Last week we discussed situations where one finds lost objects that do not
have a simun. We saw that there were circumstances where the finder is
not permitted to keep the item for himself, rather if he picks it up he
must guard it until Eliyahu HaNavi (The Prophet) comes and reveals its
One example of this is when a person finds a lost object of which the
owner has not become aware of its lost status. In such a case, one who
finds it and picks it up cannot keep it for himself and cannot return it
to its place, rather he must guard it until Eliyahu comes.
It is important to note that this law applies in particular when the
finder picks up the item. His lifting it up constitutes a kind of
acquisition which obligates him in looking after the item until Eliyahu
comes. The question arises of what is the law if one finds such an item
on the ground that clearly has no simun and of which it is likely that the
owners are not yet aware of the loss. Must the owner pick it up and
thereby place upon himself the responsibility of guarding the item or can
he ignore it and leave it on the floor? There is a difference of
agreement among the halachic authorities in this issue, however, many hold
that one can leave it on the floor and therefore this is an acceptable
course of action .
There is one final exception to the law that one can keep an item that has
no simun . If such an item was found in a place where Torah scholars
are found then the finder must announce the find. Even though there is no
simun, we consider that a Torah scholar will not lie about such an item
and therefore if he says that he recognizes the item as being his, then we
believe him and return it to him. This also applies to a G-d fearing
person even if he is not learned in Torah, provided that he is known as
one who never lies. However, if the lost item is new then one can keep it
because the owner could not have become familiar enough with it to be able
to recognize it.
1. Much of the information for this essay is taken from "Halachos of Other
People's Money" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner.
2. Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits Shlita. See Rabbi Bodner's book,
page 170 for a detailed account of the opinions in this dispute.
3. Even though it is clear that the owner is aware of the loss and has
already given up hope of ever retrieving it.