Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Sixteen

Show content in:

Gezelah va'Avedah - Chapter Sixteen


The following laws apply if a person finds needles, spits, nails or the like. If he finds them one at a time, he may keep them. If he finds them in sets of two or more, he is obligated to announce [their discovery], for the number of articles found is a mark by which they can be identified.


הַמּוֹצֵא מְחָטִים וְצִנּוֹרוֹת וּמַסְמְרִים וְכַיּוֹצא בָּהֶן אִם מְצָאָם אֶחָד אֶחָד הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. שְׁנַיִם שְׁנַיִם אוֹ יֶתֶר חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז שֶׁמִּנְיָן סִימָן:


Similarly, if one finds scattered coins, he may keep them. Even if some of the coins are lying on each other, they are considered to be scattered. If, however, one finds a collection of coins, he must announce their discovery.

For example, if he found three coins placed one on top of the other like a tower, or there was one to the right, one to the left and one on top of both of them, or they were placed in succession, each one lying slightly on the other, so that if a sliver of wood were placed under them he would be able to pick them all up at one time, he is obligated to announce their discovery.

If they were placed in a circle, a line, like a tripod, like steps, the matter is one of doubt. Therefore, at the outset, one should not take them.


וְכֵן הַמּוֹצֵא מָעוֹת מְפֻזָּרִים הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ מִקְצָת מַטְבְּעוֹת זֶה עַל גַּבֵּי זֶה הֲרֵי הֵן כִּמְפֻזָּרִין. אֲבָל אִם מָצָא צִבּוּר מָעוֹת חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. מָצָא שְׁלֹשָׁה מַטְבְּעוֹת זֶה עַל גַּב זֶה וְהֵן עֲשׂוּיִין כְּמִגְדָּל. אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ אֶחָד מִיכַּן וְאֶחָד מִיכַּן וְאֶחָד עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן. אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ מִקְצָת זֶה עַל מִקְצָת זֶה כְּדֵי שֶׁאִם יַכְנִיס קֵיסָם בֵּינֵיהֶן יִנָּטְלוּ בְּבַת אַחַת חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. הָיוּ עֲשׂוּיִים כְּשִׁיר אוֹ כְּשׁוּרָה אוֹ כַּחֲצוּבָה אוֹ כְּסֻלָּם הֲרֵי זֶה סָפֵק וְלֹא יִטּל:


If a person finds money in a wallet or an empty wallet, he is obligated to announce its discovery. If he found a wallet with money scattered before it, he may keep the money. If, however, it appears that the wallet and the money belong to the same person and that the money fell from the wallet, he must announce its discovery.


הַמּוֹצֵא מָעוֹת בַּכִּיס אוֹ כִּיס כְּמוֹת שֶׁהוּא חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. מָצָא כִּיס וּלְפָנָיו מָעוֹת מְפֻזָּרִים הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. וְאִם מַרְאִין הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁהַכִּיס וְהַמָּעוֹת שֶׁל אָדָם אֶחָד וּמִן הַכִּיס נָפְלוּ חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז:


The following rules apply when a person finds money in a store. If the money is found between the counter and the storekeeper, it must be given to the storekeeper. If it is found on the counter, and needless to say, if it is found on the outside of the counter, it may be kept by the finder.

Why does the store not acquire the money on behalf of its owner? Because it is not a protected courtyard. Therefore, even though the owner was present, to acquire the money, the owner would have to say: "May my store acquire it on my behalf," as will be explained.


הַמּוֹצֵא מָעוֹת בַּחֲנוּת אִם הָיוּ בֵּין תֵּבָה לַחֶנְוָנִי הֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁל בַּעַל הַחֲנוּת. וְאִם מְצָאָן עַל הַתֵּבָה וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר מִתֵּבָה וְלַחוּץ הֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁל מוֹצְאָן. וְלָמָּה לֹא תִּקְנֶה הַחֲנוּת לִבְעָלֶיהָ לְפִי שֶׁאֵינָהּ חָצֵר הַמִּשְׁתַּמֶּרֶת. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבְּעָלֶיהָ בְּתוֹכָהּ צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר תִּקְנֶה לִי חֲנוּתִי כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר:


The following rules apply when a person finds money in a store of a moneychanger. If the money is found between the counter and the moneychanger, it must be given to the moneychanger.

If the money was found on the counter, even if it was wrapped in a purse and placed on the table, it may be kept by the finder, provided the majority of the clientele are gentiles, as we have explained. If, however, the majority of the clientele are Jewish, the finder must announce the discovery. Since they are wrapped in a purse, they have a mark by which they can be identified.


מָצָא מָעוֹת בַּחֲנוּת הַשֻּׁלְחָנִי בֵּין כִּסֵּא לַשֻּׁלְחָנִי הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁל שֻׁלְחָנִי. מְצָאָן עַל הַכִּסֵּא לִפְנֵי הַשֻּׁלְחָנִי אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ צְרוּרִין וּמֻנָּחִין עַל הַשֻּׁלְחָן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁל מוֹצְאָן. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ רֹב עַכּוּ''ם כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. אֲבָל אִם הָיוּ רֹב יִשְׂרָאֵל חַיָּב לְהַכְרִיז. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן צְרוּרִים יֵשׁ לָהֶם סִימָן:


When a person purchases produce from a colleague or a colleague sends him produce, and he finds money wrapped in a purse among the produce, he must announce the discovery. If the money is scattered, he may keep it.

When does the above apply? When one receives the produce from a merchant or from a private individual who purchased it from a merchant. If, however, a private individual threshed produce himself or had his Canaanite servants and maidservants do so, the finder is obligated to return the money to him.


הַלּוֹקֵחַ פֵּרוֹת מֵחֲבֵרוֹ אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁלַח לוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ פֵּרוֹת וּמָצָא בְּתוֹכָן מָעוֹת צְרוּרוֹת נוֹטֵל וּמַכְרִיז. מְצָאָן מְפֻזָּרוֹת הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁהָיוּ הַפֵּרוֹת מִן הַתַּגָּר אוֹ מִבַּעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁלְּקָחָן מִן הַתַּגָּר. אֲבָל אִם בַּעַל הַבַּיִת דָּשׁ הַפֵּרוֹת לְעַצְמוֹ אוֹ עַל יְדֵי עֲבָדָיו וְשִׁפְחוֹתָיו הַכְּנַעֲנִים הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב לְהַחְזִיר:


When a person finds a buried treasure in a mound or in an old wall, it belongs to him, for we assume that it belonged to ancient Amorites. This applies provided he finds the treasure buried very low, as would be common for ancient valuables.

If, however, it appears that the treasure was recently placed there, even if he has doubts concerning the matter, he should not touch it, for perhaps it was intentionally placed there.


הַמּוֹצֵא מַטְמוֹן בְּגַל אוֹ בְּכֹתֶל יָשָׁן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁאֲנִי אוֹמֵר שֶׁל אֱמוֹרִיִּים הַקַּדְמוֹנִים הֵן. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּמְצָאֵם מַטָּה מַטָּה כְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל הַמַּטְמוֹנוֹת הַיְשָׁנוֹת. אֲבָל אִם מַרְאִין הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁהֵן מַטְמוֹן חָדָשׁ אֲפִלּוּ נִסְתַּפֵּק לוֹ הַדָּבָר הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִגַּע בָּהֶן שֶׁמָּא מֻנָּחִים הֵם שָׁם:


Since a person's domain can acquire property on his behalf without his knowledge, as will be explained, why does the owner of this courtyard not acquire the treasure buried within the old wall even if it originally belonged to the Amorites, and thus he would become its legal owner?

The rationale is that the treasure was not known about by him or by others. Thus, it was "lost to him and to all others." Therefore, it belongs to the finder.

Our Sages derived this concept as follows: With regard to a lost object, the Torah Deuteronomy 22:3 states: "That is lost by him and found." This refers to an article that the owner lost, but others can find, thus excluding an article that fell into the sea and is "lost to him and all others." Surely, this applies to an ancient treasure that the person never owned. It is certainly "lost to him and all others." Therefore, it belongs to the finder.


וְהוֹאִיל וַחֲצֵרוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם קוֹנָה לוֹ שֶׁלֹּא מִדַּעְתּוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לָמָּה לֹא יִקְנֶה בַּעַל הֶחָצֵר זֶה הַמַּטְמוֹן שֶׁבְּתוֹךְ הַכֹּתֶל הַיָּשָׁן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא שֶׁל אֱמוֹרִיִּים וְתִהְיֶה מְצִיאָה זוֹ לְבַעַל הֶחָצֵר. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָדוּעַ לוֹ וְלֹא לַאֲחֵרִים וַהֲרֵי זֶה הַמַּטְמוֹן אָבוּד מִמֶּנּוּ וּמִכָּל אָדָם וּלְפִיכָךְ הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאוֹ. וּמַה אֲבֵדָה שֶׁל אָדָם אָמְרָה תּוֹרָה (דברים כב ג) "אֲשֶׁר תֹּאבַד מִמֶּנּוּ וּמְצָאתָהּ" מִי שֶׁאֲבוּדָה מִמֶּנּוּ וּמְצוּיָה אֵצֶל כָּל אָדָם יָצָאת זוֹ שֶׁנָּפְלָה לַיָּם שֶׁאֲבוּדָה מִמֶּנּוּ וּמִכָּל אָדָם קַל וָחֹמֶר לְמַטְמוֹן קַדְמוֹנִי שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה שֶׁלּוֹ מֵעוֹלָם וְהוּא אָבוּד מִמֶּנּוּ וּמִכָּל אָדָם לְפִיכָךְ הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאוֹ:


The following laws apply if a person finds a treasure in a new wall. If the manner in which the treasure was found indicates that it belongs to the owner, it is given to the owner. If the manner in which the treasure was found indicates that it belongs to a passerby from the marketplace, it is awarded to the finder.

What is implied? For example, with regard to a knife, its handle is the determining factor. With regard to a wallet, its opening is the determining factor. If the wall was filled with such articles, they should be divided between the owner and the finder.


מָצָא מַטְמוֹן בְּכֹתֶל חָדָשׁ אִם הַמַּטְמוֹן מוֹכִיחַ שֶׁהוּא לְבַעַל הַבַּיִת הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁלּוֹ וְאִם מוֹכִיחַ שֶׁהוּא שֶׁל אַחֵר מִן הַשּׁוּק הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאוֹ. כֵּיצַד. הַסַּכִּין הֲרֵי הַנִּצָּב שֶׁלּוֹ מוֹכִיחַ. וְהַכִּיס פִּיו מוֹכִיחַ. וְאִם נִמְצָא תּוֹךְ הַכֹּתֶל מָלֵא מֵהֶן חוֹלְקִין:


The following rules should be adhered to if the wall contains money or pieces of gold that do not have a factor that indicates who placed them there. If they are halfway or more to the outer side of the wall, they belong to the finder. If they are halfway or more to the inner side, they belong to the owner.


הָיוּ בְּתוֹךְ הַכֹּתֶל מָעוֹת אוֹ לְשׁוֹנוֹת שֶׁל זָהָב שֶׁאֵין שָׁם מוֹכִיחַ. מֵחֶצְיוֹ וְלַחוּץ שֶׁל מוֹצֵא. מֵחֶצְיוֹ וּלְפָנִים שֶׁל בַּעַל הַבַּיִת:


It appears to me that the above applies only when the owner claims that the buried treasure belongs to him, or he is an heir and we claim on his behalf that perhaps it belonged to his father. If, however, he admits that this is a lost article, it belongs to the finder.

Therefore, if the person rents out his house to others, the article belongs to the last renter.

If he rented the domain to three gentiles at the same time, he is considered to have made it an inn. Therefore, anything found in the walls, or even within the house itself belongs to the finder. For no one can claim that the article belongs to him or that it was buried, because the domain has been made an inn.


וְיֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁאֵין הַדְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁטָּעַן בַּעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁהַמַּטְמוֹן שֶׁלּוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה יוֹרֵשׁ שֶׁאָנוּ טוֹעֲנִין לוֹ שֶׁמָּא שֶׁל אָבִיו הֵן. אֲבָל אִם הוֹדָה שֶׁהֵן מְצִיאָה הֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁל מוֹצֵא. לְפִיכָךְ אִם הָיָה מַשְׂכִּיר בֵּיתוֹ לַאֲחֵרִים הֲרֵי הֵן שֶׁל שׂוֹכֵר אַחֲרוֹן. וְאִם הִשְׂכִּירוֹ לִשְׁלֹשָׁה עַכּוּ''ם כְּאֶחָד הֲרֵי עֲשָׂאָהוּ פֻּנְדָּק וְכָל הַנִּמְצָא בּוֹ אֲפִלּוּ בְּתוֹךְ הַבַּיִת הֲרֵי הוּא שֶׁל מוֹצְאָן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין אֶחָד יָכוֹל לִטְעֹן שֶׁהֵן שֶׁלּוֹ אוֹ שֶׁהוּא טָמַן שֶׁהֲרֵי עֲשָׂאָהוּ פֻּנְדָּק:

Test Yourself on This Chapter

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.
Download Rambam Study Schedules: 3 Chapters | 1 Chapter | Daily Mitzvah
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
Vowelized Hebrew text courtesy Torat Emet under CC 2.5 license.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.