Finder Keepers, Losers Drug Dealers

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Apparently some guy was walking around downtown Jerusalem and he found a bag with almost a million shekels in it. Amazingly, instead of just holding onto it and doing a happy dance, he reported it to the police. bag_of_money.jpg

Police officers in the Modiin station were pleasantly surprised Sunday when a local resident reported to the station with a bag containing hundreds of thousands of dollars he accidentally came across, Ynet learned.

Police investigators are currently trying to locate the money’s owner and establish the source of the funds.

The man who found the cash told the officers he preferred to remain anonymous, however police stressed that should the owner not be found, the dollars will be returned to the responsible citizen.

Full story

This is awesome for many reasons, but at the foremost is that it’s a classic example of the Talmudic concept of hefker, or an ownerless object. Basically, when something is hefker then the next person who grabs it gets to keep it. If you, say, leave your new headphones on the bus, you probably think to yourself, “Well, those are long gone. There’s no way for anyone who finds them to get them back to me.” If you give up looking for them, then they become hefker, and the next person who finds them can, according to Jewish law, keep them. But, if there’s reason to believe you might expect to get them back, then the person who finds them has to do all he can to give them back.

Let’s assume that whoever put a million shekels in a bag was up to no good, and that he (or she) isn’t the type to run and report the loss to the police. Well, then, that person has probably given up hope of ever getting his money back. And our finder? He might really get to keep the cash.

Learn more about hefker in Bava Metzia.

Posted on March 22, 2010

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