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Tuesday
May212019

The vending machine dispensed an extra can of soda, may I drink it?

A collection of frequently asked halachic questions on the mitzvah of Hashavas Aveida from AskTheRav.com & Halacha2Go.com

By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Mara D’asra and member of the Crown Heights Beis Din

 

Getting an Extra Can from the Machine

If someone purchased a can of soda from a machine — or any other item from a vending machine — and more than one can of soda came out, the halachah is that they may take only one can, as the other can does not belong to them. Taking an extra can is a violation of three mitzvos — the positive and negative commandments of hashavas aveida, returning lost objects, as well as the negative commandment of “Do not steal.”

The person should call the owner of the machine and inquire how to return the extra can or how to pay for it. If the identity of the owner cannot be determined, and the machine is located in an area frequented primarily by Jews, they should affix a note to the machine describing what happened and include their contact information.

If they already drank the soda, they still have to pay the owner the value, following the procedure described above. If the person still can’t reach the owner, they should record the details and the cost of the extra can, so in event that they are contacted by the owner they will know how much to pay him. If all attempts to reach the owner have failed, the equivalent of the extra can should be given for tzarchei rabim, communal needs, to atone for the aveirah of stealing, as is done when one cannot identify the owner of goods that have been stolen.

Lost Stroller

Q. My brother works in a store and found a stroller that was left behind for three days. He offered it to me and said that if I don’t take it he’ll end up throwing it out. I posted the stroller on a couple of WhatsApp groups and no one responded. Can I take it and use it?

A. You have the obligation to publicize that you found this stroller in a way that the owner would find out about it (WhatsApp groups would not suffice under normal circumstances – not everyone has WhatsApp).

After a couple of days go by after you would assume that the owner found out where they lost it or who they can contact to receive their stroller back, you should write down:

Any Simanim that there are on the stroller;

The time and place it was found.

Its value and price, which should be evaluated by three people.

From then on, one can use the item for oneself.

If or when – with the coming of Moshiach, certainly the matter will be resolved – the owner should show up and give you the accurate details of the lost object, you are obligated to give them the amount it was worth at the time of the loss.*

Ignoring a lost object for safety concerns

Q. I recently came across a blanket on the street. I was afraid to touch it and find its owner being that I was in an unsafe part of the neighborhood, and the blanket, presumably having been trampled on, was dirty and probably full of germs.

Is it permissible to pass by something lying on the ground and, for safety reasons, transgress the Mitzvah of hashavas aveida? What should one do in a situation as such?

A.You do not need to pick up the item or even go out of your way to announce its whereabouts.

In this case, if it is a place where most passersby are non-Jews, or even if most passersby are Jewish, but non-Jews sit there regularly, we can assume it belongs to a non-Jew and you may keep it or leave it.

Otherwise, it is assumed to belong to a Jew.

Regardless, a blanket is heavy and if a person is carrying it, he immediately notices that he dropped it and therefore by the time you found it he already despaired. If the item would have identifiable marks on it like a name, different laws could apply.

Found Money

Q. I found a $100 bill in the vicinity without any siman. Can I keep it, and do I need to give tzedakah from it?

If the money was found in a place that many people pass through and was lying in a way that it appears to have fallen there (as opposed to having been placed there), e.g. it was not covered, it was without a wallet or the like, it was not in a somewhat safe place, then it belongs to the one who found it.

If it was found in a place that does not have many people passing through, then one must assume that it belongs to the owner of that place or his family. If the owner confirms that it is not his, and it meets all the other criteria mentioned in the previous paragraph, then it belongs to the finder.

Even if these conditions are lacking, if it was found in a place where most passersby are non-Jewish, or even if most passersby are Jewish, but non-Jews sit there regularly (such as a location where there are non-Jewish guards), one may keep it. Nonetheless, in this case, it is right and proper to go beyond the letter of the law and return it, if one knows clearly who it belongs to.

Ma’aser from the find should be given to Tzedakah.

 

* References and marei mekomos are available for this Halacha on the websites: www.Halacha2Go.com and www.AskTheRav.com

Please note that these halachos apply in general situations. In unique circumstances, a different halacha may apply. If you are unsure whether the halacha applies to your particular situation, please consult a Rov.

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