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

One Who Eats Less than a Kezayit of Bread With other Foods- The Halachic Pitfall Present in Some Halls

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one does not recite a blessing on foods eaten during a bread meal, for the “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” blessing recited on the bread exempts them. We have also quoted the words of the Ritba who explains that this is not because of......

Read Halacha

Tu Bishvat Customs

Tonight, Sunday night, marks Tu Bishvat. There are unique customs observed on the night of Tu Bishvat, as we shall explain. The Prohibition of Fasting and the Customary Reading of the Zohar It is forbidden to fast on the day of Tu Bishvat. Some customarily hold an order of learning on the eve of......

Read Halacha

Mentioning Hashem’s Name in Invitations and Letters

Question: Is one permitted to write “ב"ה” (acronym for “Be’ezrat Hashem”) at the top of letters, adorn wedding invitations with verses, and the like or should one not do so out of concern that they may be thrown out into the waste basket, causing disgrace to Hashem......

Read Halacha

Eye Ailments on Shabbat

Our Sages teach us in the Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (28b): “A man’s eyes are connected to his heart.” Thus, if we see that one’s eye is in danger, it is tantamount to revealing an ailment in the person’s heart and we must certainly rush to desecrate Shabbat in ord......

Read Halacha


Some Detailed Laws Regarding a Person Suffering from a Life-Threatening Condition on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot we have discussed that there is a Mitzvah to desecrate Shabbat for one whose life is in danger such as to transport him to the hospital, turn on a light in order to afford him proper treatment, and the like. We shall now discuss some details about this matter, based on what ......

Read Halacha

One Whose Life is in Danger on Shabbat

If one experiences a life-threatening situation or illness, there is a Torah obligation to desecrate the Shabbat on his behalf, for instance, by rushing him to the hospital by car; indeed, there is a Mitzvah to perform any other forbidden work on Shabbat that is necessary to save the individual&rsqu......

Read Halacha

The Blessing on Puffed Wheat and Farina

Question: We would like to partake of all of the Seven Species on Tu Bishvat. We wished to use puffed wheat as one of the species. What is the correct blessing on puffed wheat? Answer: Anything made out of the five types of grain (wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye) such as, cakes, cookies, and o......

Read Halacha

Rice Cakes and Puffed Rice Cereal

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that any grain, such as wheat, which is eaten raw requires the “Boreh Peri Ha’adama” blessing. For this reason, the blessing for puffed wheat is “Boreh Peri Ha’adama.” Only if the grains were cooked together until they sti......

Read Halacha