Rav Elyashiv on Nine Common Theft Issues


rav-yosef-shalom-elyashivBy Rabbi Yair Hoffman

As a z’chus for a refuah Shleimah of Rav Elyashiv Shlita, the following collection of his rulings on commonplace matters involving theft has been adapted from the Ashrei HaIsh series, a compilation of Rav Elyashiv’s writings. The questions have been reformulated to accommodate this format.

At times people may be tempted to lie about the age of children, or to sneak in, when entering a zoo and the like. What is the Halacha?

Rav Elyashiv: It is forbidden to steal from them. One must pay the correct entrance fee in all cases. [Editor: The extension to amusement parks seems obvious as well. YH]

On certain buses it is possible to purchase a round trip ticket which expires after an hour. Is it permissible to delay the actual purchase when you reach your stop rather than when you enter the bus so that it will expire later?

Rav Elyashiv: It is obvious that this is forbidden.

The Talmud Bava Kamma 103a states that one who steals from another [and falsely denies it] must return it to him as far as Media {near Persia} and may not even return it to his son or his messenger. What about his wife?

Rav Elyashiv: It would seem that he may not return it to his wife either. [Editor: It would seem that the concern here is for liability in case it does not get to them, but if the stolen property does get back to the owner intact, it is not a problem. Also, the messenger means his general messenger but if he returned it to a messenger appointed specifically for this item then the thief is absolved from further liability. YH]

If someone stole an orange from a company owned orchard and there is no private individual to whom one could return the theft, what should he do?

Rav Elyashiv: He should bring an orange to the orchard and place it in one of the containers that he is certain will arrive at the factory.

Is it permitted for someone to borrow money from a free loan fund to invest in bonds or stocks?

Rav Elyashiv: It depends upon the bylaws of the Free Loan Fund.

If someone has a discount at a bookstore and his friend does not. Is it permissible to utilize the discount for the other person?

Rav Elyashiv: It is absolutely forbidden and this constitutes out and out theft. [Editor: The extension to grocery stores and supermarkets seems obvious as well. YH]

A Free Loan Fund, or a medical equipment loaning organization that takes collateral (or a deposit)- is it permissible for the Free Loan Fund to make use of the item or the deposit?

Rav Elyashiv: Absolutely not. They may keep the deposit in the bank, but they may not make use of the money.

If someone had a [train or] bus ticket that got ruined is it permitted to ride the next time without paying and deduct the ride from the ticket that one had that got lost or ruined?

Rav Elyashiv: Absolutely not. The transportation company makes their pricing based on the fact that they assume people will lose or ruin their tickets. If your ticket is lost or stolen, you have lost your rights.

Someone who repairs computers must at time erase the entire drive and reload the programs one by one. What happens when the customer did not legally purchase these programs. Is it permissible to restore what the customer had originally?

Rav Elyashiv: It is absolutely forbidden and even if he will lose his customers he must search for a new manner in which to make a living.

(Adapted from Ashrei HaIsh OC Vol. III Chapter 19)

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.

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  1. These things seem like common sense. Why is it necessary to bother gedolei torah with questions that can be answered by basically following what is right and wrong. Morality and ethics should be obvious without consulting daas torah. Are we truly that big a dor yasom that we cannot make ethical decisions for ourselves?

  2. interesting about using loan money for investments

    but what if the byl;aws are very vague
    that’s what happened to me

  3. may it be a zechus for a refua shelaima. no question is too trivial for a gadol hador. arent you familiar with the reb moshe feinstein story how he read russian postcards to some lady for her …. thats what makes them so big .

  4. It’s really good to know these basic halachos, we face issues like these daily, and may not think that their is a problem with doing those things.

  5. I thought it would be a little more complex – these seem like basics in Hilchos Geneiva that I can’t believe people think that is ok.
    What about lieing about age/height for a shidduch?
    What about adding your name on somebody elses bank account (with permission), in order to secure a mortgage from the bank?

  6. I agree with comment #1 however, even though they seem obvious the yetzer harah convinces us its OK. Therefore it needs to be spelled out for us at times

  7. We don’t do things based on morality and ethics; we do things based on the Shulchan Aruch. Our poskim guide us in interpreting Halacha, as we cannot rely on our own interpretation of the words of our holy Rishonim & Achronim, or at least not until we have reached a very high level of knowledge & understanding of the aforementioned. Morality & ethics are subject to the whims & vagaries of the particular galus we find ourselves in and cannot be used to render judgment in specific cases or situations.

  8. dunno why one cant use his discount to buy his friend a book. doesn’t sound right. if i am entitled to a discount who cares who i buy the book for?

  9. We don’t live our lives based on morality and ethics. Who decides what’s moral? Does killing people seem moral?!?! Yet Hashem commands us to go to war. We live our lives according to the Torah’s word, not “common sense’.

  10. I remember many yrs ago being on vacation we wanted to buy tickets to a park and we could have gotten the cheaper kids ticket for my oldest daughter 10$ instead of 20$if older than 12 yrs, but I said the truth and right after we came back to the hotel I found exactly 10$ by the lobby next to a couch it w as hefker ,I told my spouse you never loose out by being honest, Hashem sent us back the money right away!

  11. Mr. #1, morality and ethics are based in Torah, as expressed in Shas, Shulchan Aruch, etc.

    Man left to his own “morality” becomes a monster.

    The entire essence of being an Am HaTorah is that we check everything we do against the immutable laws of the Ribbono shel Olam.

  12. If someone has a discount at a bookstore and his friend does not. Is it permissible to utilize the discount for the other person?

    Rav Elyashiv: It is absolutely forbidden and this constitutes out and out theft. [Editor: The extension to grocery stores and supermarkets seems obvious as well. YH]

    Is a person allowed to borrow a travel businessman’s American airlines card to save money on his flight or is that Corruption & STEALING? am i allowed to borrow your COSTCO card & use it to save money for myself? the simple answer is NO a costco membership card includes a person himself, his wife & children anyone else that uses it is stealing from the Company. (Maybe i should buy 10 costco memberships & rent them out $2.00 a card per day C”V everyone would come use it Rachmana L’tzlan. BUT THATS PURE CORRUPTION & PURE STEALING ETC..)

  13. But according to Costco (I called them and specifically asked them) there is no problem if I go shopping with the cardholder, and load up on things for myself and pay for it myself. As long as the cardholder is standing with me at the checkout stand, that’s fine with them.