Halacha for Sunday 13 Tevet 5778 December 31 2017

The Laws of Stealing from Non-Jews

Question: Is it permissible to steal money from a non-Jew?

Answer: There is a Torah prohibition to steal any amount of money or even an object that seemingly has no value from a Jew. We do not find a distinction in the Talmud between Jews and the other nations of the world regarding the prohibition of stealing. Just as is forbidden to steal from a Jew, it is likewise forbidden to steal from a non-Jew.

Nevertheless, we find in the Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’Ezer (Chapter 28) that a man can only betroth a woman using an object which belongs to him. The Rama (ibid.) writes that if one steals an object from a non-Jew and uses it to betroth a woman (even if the non-Jewish owner has not given up hope of retrieving the object and still hopes that it will be returned), the woman is indeed betrothed to the thief. It seems from the Rama that the prohibition to steal from a non-Jew is only rabbinic, however, it is permissible to steal from a non-Jew according to Torah law. It is for this reason that if one betroths a woman using an object stolen from a non-Jew that the woman is considered married.

However, most Acharonim are puzzled by the words of the Rama, for most Acharonim understand that the Rambam’s opinion is that stealing from a non-Jew is a complete Torah prohibition. The Siftei Kohen (Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 348) writes that the Samag, Tur, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rule likewise. (See Halichot Olam, Volume 2, page 212)

The Sefer Atzei Arazim explains the opinion of the Rama and writes that even the Rama agrees that stealing from a non-Jew is a Torah prohibition. However, the Rama is of the opinion that the obligation to return the object one has stolen from a non-Jew is only rabbinic and not Torah law. Thus, if one betroths a woman with an object that has already been stolen from a non-Jew, since the obligation to return it to the non-Jew is only rabbinic, the woman is indeed betrothed to him.

Nevertheless, even this explanation is subject to disagreement, for the great Chatam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 30a) writes that according to the Rambam, the obligation to return a stolen object to a non-Jew is a Torah obligation. Only the Sefer Yere’im is of the opinion that it is merely a rabbinic commandment. Indeed, Hagaon Maharam ben Chaviv and the Sefer Sha’ar Ha’Melech disagree about this issue and the Maharam writes that the obligation to return a stolen object to a non-Jew is rabbinic while the Sha’ar Ha’Melech is of the opinion that this obligation is indeed Torah law.

The Poskim discuss this matter at length, however, all agree that it is absolutely forbidden to steal money of any other object from a non-Jew. The only disagreement is whether or not the obligation to return the object is a Torah or rabbinic commandment. Thus, halachically speaking, it is certainly forbidden to steal from a non-Jew and if one has done so, one must return the stolen object to him.

Nonetheless, we must point out that all of the above applies regarding stealing from a non-Jew; however, it is likewise forbidden to utter a lie from one’s mouth besides for several very select situations. Once, an Avrech was halachically exempt from paying property tax on his apartment inquired from Maran zt”l, “Can I declare on my affidavit to the authorities that I earn less than I actually do so that they exempt me from paying a tax that I am exempt from paying?” Maran zt”l replied in surprise, “Do you want me to tell you that it is permissible to lie? How can I say such a thing?!”

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Vows and Oaths

Question: Is it forbidden to make vows even when one intends to fulfill them? Answer: We must first explain what the Torah meant by “vows.” The Gemara (Nedarim 13a) explains that the primary vow referred to by the Torah is when one attributes a prohibition to the specific object one i......

Read Halacha

Is One Obligated to Wear a Tallit Katan (Small Four-Cornered Garment) at all times in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzit?

The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (113b) states that there are seven kinds of individuals that are excommunicated in Heaven and among them is one who does not don Tefillin on his arm and head, tie Tzitzit to his garment, and place a Mezuzah on his doorpost. The Tosafot (ibid.) write that it seems that......

Read Halacha

More Customs Observed During the Omer Counting Period

Some have the custom that during the Omer counting period (until the 34th day of the Omer), one does not wear a new garment which requires the recitation of the “Shehecheyanu” blessing (i.e. a new garment which causes the wearer joy, such as a new shirt and the like; however, a new garme......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Inserting “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo”

Today, Sunday, the Thirtieth of Nissan, is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Tomorrow, Monday, the First of Iyar, is the second day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Inserting “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo” into the Rosh Chodesh Prayers Our Sages instituted that one add the “Ya’ale......

Read Halacha

Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha

The Omer Counting Period

The period of the counting of the Omer is exalted indeed and filled with sanctity, as the Ramban writes in his commentary on Parashat Emor that the days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot, i.e. the Omer counting period, retain the sanctity of Chol Ha’Moed and are not days of national t......

Read Halacha

Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the IDF- Maran zt”l’s Following the Yom Kippur War

Today is Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Last year, we had mentioned the words of Maran zt”l with regards to the deaths of the soldiers of the IDF where he quoted the Gemara (Baba Batra 10b) regarding the Martyrs of Lod, about whom the Gemara states that no o......

Read Halacha