and beats the branches so that olives that have been forgotten by their owner will fall, he is entitled to them. If another poor person takes them, it is considered robbery by Rabbinic decree.

If the poor person collects them in his hand and then throws them to the earth, taking them is full-fledged robbery, for they have entered the possession of the person who acquires them.

יג

נָהָר הַמּוֹשֵׁךְ וּמַעְיָנוֹת הַנּוֹבְעִין הֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁל כָּל אָדָם. עָנִי הַמְנַקֵּף בְּרֹאשׁ הַזַּיִת זֵיתִים שֶׁל שִׁכְחָה וּבָא עָנִי אַחֵר וּנְטָלָן מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּזֶל מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם. וְאִם הָיָה הֶעָנִי מְקַבֵּץ בְּיָדוֹ בְּרֹאשׁ הַזַּיִת וּמַשְׁלִיךְ לָאָרֶץ הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּזֶל גָּמוּר שֶׁהֲרֵי הִגִּיעוּ לְיַד הַזּוֹכֶה בָּהֶן:

14

Unlike chickens and ducks, bees are not considered the private property of a person according to Scriptural law. Nevertheless, it is possible to acquire them according to Rabbinic law.

A person who steals a swarm of bees or prevents their owner from taking them if the swarm comes into his domain is considered a robber by Rabbinic decree. Thus, if a swarm of bees leaves a person's property and comes to rest in a colleague's property, the owner of the bees has the right to enter his colleague's field and proceed until he takes his bees. If in his progress he damages his colleague's field, he must reimburse him for the damages. He may not, however, cut down a branch with the intent that later he will reimburse the owner for the damages.

יד

הַדְּבוֹרִים אֵינָן בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם כְּמוֹ תַּרְנְגוֹלִים וַאֲוָזִים וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן יֵשׁ בָּהֶן קִנְיָן מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם. וְהַגּוֹזֵל נְחִיל דְּבוֹרִים אוֹ שֶׁמְּנָעוֹ מִבְּעָלָיו אִם בָּא לִרְשׁוּתוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּזֶל מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם. לְפִיכָךְ מִי שֶׁיָּצָא נְחִיל שֶׁל דְּבוֹרִים מֵרְשׁוּתוֹ וְשָׁכַן בִּרְשׁוּת חֲבֵרוֹ יֵשׁ לְבַעַל הַנְּחִיל לְהַלֵּךְ בְּתוֹךְ שְׂדֵה חֲבֵרוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּטּל אֶת נְחִילוֹ. וְאִם הִזִּיק מְשַׁלֵּם מַה שֶּׁהִזִּיק. אֲבָל לֹא יָקֹץ אֶת שׂוֹכֹה עַל מְנָת לִתֵּן דָּמִים:

15

We accept the statements of a woman or a minor who says, "this swarm of bees left this property," provided that the statements are made in the course of conversation and the owners are pursuing the swarm and asking "Where did it come to rest?"

Although a woman or a minor is not generally accepted as a witness, since the ownership of bees is a matter of Rabbinic law, their testimony is accepted in this case.

טו

נֶאֱמֶנֶת אִשָּׁה אוֹ קָטָן לוֹמַר מִכָּאן יָצָא נְחִיל זֶה וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מְשִׂיחִין לְפִי תֻּמָּן וְיִהְיוּ הַבְּעָלִים מְרַדְּפִין אַחַר הַנְּחִיל וְשׁוֹאֲלִים הֵיכָן חוֹנֶה. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין אִשָּׁה אוֹ קָטָן בְּנֵי עֵדוּת הוֹאִיל וְקִנְיַן דְּבוֹרִים מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם הֶאֱמִינוּ אוֹתָם בּוֹ:

16

Whenever a person is in possession of property that is considered to be robbed according to Rabbinic law, it cannot be expropriated by judges.

Similarly, if the person denied possession of it and took a false oath to that effect, he is not required to add a fifth, as he is with regard to property acquired by full-fledged robbery.

טז

כָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדוֹ גֵּזֶל שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא מִיָּדוֹ בְּדַיָּנִין. וְכֵן אִם כָּפַר בּוֹ וְנִשְׁבַּע אֵינוֹ מוֹסִיף חֹמֶשׁ כְּמוֹ שֶׁמּוֹסִיף עַל הַגֵּזֶל הַגָּמוּר:

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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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