If you see an article that was lost by a Jew, it is your duty to care for it, and return it to its owner, as it is said, "You shall surely return them."1 Similarly, any of your neighbor's property, that you are able to save from destruction, you are obliged to do so, for this is included in the mitzvah of returning a lost article.


הָרוֹאֶה אֲבֵדַת יִשְֹרָאֵל, חַיָב לִטַּפֵּל בָּהּ לַהֲשִׁיבָהּ לִבְעָלֶיהָ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, הָשֵב תְּשִׁיבֵם. וְכֵן כָּל מָמוֹן שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁאָדָם יָכוֹל לְהַצִּיל שֶׁלֹּא יֹּאבַד, חַיָב לְהַצִּיל, וְהוּא בִּכְלַל הֲשָׁבַת אֲבֵדָה.


Although according to halachah, in a place where the majority of the people are non-Jewish, even if the Jew identifies it you are not obliged to return it to him, because we assume he already had despaired of its recovery, nevertheless, it is good and proper to do more than the halachah requires, and return it to the Jew who identifies it; and we force him to do this.2 If the finder is a poor man, and the owner of the article is wealthy, the finder is not obligated to do more than the halachah requires. In a place where you are required by civil law to return a lost article, you must return it in all circumstances.


אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמִּן הַדִין בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁרֹב גּוֹיִם מְצוּיִים, אֲפִלוּ נָתַן בָּהּ יִשְֹרָאֵל סִימָן, אֵינוֹ חַיָב לְהַחֲזִיר, מִשּׁוּם דְמִסְּתָמָא כְּבָר נִתְיָאֵשׁ הֵימֶנָּה, מִכָּל מָקוֹם טוֹב וְיָשָׁר לַעֲשׂוֹת לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִּין לְהַחֲזִיר לְיִשְֹרָאֵל שֶׁנָּתַן בָּהּ סִימָן. וְכוֹפִין עַל זֶה. וְאִם הַמּוֹצֵא הוּא עָנִי, וּבַעַל הָאֲבֵדָה הוּא עָשִׁיר, אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִין. וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁיֵשׁ דִּינָא דְמַלְכוּתָא לְהַחֲזִיר אֲבֵדָה, חַיָב בְּכָל עִנְיָן לְהַחֲזִיר.


If you find an article regardless if it has an identification mark or not, if upon finding it, it was apparent that it had been placed there, such as a garment or an ax, that was left at the side of a fence;3 and even if it is doubtful whether they were purposely placed there, or lost there, it is forbidden to touch them.


כָּל הַמּוֹצֵא אֲבֵדָה, בֵּין שֶׁיֵשׁ בָּהּ סִימָן בֵּין שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ סִימָן, אִם מְצָאָהּ דֶּרֶךְ הַנָּחָה, כְּגוֹן טַלִּית וְקַרְדֹּם בְּצַד הַגָּדֵר, וַאֲפִלּוּ יֵשׁ לְהִסְתַּפֵּק אִם הִנִּיחָם שָׁם בְּכַוָּנָה אוֹ אִבְּדָם שָׁם, אָסוּר לִגַּע בָּהֶם.


If an old, respected man finds a lost article, that it is so shabby that even if it were his own, he would not carry it home, because it would be disgraceful to him, he is not obligated to bother with it. He should, nevertheless, do more than the halachah requires, and bother with it, even though it is beneath his dignity.


מִי שֶׁהוּא זָקֵן מְכֻבָּד, וּמָצָא אֲבֵדָה וְהוּא דָבָר מְבֻזֶּה, שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ הָיָה שֶׁלּוֹ, לֹא הָיָה נוֹטְלוֹ לַהֲבִיאוֹ לְבֵיתוֹ, מִשּׁוּם דַהֲוֵי לֵהּ בִּזָּיוֹן, אֵינוֹ חַיָב לְטַּפֵּל בָּהּ. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם יֶשׁ לוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת לִפְנִים מִשּׁוּרַת הַדִין וּלְטַפֵּל בָּהּ, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָהּ לְפִי כְבוֹדוֹ.


If you find an article and you do not know who lost it, whether it has a mark of identification, or does not have a mark of identification, these matters involve many divergent laws, and you should consult a Rav as to what you should do.


מָצָא מְצִיאָה וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵע מִי אִבְּדָהּ, בֵּין שֶׁיֵשׁ בָּה סִימָן בֵּין שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ סִימָן, יֵשׁ בְּעִנְיָנִים אֵלּוּ הַרְבֵּה חִלּוּקֵי דִינִים, וְיַעֲשֶׂה שְׁאֵלַת חָכָם אֵיךְ יַעֲשֶׂה.