Lost object? - Federation Of Synagogues



Lost object? - Federation Of Synagogues
Lost object?
Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir
Business Ethics Centre of Jerusalem
Q. Many unmarked articles of clothing were left
in a local hall after an event. How much effort
do I need to exert to find the owners?
A. Returning lost objects is an important
commandment. It is mentioned twice in the
Torah, and is also the topic of an entire chapter
of the Talmud.
The Torah writes, ‘When you encounter your
enemy’s ox or his ass wandering, surely return
it to him.’ (Shemot 23:4)
What happens if the owner is not at hand?
Later on we read:
‘If you see your brother’s ox or his sheep
straying, do not ignore them; surely return
them to your brother. And if your brother is
not close by, or you do not know who it is,
gather it into your house and it shall be with
you until your brother demands it; then return
it to him. So shall you do to his ass, and so shall
you do for his garment, and so shall you do for
any lost object of your brother which becomes
lost and you find it; you may not ignore it.
(Devarim 22:1-3)
These verses tell us a number of things:
1. Returning lost objects is a very important
obligation, as shown by the emphatic
expression ‘surely return’.
2. Lost objects have to be returned even if you
do not know who the owner is: ‘if your brother
is close by, or you do not know who it is.’
3. If you do not know who the owner is, you
need to store the object on his or her behalf:
‘gather it into your house’.
But the plain sense of the verses also leaves
much unanswered, including your question:
how much effort?
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This question is however dealt with by the
Originally, anyone who found a lost object was
required to announce it three [successive]
holidays. Since the Temple was destroyed
(may it be speedily rebuilt), they instituted that
a person should announce in the synagogues
and the study halls.
The significance of synagogues and study halls
is that they are public places where it is most
likely that the original owner, or someone
he knows, will hear of the find. In your case,
you would have to judge what forum is likely
to be familiar to the people who were at
your event or are one ‘degree of separation’
away. A good place to start is the forum
where the event was originally announced.
In this day and age, it is quite likely that this
will be a virtual venue and not a physical one,
for example the Facebook page of someone
known to most people at the event.
The continuation of the above Talmudic
passage explains that anyone announcing
a lost object should give only a general
description, and surrender the article only if
the claimed owner provides unique identifying
characteristics. The concern was that someone
who is not really the owner could be merely
pretending in order to obtain a valuable
object. It then goes on to say that if the
suspicion is great, the claimant should be
carefully interrogated.
Nowadays the deviation from the ‘default’
standard would be in the opposite direction.
Today it is quite unusual for people to fake
a claim for a lost piece of clothing; anyone
who wants to steal a garment will find it quite
easy. Furthermore, the people answering your
advert will likely be trustworthy individuals.
Therefore, in my opinion if someone responds
to your announcement and asks what was
lost, it is not improper to give them a fairly
specific idea in order to help them along.
SOURCES: Bava Metzia 28b
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Acharei Mot Kedoshim
Perek 3
Omer 23
  
2 May 2009
8 Iyar 5769
Adding A Torah Flavour To Your Shabbat
Unhealthy Hate
Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
Founder of Tikun UK
We find an interesting mitzvah in the second
of this week’s double sedra - ‘don’t hate your
brother in your heart.’ The Rabbis ask the
obvious question: why say, ‘in your heart’?
Where else does one hate?
They explain that there are two ways of
hating. You can feel animosity towards
someone and not express it externally. You
are very nice and very cordial - pleasant even.
But deep down you feel anger and resentment
towards the person.
Alternatively you can express your hatred
externally - through words and deeds. You
can physically, verbally or emotionally abuse
the person you do not like.
Most of us are not saints. When someone
does something which hurts us - be it
through negligence or with intent - it is hard
for us not to feel upset and angry with that
person, perhaps even a bit of hatred. It is
normal human emotion and there is nothing
wrong with it. The question is not how to
avoid the feeling, but how to deal with it
once it’s there.
To repress the emotion and hate a person
only ‘in your heart’ is extremely unhealthy.
Unexpressed animosity does not go away.
If anything, it festers and grows. The Rabbis
remind us of the story of Avshalom who hated
Amnon for raping his sister, Tamar. He did
not express his hatred in any way and, after a
period of time, he ended up killing Amnon.
So what are you supposed to do?
Juxtaposed to the command not to hate in
one’s heart is the command to rebuke. And
Chazal tell us that it’s a very simple message.
Tell the person you are upset. Don’t abuse,
express. Don’t attack; explain the pain you
are feeling.
When someone does something to wrong
you, don’t just let it go, telling yourself it
is nothing. We are not that holy. You have
to approach the person and talk through
what happened. Express your anger and
frustration. Make the person understand
that you have been hurt and you are not
trying to make them feel guilty. You merely
want to get the emotion you are feeling out
of your heart.
I know we’re not so good at this expressing
emotion stuff in England - especially to other
people. But the alternative is repressed
feelings of which we will eventually lose
control. The idea of this commandment is
to nip things in the bud. When you get the
feeling out, it lessens it. When you express
how you feel to the person, it doesn’t seem
half as bad.
I hope that no one will ever hurt you for the
rest of your life, but just in case it happens,
do not hate in your heart - express how you
feel and you’ll feel a great deal better.
doubt whenever
necessar y. We will
be familiar with the
concept of ‘dun lekaf
Chazan Michael Simon
zechut’ from Pirkei
Avot (Ethics of the
Fathers), but we would
have assumed that this was
‘With justice you shall judge your
mere perceptive advice from the
fellow man.’ (Vayikra 19:15)
wisdom of the Sages, rather than
The Gemara in Shevuos 30a
a fully-fledged Torah obligation.
explains that this is a directive to
Yet it is codified as such by the
judges. When a person comes to
Rambam and the Chofetz Chaim,
a Beit Din for a Din Torah - a civil
amongst others. So whenever
law claim for judgment according
we see someone else apparently
to Torah Law, the judges must
acting in a manner that we
treat the litigants fairly and
would consider to be ostensibly
equally. The Gemara explains
wrong, we must immediately
that one litigant should not be
believe that there is a perfectly
made to stand whilst the other
acceptable explanation for his
sits, nor should one be allowed
to speak at length whilst the
Whilst we should always keep
other is encouraged to be brief.
the tenets of the Torah simply
[As a part-time Tribunal Judge, I
because Hashem has commanded
know that whilst achieving the
us to do so, there is a beautiful
former is easy, fairly regulating
insight from the Ba’al Shem Tov
loquacious litigants or their
into the long-ter m ef fect of
witnesses always presents a
faithfully fulfilling this mitzvah. In
rather greater challenge!]
this week’s perek (chapter) from
There is a second interpretation
Pirkei Avot, when describing
of our passuk set out in the
Hashem’s conduct of the world
same Gemara which gives an
allegorically as a commercial
altogether different flavour to
venture, the Mishnah (Avot
this Torah commandment.
3:20) teaches us that ‘Nifra’in
min ha’adam mida’ato veshelo
‘Alternatively, ‘with justice you
mida’ato – payment is extracted
shall judge your fellow man’
from a person, i.e. he receives
judge your fellow favourably.’
his punishment, in ways that
This opinion makes it clear that
he knows about and in ways
that he does not know about.’
the commandment obligates
The Ba’al Shem Tov explains the
every Jew to consider his fellow
idea of a person being punished
Jew favourably at all times,
without his knowledge (shelo
giving him the benefit of the
Judge and be Judged
mida’ato) as follows: If a person
witnesses an incident involving
his fellow Jew and jumps to the
conclusion that his friend is guilty
of some misdemeanour then the
‘witness’ will be judged similarly
in the Olam ha’Emet – the World
of Truth.
This is the unwelcome result of
being unwilling to give people
the benefit of the doubt. Such
an attitude will eventually come
back to bite us. The Gemara
(Shabbat 127b) records that
‘One who judges his fellow man
favourably, will in turn be judged
favourably.’ This is more than
The Ba’al Shem Tov, basing himself
midah keneged midah - measure
on the dialogue between Natan
for measure, this is just the way
HaNavi (Nathan the Prophet)
it happens. The way we pasken
(rule) about others the same words, the
We will come before the Heavenly
very same approach
Court and will be given a
- is the way in which
‘hypothetical case’ to judge
we ourselves will be
judged in Heaven.
and David haMelech (King David)
set out in the book of Shmuel
[Shmuel II 12:5] related to his
marrying Batsheva, says that this
conversation is exactly how it will
happen to each of us in the World
of Truth. We will come before the
Heavenly Court and will be given
a ‘hypothetical case’ to judge.
We will be told, ‘There was this
person and he did such and such.
He desecrated G-d’s name or he
was not honest etc. What should
his fate be?’ Naturally enough,
we will show the appropriate
degree of righteous indignation
at the conduct of such a person.
We may even go so far as to
suggest the punishment to fit
the crime. Yet then the Court
will show us that we, in fact,
committed all of these sins and
that we have just declared our
very own fate.
So next time you see someone
else doing something ‘suspect’,
just remember that the Heavenly
Court is waiting to see how you
respond, so it can ensure you
receive the same ‘treatment’
when the time comes.
Du r ing th is t i me o f Se f i r at
ha’Omer when we are seeking to
improve ourselves in anticipation
of the ultimate event of Matan
Torah (the Giving of the Torah)
on Shavuot, let us develop a
‘good eye’ and a ‘good heart’
towards our fellow Jews and
let us cultivate fur ther our
essential quality of compassion
that was forged in the furnace
of Mitzrayim (Egypt), so that
Hashem will in tur n shower
us with his compassion and
send us bracha vehatzlacha blessing and success in all that
we undertake.

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