Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Metzia 24

Bava Metzia 24 continues a discussion about found objects and whether the person who finds the object must make efforts to publicize that the item has been found.

One of the episodes discussed on Bava Metzia 24b involved a wallet which was found in the leather skinners' market place. When Rava was asked what must be done with the wallet, he said that the finder could keep it. The question was then posed to Rava in hypothetical form - what if a Jewish person came and said that it was his and prodceud a sign which would identify the item as his? Rava responded that the finder could still keep it. The questioner persisted - but the man is yelling that it is his! Rava answered that it is no different than yelling that his house fell down or that his boat sank in the sea.

While giving the daf tonight, I was reminded of am incident where I found some lost items and due to my own ignorance did a very stupid thing. I had been living in Kew Gardens Hills Queens and was walking on Main Street when I found a fancy leather portfolio. I opened it and found that it had the owner's name and address. I called the man and arranged to meet him on my way out to the airport as my wife and I were flying from Newark to Chicago that day.

Later that afternoon, I met the man on the street in Queens and gave him his portfolio. We then drove to Newark and I dropped Sarah off at curbside check in so that she could check our luggage and I could park the car. When getting out of the car, I notice a large number of bills on the floor outside my car - tens, twenties, singles and even a fifty. I picked up the bills and gave them to a Port Authority police officer who must have thought that I was crazy. I drove away thinking that I did the right thing. However under halachic law I was definitely wrong.

As taught on Bava Metzia 24a, lost money which contains no distinguishing features in a public place does not need to be returned (no I have no clue whether it must be returned under NJ law). As such, I was not halachically obligated to give the money to the officer.

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