hashava aveida- best way?

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    When finding a lost object, there is a mitzva to try to find the owner in order to return it.

    Picture this hypothetical scenario- I find a child’s coat in the park. I take it home, make some signs and put them up around the neighborhood stating that a coat has been found and can be retrieved from me. Before I get to hang up all these signs, the child’s mother goes to the park to get the coat that he left there, and does not find it. She does not see the signs that I hang up a couple of hours later. By the time she gets to the park again, it has rained and the signs fall down. The coat sits by me, the kid is cold and the mother buys him a new coat. Would it not be better if I had just left the coat where it was and not tried to do the mitzva?

    Several times we have tried to do the mitzva and advertized lost objects that we find, with no success. I always wonder if it is better just to leave the things for the owner to find them.

    On the other end of things, once my husband forgot his keys in the mailbox (for those not familiar, in many newer Israeli neighborhoods, mail is not delivered to the house but to mailboxes all grouped in one area, each home owner has a key to his box). Some nice person found them, and took them to keep safe, leaving a note inside the mailbox with his contact details. Note that he now has the key to the mailbox, which he locked. My husband discovered his mistake shortly after, immediately went to check the mailbox but the keys were not where he left them. looked all over, got distressed, etc. finally, a few days later, we found a second key to the mailbox and went to check the mail, finding the note. When we called to collect the keys, the finder grilled us on the details to make sure they were ours. The whole situation was a bit ludicrous in how difficult this finder made it for us to get back the keys- he left a note in a locked mailbox, making it unlikely that we would even find that note, and then made it very difficult to claim the keys, even though having access to that mailbox meant that we were the owners! Somehow, even though he did the mitzva exactly as prescribed, he did not do us any favors.

    So how does one then fulfill the mitzva of hashavas aveida?


    I have had this same dilemma before. I would say, the mitzvah is not to take it home and put up signs, the mitzvah is to get the object back to the owner ASAP. If that means leaving it where it is, then do just that. Is that wrong?

    Lilmod Ulelamaid

    I also usually leave things where they are unless there is contact information on the object so I can call the owner. I figure I am doing the owner more of a favor by leaving the object where it was lost, so he can find it.

    There is a famous story about some Yeshiva. I think it was Kelm. The story is that someone left an umbrella there and came back 13 years later and it was in the exact spot where he left it. The story is told in order to portray the middos and ehrlichkeit of those who learned in Kelm.

    Lilmod Ulelamaid

    Geordie: “I would say, the mitzvah is not to take it home and put up signs, the mitzvah is to get the object back to the owner ASAP. If that means leaving it where it is, then do just that.”

    +1. I think this is what is meant by “the Fifth volume of the Shulchan Aruch – common sense”. When it comes to Mitzvos bein Adam l’chaveiro in particular, you have to use your common sense sometimes and think about how the other person will benefit the most (obviously I am not referring to a case where that would mean acting in direct contradiction to a clear-cut halacha, chalila.)


    Geordie: the problem is that we don’t know. Sometimes the owner can’t come back right away and it gets blown away or ruined from the elements. Or it gets stolen. There are some lost and find hotlines but it’s not streamlined or people forget to call.

    I don’t know what the answer is either, but in the past when I hung something someone lost in front of my house on my front yard fence (a belt etc.) it stayed there for weeks until I just dumped it. Some things are less valuable so people don’t bother or they have no clue where they lost it.


    Mammele, that is exactly the issue, which is why I never know what to do in these situations. Of course if it is a wallet, I wouldn’t leave it, especially because I could probably find out who it belongs to.


    Imho ask Hashem to guide you and trust Him.

    I had two amazing experiences at the same beach. Once I lost my car keys at night. Everything was locked in the glove compartment. I retraced my steps with a flashlight for an hour or so. Finally I flagged down a car and they called roadside assistance. While waiting for roadside assistance one of the two women helping me happened to be pacing farther back on the sidewalk. Suddenly she asked if these were my keys. Someone hung my lanyard from the top of the staircases which lead down to the beach. Someone put them there. Maybe they even found my car and put them close enough to where they thought I would walk up. It so from Hashem! Like mystery malachim.

    Months later at the same beach, I stumbled upon someone’s car remote on a keychain. It was in the wet sand. Earlier I walked by two people playing football. I remember because when they passed, my dog freaked out a bit from the ball. No one was around the car remote. I told myself that I am going to find this person. I asked random people sitting on the beach. I kept asking and it was fruitless. So I decided to walk the other direction. No one. Finally I said okay fine one more person and then I will put them some where. On the way to some people on the sand, those same two people were walking by. One was on the phone.

    I figured I might as well ask. Turns out that this person happened to be telling whoever it was the bad news. Until I asked if this person had a so and so car, the reply “You found my keys!!!”

    It was so from Hashem. If only they knew I was more than happy to help. It was such my duty. I felt like I was there that day just for that mission.


    WTP: Sometimes the owner doesn’t come. Sometimes, imho, it is possible that you were put in charge of eventually dropping that thing off to Goodwill or whatever and it becoming someone else’s property. I know that what I have now is what is mine for a reason.

    It really hurts sometimes to lose something. I cries over losing a different lanyard months ago. If someone found it and returned it to me, I would have felt like a lottery winner.

    But I realized that Hashem gave me the opportunity to let go of this sentimental item (because if I wasn’t so personally attached to the gift, it wouldn’t have been something to cry over).

    If someone else has it now, I would want that person to keep it and make good use of it. Or give it to someone else.

    Reminds me of yesterday. I found a cane at Costco in the dish detergent/sponges aisle. It was right by the pharmacy line. Should I leave it there? Will the person come back to this spot? I guess this was easier because I ended up taking it to the manager’s desk for the lost and found. I still debated on whether to leave it there or not. What if the person was still shopping and would panic without it? Etc.

    It depends in each case on a multitude of factors.

    Really please ask Hashem for clarity.

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