Difference between revisions of "Returning Lost Objects"

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The Torah commands us to return lost objects and prevent a loss to our fellow Jew. <ref> Sefer Hachinuch Mitzva 538, Rambam Sefer Hamitzvot Mitzvot Aseh Mitzva 204, Sefer Mitzvot Hakatzar of the Chofetz Chaim of mitzvot that can be fulfilled today mitzva 69 in positive mitzvot. see the second perek of Masechet Bava Metzia and Rambam Hilchot Gezela chapters 11 and onward. </ref> In general, if there’s an identifying mark of the lost object then there’s an obligation to return the object of our fellow Jew by safeguarding it, publicizing the loss of the object, and making sure that the rightful owner receives his object. Being that many of these cases involve intricate details that aren’t addressed below, in a real case, one should consult a competent rabbinic authority for guidance.  
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The Torah commands us to return the lost objects and prevent a lost of our fellow Jew. <ref> Sefer Hachinuch Mitzva 538, Rambam Sefer Hamitzvot Mitzvot Aseh Mitzva 204, Sefer Mitzvot Hakatzar of the Chofetz Chaim of mitzvot that can be fulfilled today mitzva 69 in positive mitzvot. see the second perek of Masechet Bava Metzia and Rambam Hilchot Gezela chapters 11 and onward. </ref> In general, if there’s an identifying mark of the lost object then there’s an obligation to return the object of our fellow Jew by safeguarding it, publicizing the loss of the object, and making sure that the rightful owner receives his object. Being that many of the these cases involve intricate details that aren’t addressed below, in a real case, one should consult a competent rabbinic authority for guidance.  
 
   
 
   
 
==Torah Obligation==
 
==Torah Obligation==
# When a person finds a lost object and ignores it, one violates the negative commandment, "Do not overlook a lost object.<ref>Devarim 22:1, Rambam Gezela Va'aveda 11:1, Nimukei Yosef Baba Metzia 16a "Aseh", Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 141</ref> and also loses the positive commandment, "Pick up and return lost objects."  <Ref> Devarim 22:3, Devarim 22:1, Rambam Gezela Va'aveda 11:1, Nimukei Yosef Baba Metzia 16a "Aseh"<br> The Nimukei Yosef also cites the opinion fo the Ramban that one is only in violation of the aseh to return if he picked up the object.
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# When a person finds a lost object and doesn't pick it up in order to return it, one violates the negative commandment not to overlook the object, and some say that one also loses the positive commandment to pick up and return the object. If one picks up the object in order to steal it one also violates three commands altogether, overlooking the object, not picking it up, and stealing it. <Ref> The Taz 259:1 holds that if one does not pick up a lost object one has lost both the positive and negative commandment of [[Hashavat Aveidah]] and Lo Titalem. However, the Sma 259:1 holds that there’s only a violation of Lo Titalem for overlooking a lost object. S”A 259:1 writes clearly if one picks up the object to steal it, there’s a violation of both the positive and negative command as well as Lo Tigzol. </ref>
The Taz 259:1 holds that if one does not pick up a lost object one has lost both the positive and negative commandment of [[Hashavat Aveidah]] and Lo Tuchal Lehitalem. However, the Sma 259:1 holds that there’s only a violation of Lo Tuchal Lehitalem for overlooking a lost object. </ref> If one picks up the object in order to steal it one also violates three commands altogether, overlooking the object, not picking it up, and stealing it.<ref>S”A 259:1 writes clearly if one picks up the object to steal it, there’s a violation of both the positive and negative command as well as Lo Tigzol </ref>
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# The Mitzvah to return someone’s object includes a command to prevent someone’s loss. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 142) based on S”A 259:9</ref>
# There's an obligation to return the lost object of a Jew once one sees it within a distance of 266.67 [[amot]]. <ref> Shulchan Aruch 259:! Brings the negative commandment not to pick up a fellow Jew's lost object. Shulchan Aruch C"M 272:5 rules that there's a mitzvah of [[carrying]] and picking up a fellow's animal and its burden up to a distance of 266 and 2/3 [[amot]]. The Bach C"M 259 writes that since [[carrying]] a fellow's burden and picking up his lost object are learned from one another there's an obligation to pick up a lost object if one sees it up to an distance of 266.67 [[amot]]. </ref>
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# There's an obligation to return the lost object of a Jew once one sees it within a distance of 266.67 [[amot]]. <ref> S"A 259:! Brings the negative commandment not to pick up a fellow Jew's lost object. S"A C"M 272:5 rules that there's a mitzvah of [[carrying]] and picking up a fellow's animal and its burden up to a distance of 266 and 2/3 [[amot]]. The Bach C"M 259 writes that since [[carrying]] a fellow's burden and picking up his lost object are learned from one another there's an obligation to pick up a lost object if one sees it up to an distance of 266.67 [[amot]]. </ref>
 
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==Where was it found?==
==Who is Obligated?==
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# If the object if found in a place where it is irretrievable, such as if someone fell into the ocean, it’s assumed that the owner forfeited ownership and it is permissible to take and keep it. <ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 154-5) </ref>
# Men and women alike are obligated in the mitzva of Hashavat Aveda.<ref> Sefer Hachinuch Mitzva 538 based on Gemara Kiddushin 34a, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 138</ref>
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# If the object was found in a safe protected place, it can be assumed that the item was placed there by its owner and so the object is not considered lost. If one by accident picked it up, one should return it right away, but if one has left the area one may not return it but rather one must return the object. For example, if one found a key under a mat or a book on top of a public telephone booth, one shouldn’t pick up the object. <Ref>Rama and S”A C”M 260:9-10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 145-6) </ref>
 
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# If an item is found in a unsafe place, the item is considered a lost object. For example, a book on a public bus station bench. <Ref> Rama C”M 260:10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 146-7) </ref>
==Where was it Found?==
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# If an item is found in a semi-safe place, if the item has a siman then the item is considered a lost object. An example is a sweater draped over a park railing in a remote area of the park. <Ref> Rama C”M 260:10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 147-8) </ref>
# If one would attempt to return an item that was placed there intentionally, one could be hurting the owner rather than helping. If it is an item that has so simanim, then he won't be able to retrieve it, and even if it has simanim, it could be he wanted it there and now will have to chase you to get it back.<ref>Shulchan Aruch 260:9, Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 144</ref> Therefore, if an item seems to have fallen, it is obviously a lost item. On the other hand, it if seems to have been placed or hidden, it might not be considered lost.<ref>Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 144</ref> Therefore, this would depend on where it is found. see the following halachot:
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==Worth a Prutah==
# If the object was found in a safe protected place, it can be assumed that the item was placed there by its owner and so the object is not considered lost and should not be touched.<ref>Rama 260:10 based on Baba Metzia 25b, Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 145</ref> If one by accident picked it up, one should return it right away, but if one has left the area one may not return it but rather one must return the object. <Ref>Rama and S”A C”M 260:9-10, Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 145</ref> For example, if one found a key under a mat or a book on top of a public telephone booth, one shouldn’t pick up the object. <ref>Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 146</ref>
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# There isn't a mitzvah to return an object worth less than a Perutah. For the purpose of this halacha, in America, one can consider the perutah to be a quarter (the lowest denomination coin that’s useable in buying something). <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 150) </ref>
# If an item is found in a unsafe place, the item is considered a lost object, even if it was clearly placed their intentionally.<ref>Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 146 based on Rama 260:10</ref> For example, a book on a public bus station bench. <Ref>Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 146</ref>
 
# If an item is found in a semi-safe place, if the item has a siman then the item is considered a lost object. An example is a sweater draped over a park railing in a remote area of the park. <Ref> Rama C”M 260:10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 147-8) </ref>
 
# If the object is found in a place where it is irretrievable, such as if someone fell into the ocean, it’s assumed that the owner forfeited ownership and it is permissible to take and keep it. <ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 154-5) </ref>
 
 
 
===Cannot be Retrieved===
 
# If the item falls into a place where it will not under normal circumstances be recovered (such as lost in the ocean), it becomes hefker. Someone who finds it would be allowed to keep it.<ref>Baba Metzia 22a, Shulchan Aruch 259:7, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 154</ref> This is true even if the owner announces that he is not relinquishing ownership.<ref> Rosh Baba Metzia 2:2, Shulchan Aruch 259:7, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 154 </ref> Nevertheless, the good and right thing to do would be to return it.<ref>Rama 259:7, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 155 </ref>
 
 
 
==Worth a Perutah==
 
# There isn't a mitzvah to return an object worth less than a Perutah. <Ref> Shulchan Aruch 259:2 and 262:1 based on Gemara Baba Metzia 27a, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 149. see note 33 there that if the item is worth more than that to the one who lost, Rav Moshe Feinstein holds that the item must be returned </ref> Therefore, one who finds such an item may leave it or keep it.<Ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 149</ref>
 
# For the purpose of this halacha, in America, one can consider the perutah to be a quarter, as it is the lowest denomination coin that is useable for buying something.<ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 149-150 writes that in America in the year when the sefer was published in 5763 (2003) a dime could hardly purchase anything and certainly pennies and nickels cannot, so a quarter would be the minimum required to return</ref>
 
 
 
 
==Forfeiture==
 
==Forfeiture==
# If the owner of an item gives up on ever getting it back, that is considered a forfeiture of the object and it’s permissible to take and keep it.<Ref>Shulchan Aruch C”M 262:5 based on Gemara Baba Metzia 23a, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner), pg. 151. </ref> That can happen in the following ways:
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# If the owner says explicitly that he doesn’t expect to find it, that’s considered a forfeiture of the object and it’s permissible to take and keep. <Ref>S”A C”M 262:5, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 152) </ref> Similarly if it’s evident that the object has been lost for a long time (which depends on the time, place, and object) such as if one sees moss or rust on the object, then it’s permissible to take and keep the object. <Ref>S”A C”M 260:1, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 153) </ref>
## The owner says explicitly that he has given up hope.<Ref>Shulchan Aruch CM 262:5, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 152. see there note F, that if the finder wishes to be good and upright, he should go beyond the letter of the law and give it back if he knows who the owner is </ref> This is true even if the item has simanim.<ref> Shulchan Aruch CM 262:5, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 152 </ref>  
 
##Similarly, if it’s evident that the object has been lost for a long time such as if one sees moss or rust on the object, then it’s permissible to take and keep the object. <Ref>S”A C”M 260:1 based on Gemara Baba Metzia 23b, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 153). see there where he writes that Shulchan Aruch did not define the exact time because it will depend on the time, place and object, and adds that Pitchei Choshen 2:note 26 and Rav Elyashiv (cited in Hashavat Aveda Kehalacha 5: note 2) agree</ref> This is true even if the item has identifying simanim.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 153 note H. see there note J, that if the finder wishes to be good and upright, he should go beyond the letter of the law and give it back if he knows who the owner is</ref>
 
## Also, if an item without identifying features is lost, a person does not expect to get it back. When he discovers that it is lost, he will give up on it and it will automatically be forfeited.<ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 154 </ref> This isn't true in a place where there are talmidei chachamim.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 154 </ref>
 
# There is a mitzvah to return a lost object to someone who passed away by returning it to the inheritors of a deceased person. <ref>Avi Bezri Hashavat Aveidah p. 22 fnt. 7 says it is obvious that there's an obligation to return a lost object to the inheritors of the deceased if he was the owner of the lost object.</ref>
 
 
 
==Simanim==
 
# If an object has no identifying feature, then it is assumed that the owner has given up hope of finding the object and therefore has forfeited ownership of it. Therefore, one may take and keep the object. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 154) </ref>
 
# The siman must be a unique feature and not a generic characteristic. <Ref>Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 160). see there note 79 where he entertains the possibility that nowadays where so many products look the same, if you find an item that isn't so expensive you should return it with just a generic characteristic because people who lose items would want it that way. </ref>
 
## For example: a normal color, brand name, or stamp on the item with the company name are not unique features.<ref>Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 160-1) based on Shach 267:2 who writes that we don't return an item by identifying the color. Aruch Hashulchan 262:5 explains that this is because there are many items that are of the same color</ref> However, a crack on the side or if a part of the object broke off, those are unique features. <Ref>Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 161) based on Rama 262:13 citing the Beit Yosef</ref>
 
# The amount, weight, or length is considered a Siman only if that’s unique and not if that item is normally sold or found in that standard amount, weight, or length. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 161) based on Shulchan Aruch 262:3 and 267:7</ref>
 
# Number of pieces found can be considered a siman.
 
## For example, “there were 6 keys on the key chain” or “there were 15 bills in the envelope” are considered unique features. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 161) based on Shulchan Aruch 262:3 from Baba Metzia 23b </ref> If it is just a standard amount, such as ten pens in a pack, that wouldn't qualify.<ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 161-162 based on Baba Metzia 23b </ref>
 
# A unique wrapper, envelope, or basket is considered a siman on the item that is in it. <Ref>S”A C”M 262:19-20 based on Baba Metzia 24b, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 162  </ref> The way something is tied can also be a good siman.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 162 based on Shulchan Aruch 262:3 from Baba Metzia 23b</ref>
 
## An envelope from a local bank is not a siman, while a envelope from a foreign bank can be a siman. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 162) </ref>
 
# An item that’s attached to the item can function as a siman such a tag. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 163) based on S”A C”M 262:18 from Baba Metzia 27a</ref>
 
# The location where the item was placed is a siman. <Ref>S”A 262:3, 9 based on the opinion of Rava in Baba Metzia 22b, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 163</ref>
 
## The claimant must identify the specific location within the property and not just the general area or property where it was left. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 163) </ref>
 
## If it is found on a public walkway, in all likelihood it has moved since it was lost and thus would not be a siman.<ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 163 based on Shulchan Aruch 262:9 </ref>
 
## If it is found in a place where many people use such items, place would not be a siman. <Ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 163 based on Rama 262:9 from Baba Metzia 23b</ref> For example, a towel left in the mikvah.<ref> <Ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 163, Shu"t Minchat Yitzchak 3:17</ref>  
 
  
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==Siman==
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# If an object has no identifying feature then it is assumed that the owner has forfeited ownership and one may take and keep the object. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 154) </ref>
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# The siman must be a unique feature and not a generic characteristic. <Ref>Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 160 note 79) </ref>
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## For example, a normal color, brand name, and stamp on the item of the company are not unique features. However, a crack on the side or if a part of the object broke off are unique features. <Ref>Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 160-1) </ref>
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# The amount, weight, or length is considered a Siman only if that’s unique and not if that item is normally sold or found in that standard amount, weight, or length. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 161) </ref>
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## For example, “there were 6 keys on the key chain” or “there were 15 bills in the envelope” are considered unique features. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 161) </ref>
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# A unique wrapper, envelope, or basket is considered a siman. <Ref>S”A C”M 262:19-20 </ref>
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## An envelope from a local bank is not a siman, while a envelope from a foreign bank can be a siman. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 162) </ref>
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# An item that’s attached to the item can function as a siman such a tag. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 163) based on S”A C”M 262:18 </ref>
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# The location where the item was placed is a siman. <Ref>S”A 262:3, 9 </ref> The claimant must identify the specific location within the property and not just the general area or property where it was left. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 163) </ref>
 
==Items without Simanim==
 
==Items without Simanim==
# Even if one finds an item without any Simanim, one may only keep it if he is sure that the original owner has forfeited his ownership, which happens when the owner discovers that the item was lost. <Ref>S”A C”M 262:3 rules that even if the situation is one in which the owner would probably forfeit ownership if it was dropped by the owner and so he was unaware of the situation one may not take the object. Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 165 <br>
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# Even if one finds an item without any Simanim one may only keep it if one is sure that the original owner has forfeited his ownership, which happens when the owner discovers that the item was lost. <Ref>S”A C”M 262:3 rules that even if the situation is one in which the owner would probably forfeit ownership if it was dropped by the owner and so he was unaware of the situation one may not take the object. This is based on the opinion of Abaye in Bava Metsia 22b who holds Yiush Shelo MeDaat isn’t Yeush. </ref>
Background: Baba Metzia 21b records a dispute regarding an item that is lost and the owner is not yet aware. Rava says that if a person loses something without realizing it, but once they do realize it, will give up looking for it and deem it owner-less, then the person who finds it can keep it. Abaye holds that he may not because Yiush shelo midaat, is not yiush, meaning it is not considered as if he gave up on finding the item until he is actually aware that it is lost. Shulchan Aruch rules in accordance with Abaye, as this is on the list of יע״ל קג״ם (Baba Metzia 22b) which the gemara says is the list of opinions of which we hold like Abaye against Rava. Shu"t Igrot oshe OC 1:184 for his explanation of the dispute surrounding yiush shelo midaat. </ref> If someone picked it up before the owner was aware of its loss, he would be obligated to return it, even if the owner subsequently gives up on finding it. Since he cannot identify the owner, he must keep it until Eliyahu Hanavi comes and tells him whose it is.<ref> Shulchan Aruch CM 262:3, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 166. </ref> This is true even if one is not sure whether the owner was aware of the loss or not.<ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 167 based on Taz 262:3 who quotes the Maggid Mishne (Gezela Va'aveda 14:5) who writes that even if there is a safek if the owner is aware or not, you would need to be strict.</ref>
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# If one finds an object without Simanim in an area which allows things to be considered lost objects, one should take it but may not keep it but rather one should hold onto it until Eliyahu comes and evaluates to whom it belongs. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 167)</ref> Some hold that one is obligated to pick up a lost item in this situation and hold onto it until Eliyahu comes, and some disagree. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 170) </ref>
# If the finder knows who the owner of the item is, it is recommended that he go beyond the letter of the law and return the object, even if he is certain that the owner has given up on finding it.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 166</ref>  
 
# If one finds an object without Simanim in an area which allows things to be considered lost objects, one should take it but may not keep it, Rather, one should hold onto it until Eliyahu Hanavi comes and evaluates to whom it belongs. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 167)</ref> Some hold that one is obligated to pick up a lost item in this situation and hold onto it until Eliyahu comes, and some disagree. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 170) </ref>
 
 
# There are certain factors which allow one to assume that the owner knows about his loss and if the object has no simanim it would be permissible to take:  
 
# There are certain factors which allow one to assume that the owner knows about his loss and if the object has no simanim it would be permissible to take:  
* If the item is heavy (such as a hammer)<ref>S”A C”M 262:3 and 6, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 168)</ref>
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* if the item is heavy (such as a hammer) <ref>S”A C”M 262:3, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 168)</ref>
* Cash is assumed to have been discovered by the owner who then forfeited ownership because people check their money frequently. <Ref> S”A 262:6 based on Baba Metzia 21b. Most say that this assumption of Chazal is still applicable nowadays (even though we don't really see so many people constantly checking their pockets, including Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 168) citing Mishpat Aveidah (pg. 93) in the name of the Chazon Ish and Igrot Moshe Y”D 4:23. </ref> According to many poskim, this is true even for small amounts of money.<ref>Shu"t Igrot Moshe YD 4:23, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 169 in the name of Rav Nissin Karelitz and Rav Chaim Kanievsky. however, he quotes Rav Elyashiv that a person would not become aware of losing a small amount of money, and therefore one would not be allowed to take it </ref>
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* if it’s evident that the item has been lost for a long time (it’s rusty or overgrown with mold) (there’s no fixed time because each situation and object is different, once one can be sure that the owner would have forfeited ownership one may take it) <ref>S”A C”M 262:5, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 153 note 45) quoting Pitchei Choshen (chapter 2 note 26) and [[Hashavat Aviedah]] KeHalacha (chapter 5 note 2) in name of Rav Elyashiv </ref>
* If it’s evident that the item has been lost for a long time (it’s rusty or overgrown with mold) (there’s no fixed time because each situation and object is different, once one can be sure that the owner would have forfeited ownership one may take it) <ref>S”A C”M 262:5, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 153 note 45) quoting Pitchei Choshen (chapter 2 note 26) and [[Hashavat Aviedah]] KeHalacha (chapter 5 note 2) in name of Rav Elyashiv </ref>
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* cash is assumed to have been discovered by the owner who then forfeited ownership because people usually check their money frequently. <Ref> S”A 262:2. Most say that this assumption of Chazal is still applicable in our day including Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 168) including Mishpat Aveidah (pg 93) and Igrot Moshe Y”D 4:23. </ref>
# In a place where Talmidei Chachamim are present one must pick up even an item without Simanim and announce it like a regular lost object because a Talmid Chacham (who is known not to lie) is trusted to recognize his object without any Simanim unless the item is brand new in which case it’s treated like an item without simanim in a place without Talmidei Chachamim. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 171-2)</ref>
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# In a place where Talmidei Chachamim are present one must pick up even an item without Simanim and announce it like a regular lost object because a Talmid Chacham (who is known not to lie) is trusted to recognize his object without any Simanim unless the item is brand new in which case it’s treated like an item without simanim in a place without Talmidei Chachamim. <Ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 171-2)</ref>
# If you personally know whose item it is or if witnesses say who it belongs to, the finder must give it back, even without the owner identifying any siman.<ref>Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 160. Shulchan Aruch CM 267:9 writes that witnesses are stronger evidence than Simanim. Therefore, if one person gives simanim and another provides witnesses, the lost object should be given to the one with witnesses.</ref>
 
 
 
==Lost Object of a non-Jew==
 
# Technically, there’s no Mitzvah to return a lost object to a non-Jew, and some say that there’s a prohibition. <Ref>Tur and S”A C”M 266:1 rule based on Gemara Baba Kama 113b that there’s no mitzvah to return the lost object of a non-Jew and there’s even a  prohibition. The Beit Yosef there writes that according to Rashi the problem is that by returning an item to a non-Jew, you are showing that you don't perform Hashavat Aveda as a commandment of Hashem, because you are returning to a non-Jew which you aren't commanded to. On the other hand, the Rambam writes that returning such an object would be strengthening the hands of a sinner. The Be'er HaGolah 266:2 writes that according to Rashi this prohibition would apply even to non-Jews nowadays but according to the Rambam then there’s no prohibition to non-Jews nowadays who believe in a Creator and are law abiding citizens. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 153) holds that there’s no prohibition nowadays. However, Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:1 pg. 33) writes that nowadays there’s a prohibition like S”A. </ref> However, all agree that if one returns it with intention to make a Kiddush Hashem then it’s permissible and praiseworthy to return the object. <ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 156. S”A C”M 266:1 writes that if one has intent to make a Kiddush Hashem then it’s totally permissible and praiseworthy to return the lost object. Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:2 pg. 33) writes that it’s only permissible and praiseworthy if one is sure that returning it will result in Kiddush Hashem because the owner will praise Jews and not just the one who returned it (and if it’s a doubt one should refrain). see [http://www.torahmusings.com/2014/05/hashavat-aveida-a-kiddush-hashem/ Rabbi Aharon Ziegler] who quotes Rabbi Soloveitchik on the importance of returning a lost object to a non-Jew in fulfillment  of the precious mitzvah of kiddush Hashem. see also [https://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/865907/rabbi-aryeh-lebowitz/ten-minute-halacha-hashavas-aveida-to-a-nochri/ Ten Minute Halacha: Hashavas Aveida to a nochri] by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz </ref> Additionally, all agree that if a Chilul Hashem will result then there’s an obligation to return the object. <Ref>S”A C”M 266:1 </ref>
 
# An item that was lost in an area with mostly non-Jews, is presumed to belong to a non-Jew and may be kept.<ref> Shulchan Aruch 259:3, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 156</ref> Nevertheless, if a Jew proves that it is his, if one wishes to be upright and good, he should go beyond the letter of the law and give it back.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 156-157 based on Shulchan Aruch 259:5 </ref>
 
# If circumstances indicate that the non-Jew placed or hid that item there it may not be taken.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 155 based on Netivot Hamishpat 260:4</ref>
 
# A Jewish apikores would have the status of a non-Jew for this halacha.<Ref> Shulchan Aruch 266:2, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 155. see there note 61 for how this would apply nowadays considering that many people are unfortunately not fully observant</ref>
 
  
==In an Institution==
+
==Lost object of a non-Jew==
# It’s appropriate that the administration of a public establishment put up a sign or made an announcement that will let those who go there that if objects are left there until a certain date the establishment will do as they see fit with the objects. <Ref>Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A C”M 259,271 #28) </ref>
+
# There’s no Mitzvah to return the object of a non-Jew and some say that there’s a prohibition. <Ref>S”A C”M 266:1 rules that there’s no mitzvah to return the lost object of a non-Jew and there’s even a  prohibition. The Bear HaGolah 266:2 writes that according to Rashi this prohibition would apply even to non-Jews nowadays but according to the Rambam then there’s no prohibition to non-Jews nowadays who believe in a Creator and are law abiding citizens. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 153) holds that there’s no prohibition nowadays. However, Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:1 pg 33) writes that nowadays there’s a prohibition like S”A. </ref> However, all agree that if one returns it with intention to make a [[Kiddish]] Hashem then it’s permissible and praiseworthy to return the object. <ref> S”A C”M 266:1 writes that if one has intent to make a [[Kiddish]] Hashem then it’s totally permissible and praiseworthy to return the lost object. Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:2 pg 33) writes that it’s only permissible and praiseworthy if one is sure that returning it will result in [[Kiddish]] Hashem because the owner will praise Jews and not just the one who returned it (and if it’s a doubt one should refrain). </ref>
 +
# Additionally, all agree that if a Chilul Hashem will result then there’s an obligation to return the object. <Ref>S”A C”M 266:1 </ref>
 +
==In an institution==
 +
# It’s appropriate that the administration of a public establishment put up a sign or make an announcement that will let those who go there that if objects are left there until a certain date the establishment will do as they see fit with the objects. <Ref>Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A C”M 259,271 #28) </ref>
  
==If it’s not Befitting to Return a Lost Object==
+
==If it’s not befitting to return a lost object==
# For a respected or elderly individual, if it’s not befitting to pick up and return a lost object then one is exempt from the mitzvah and doesn’t have to pick up the object. <ref>S”A C”M 263:1 based on Mishna Baba Metzia 29b and Gemara 30a, Aruch Hashulchan 263:1, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 157. see there note 69 where he quotes Shulchan Aruch Harav CM Hilchot Metzia Seif 36 that even it isn't specifically an exemption for a talmid chacham but includes someone distinguished for other reasons such as wealth, family or any other reason. He adds though that this exemption would not exist for someone who only feels distinguished because of an inflated ego. </ref> If he can wait there without compromising his dignity until someone else comes to pick it up and return it, he must do so.<ref> Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 157-158</ref>
+
# For a respected or elderly individual, if it’s not befitting to pick up and return a lost object then one is exempt from the mitzvah and doesn’t have to pick up the object. <ref>S”A C”M 263:1 </ref>
# The general rule is that if the individual would not have picked his own item in such a situation, then he is exempt. <ref>S”A C”M 263:1 based Rava's comment on Baba Metzia 30b, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 158</ref> However, had one picked up one’s own item because it’s not worth the trouble (and not because it’s beneath one’s dignity), one is still obligated in the mitzvah. <ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 158), S”A HaRav (Hilchot Metziah #37) </ref>
+
## If the individual would not have picked his own item in such a situation, then one is exempt. <ref>S”A C”M 263:1 </ref>
 +
## However, had one picked up one’s own item because it’s not worth the trouble (and not because it’s beneath one’s dignity), one is still obligated in the mitzvah. <ref> Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 158), S”A HaRav (Hilchot Metsiah #37) </ref>
 
# In a place where such an individual would not be embarrassed, one is obligated in the mitzvah. <ref>S”A C”M 263:2 </ref>
 
# In a place where such an individual would not be embarrassed, one is obligated in the mitzvah. <ref>S”A C”M 263:2 </ref>
# Even if one is exempt it’s proper and good to go beyond the letter of the law and return the object. <ref>S”A C”M 263:3 </ref> However, some argue that a Talmid Chacham may not go beyond the letter of the law at the expense of the kavod for his Torah.<ref> Rama 263:3 argues on Shulchan Aruch and says that one may not return the item if it is beneath his dignity. Instead, if he wants to be strict he can pay out of his own pocket. Aruch Hashulchan 263:4 explains that the Rama's comment is only regarding a talmid chacham, whose dignity stems from the Torah he has acquired. People who are distinguished for other reasons, may be strict and go beyond the letter of the law to return an object. </ref>
+
# Even if one is exempt it’s proper and good to go beyond the letter of the law and return the object. <ref>S”A C”M 263:3 </ref>
 
# A woman is obligated in [[Hashavat Aviedah]] however if it’s not befitting to pick up such an object then one is exempt. <Ref>Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A C”M 259,271 #4) </ref>
 
# A woman is obligated in [[Hashavat Aviedah]] however if it’s not befitting to pick up such an object then one is exempt. <Ref>Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A C”M 259,271 #4) </ref>
 
==Preventing Loss to Others==
 
# The Mitzvah to return someone’s object includes a command to prevent or minimize someone’s loss. <Ref>Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 142 based on S”A 259:9</ref>
 
# For example, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that helping another Jew contest zoning issues that are hurting the value of their property.<ref> Shu"t Igrot Moshe CM 2:22, cited by Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 142</ref>
 
# If one sees water causing damage to another person's property, he is obligated to prevent further loss.<ref>Shulchan Aruch 259:9, Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 142</ref> However, if the owner is aware of what is happening and chooses not to address it, you would not be obligated to minimize his loss.<ref>Halachos of Others People’s Money pg. 142</ref>
 
 
==Links==
 
* [https://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/784687/rabbi-mordechai-i-willig/hashavas-aveidah-halacha-lmaaseh/ Hashavas Aveidah Halacha Lmaaseh] by Rabbi Mordechai Willig
 
* [https://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/763779/rabbi-michael-taubes/parshas-ki-teitze-hashavas-aveidah/ Hashavas Aveidah] by Rabbi Michael Taubes
 
* Series on [https://torahdownloads.com/shiur-19790.html Hashavas Aveida] by Rabbi Eliyahu Reingold
 
  
 
==Sources==
 
==Sources==
 
<References/>
 
<References/>
[[Category:Between Man And His Fellow]]
 

Revision as of 11:05, 18 November 2013

The Torah commands us to return the lost objects and prevent a lost of our fellow Jew. [1] In general, if there’s an identifying mark of the lost object then there’s an obligation to return the object of our fellow Jew by safeguarding it, publicizing the loss of the object, and making sure that the rightful owner receives his object. Being that many of the these cases involve intricate details that aren’t addressed below, in a real case, one should consult a competent rabbinic authority for guidance.

Torah Obligation

  1. When a person finds a lost object and doesn't pick it up in order to return it, one violates the negative commandment not to overlook the object, and some say that one also loses the positive commandment to pick up and return the object. If one picks up the object in order to steal it one also violates three commands altogether, overlooking the object, not picking it up, and stealing it. [2]
  2. The Mitzvah to return someone’s object includes a command to prevent someone’s loss. [3]
  3. There's an obligation to return the lost object of a Jew once one sees it within a distance of 266.67 amot. [4]

Where was it found?

  1. If the object if found in a place where it is irretrievable, such as if someone fell into the ocean, it’s assumed that the owner forfeited ownership and it is permissible to take and keep it. [5]
  2. If the object was found in a safe protected place, it can be assumed that the item was placed there by its owner and so the object is not considered lost. If one by accident picked it up, one should return it right away, but if one has left the area one may not return it but rather one must return the object. For example, if one found a key under a mat or a book on top of a public telephone booth, one shouldn’t pick up the object. [6]
  3. If an item is found in a unsafe place, the item is considered a lost object. For example, a book on a public bus station bench. [7]
  4. If an item is found in a semi-safe place, if the item has a siman then the item is considered a lost object. An example is a sweater draped over a park railing in a remote area of the park. [8]

Worth a Prutah

  1. There isn't a mitzvah to return an object worth less than a Perutah. For the purpose of this halacha, in America, one can consider the perutah to be a quarter (the lowest denomination coin that’s useable in buying something). [9]

Forfeiture

  1. If the owner says explicitly that he doesn’t expect to find it, that’s considered a forfeiture of the object and it’s permissible to take and keep. [10] Similarly if it’s evident that the object has been lost for a long time (which depends on the time, place, and object) such as if one sees moss or rust on the object, then it’s permissible to take and keep the object. [11]

Siman

  1. If an object has no identifying feature then it is assumed that the owner has forfeited ownership and one may take and keep the object. [12]
  2. The siman must be a unique feature and not a generic characteristic. [13]
    1. For example, a normal color, brand name, and stamp on the item of the company are not unique features. However, a crack on the side or if a part of the object broke off are unique features. [14]
  3. The amount, weight, or length is considered a Siman only if that’s unique and not if that item is normally sold or found in that standard amount, weight, or length. [15]
    1. For example, “there were 6 keys on the key chain” or “there were 15 bills in the envelope” are considered unique features. [16]
  4. A unique wrapper, envelope, or basket is considered a siman. [17]
    1. An envelope from a local bank is not a siman, while a envelope from a foreign bank can be a siman. [18]
  5. An item that’s attached to the item can function as a siman such a tag. [19]
  6. The location where the item was placed is a siman. [20] The claimant must identify the specific location within the property and not just the general area or property where it was left. [21]

Items without Simanim

  1. Even if one finds an item without any Simanim one may only keep it if one is sure that the original owner has forfeited his ownership, which happens when the owner discovers that the item was lost. [22]
  2. If one finds an object without Simanim in an area which allows things to be considered lost objects, one should take it but may not keep it but rather one should hold onto it until Eliyahu comes and evaluates to whom it belongs. [23] Some hold that one is obligated to pick up a lost item in this situation and hold onto it until Eliyahu comes, and some disagree. [24]
  3. There are certain factors which allow one to assume that the owner knows about his loss and if the object has no simanim it would be permissible to take:
  • if the item is heavy (such as a hammer) [25]
  • if it’s evident that the item has been lost for a long time (it’s rusty or overgrown with mold) (there’s no fixed time because each situation and object is different, once one can be sure that the owner would have forfeited ownership one may take it) [26]
  • cash is assumed to have been discovered by the owner who then forfeited ownership because people usually check their money frequently. [27]
  1. In a place where Talmidei Chachamim are present one must pick up even an item without Simanim and announce it like a regular lost object because a Talmid Chacham (who is known not to lie) is trusted to recognize his object without any Simanim unless the item is brand new in which case it’s treated like an item without simanim in a place without Talmidei Chachamim. [28]

Lost object of a non-Jew

  1. There’s no Mitzvah to return the object of a non-Jew and some say that there’s a prohibition. [29] However, all agree that if one returns it with intention to make a Kiddish Hashem then it’s permissible and praiseworthy to return the object. [30]
  2. Additionally, all agree that if a Chilul Hashem will result then there’s an obligation to return the object. [31]

In an institution

  1. It’s appropriate that the administration of a public establishment put up a sign or make an announcement that will let those who go there that if objects are left there until a certain date the establishment will do as they see fit with the objects. [32]

If it’s not befitting to return a lost object

  1. For a respected or elderly individual, if it’s not befitting to pick up and return a lost object then one is exempt from the mitzvah and doesn’t have to pick up the object. [33]
    1. If the individual would not have picked his own item in such a situation, then one is exempt. [34]
    2. However, had one picked up one’s own item because it’s not worth the trouble (and not because it’s beneath one’s dignity), one is still obligated in the mitzvah. [35]
  2. In a place where such an individual would not be embarrassed, one is obligated in the mitzvah. [36]
  3. Even if one is exempt it’s proper and good to go beyond the letter of the law and return the object. [37]
  4. A woman is obligated in Hashavat Aviedah however if it’s not befitting to pick up such an object then one is exempt. [38]

Sources

  1. Sefer Hachinuch Mitzva 538, Rambam Sefer Hamitzvot Mitzvot Aseh Mitzva 204, Sefer Mitzvot Hakatzar of the Chofetz Chaim of mitzvot that can be fulfilled today mitzva 69 in positive mitzvot. see the second perek of Masechet Bava Metzia and Rambam Hilchot Gezela chapters 11 and onward.
  2. The Taz 259:1 holds that if one does not pick up a lost object one has lost both the positive and negative commandment of Hashavat Aveidah and Lo Titalem. However, the Sma 259:1 holds that there’s only a violation of Lo Titalem for overlooking a lost object. S”A 259:1 writes clearly if one picks up the object to steal it, there’s a violation of both the positive and negative command as well as Lo Tigzol.
  3. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 142) based on S”A 259:9
  4. S"A 259:! Brings the negative commandment not to pick up a fellow Jew's lost object. S"A C"M 272:5 rules that there's a mitzvah of carrying and picking up a fellow's animal and its burden up to a distance of 266 and 2/3 amot. The Bach C"M 259 writes that since carrying a fellow's burden and picking up his lost object are learned from one another there's an obligation to pick up a lost object if one sees it up to an distance of 266.67 amot.
  5. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 154-5)
  6. Rama and S”A C”M 260:9-10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 145-6)
  7. Rama C”M 260:10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 146-7)
  8. Rama C”M 260:10, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 147-8)
  9. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 150)
  10. S”A C”M 262:5, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 152)
  11. S”A C”M 260:1, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 153)
  12. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 154)
  13. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 160 note 79)
  14. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 160-1)
  15. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 161)
  16. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 161)
  17. S”A C”M 262:19-20
  18. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 162)
  19. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 163) based on S”A C”M 262:18
  20. S”A 262:3, 9
  21. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 163)
  22. S”A C”M 262:3 rules that even if the situation is one in which the owner would probably forfeit ownership if it was dropped by the owner and so he was unaware of the situation one may not take the object. This is based on the opinion of Abaye in Bava Metsia 22b who holds Yiush Shelo MeDaat isn’t Yeush.
  23. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 167)
  24. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 170)
  25. S”A C”M 262:3, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 168)
  26. S”A C”M 262:5, Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 153 note 45) quoting Pitchei Choshen (chapter 2 note 26) and Hashavat Aviedah KeHalacha (chapter 5 note 2) in name of Rav Elyashiv
  27. S”A 262:2. Most say that this assumption of Chazal is still applicable in our day including Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 168) including Mishpat Aveidah (pg 93) and Igrot Moshe Y”D 4:23.
  28. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 171-2)
  29. S”A C”M 266:1 rules that there’s no mitzvah to return the lost object of a non-Jew and there’s even a prohibition. The Bear HaGolah 266:2 writes that according to Rashi this prohibition would apply even to non-Jews nowadays but according to the Rambam then there’s no prohibition to non-Jews nowadays who believe in a Creator and are law abiding citizens. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 153) holds that there’s no prohibition nowadays. However, Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:1 pg 33) writes that nowadays there’s a prohibition like S”A.
  30. S”A C”M 266:1 writes that if one has intent to make a Kiddish Hashem then it’s totally permissible and praiseworthy to return the lost object. Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:2 pg 33) writes that it’s only permissible and praiseworthy if one is sure that returning it will result in Kiddish Hashem because the owner will praise Jews and not just the one who returned it (and if it’s a doubt one should refrain).
  31. S”A C”M 266:1
  32. Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A C”M 259,271 #28)
  33. S”A C”M 263:1
  34. S”A C”M 263:1
  35. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg 158), S”A HaRav (Hilchot Metsiah #37)
  36. S”A C”M 263:2
  37. S”A C”M 263:3
  38. Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A C”M 259,271 #4)