Would You Stop a Shoplifter?

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    What would you do if you a fellow Jew shoplifting?

    A) Start yelling and screaming at him/her, chasing them if need be

    B) Go over and quietly say “I saw you take that item, and I really think Hashem wants you to put it back”

    C) Option B, but adding “if you don’t put it back, I’ll go call the manager (or resort to option A)”

    D) Walk away and mind your own business

    E) Other (explain)


    Is the store owner a yehudi? Do you think the answer to that has no halachic relevance to your question?


    “If I saw you do that, you’ll definitely get caught if you try it again.”


    There are a few reasons why you should protest the shoplifting, but they each have different ramifications:

    1) Hocheach Tochiach es Amisecha: You are obligated to rebuke your fellow when he contravenes the Torah laws. Regarding something which is “mefurash baTorah”, we don’t say ืžื•ื˜ื‘ ืฉื™ื”ื™ื• ืฉื•ื’ื’ื™ื ื•ืืœ ื™ื”ื™ื• ืžื–ื™ื“ื™ื, and you must rebuke him, even if you think it likely that he will not listen. This would obligate you to rebuke him privately.

    2) Chillul Hashem – I think the earliest source for this is Rabbeinu Yonah, and it is brought by the Mishna Berura – you must speak out when someone publicly transgresses the Torah, so that it doesn’t look like you consent to what he does. This would obligate a public comment. However, if nobody else saw this, you cause more Chillul Hashem by saying anything publicly than by ignoring it.

    3) Lehafrish Me’Issurim – You are obligated to stop a fellow Jew from transgressing any Issur. You may/must use necessary physical force to enforce that nobody transgresses a commandment (BB”K 28a). There is a discussion in the Poskim if this obligation extends to enforce positive commandments or only to prevent transgression of negative commandments (originally Ketzos v. Nesivos 3). If you have the capacity to stop him stealing, you must definitely do so. However, the moment he picks it up with intention to take it, he has already transgressed the prohibition; now there is only a chiyuv to return it.

    I am not sure what the halachah would be regarding the obligation to return a stolen item – would that be classified under positive commandment (in which case it would be a machlokes Ketzos and Nesivos) or is it the same as a negative commandment because it is a ืชื™ืงื•ืŸ of ืœื ืชื’ื–ื•ืœ in the form of ืœืื• ื”ื ื™ืชืง ืœืขืฉื”.

    Also, if the owner is a Goy, then although it is prohibited to steal, there is no obligation to return the item once you have taken it. Therefore, once he picked it up, he is allowed to keep it, unless there is an issue of ื—ื™ืœื•ืœ ื”’ (which there won’t be if you are the only guy who has seen it and don’t plan on trumpeting it).

    The Halachos of Macha’ah (which cases require a protest, what constitutes a protest, whether to protest publicly or privately) are discussed by the Mishna Berura in the beginning of Hilchos Yom Kippur. If I remember correctly, he is not consistent with his policy in Chafetz Chaim (question mark).


    good question… I honestly have no clue what I would do.


    if hes a yid i would wrap my loving arm around his shoulder & tell him nicely that if he puts it back now quietly that i promise not to report him to the owner of store or police & it will stay between us for life & no chillul Hashem wil have occurred, otherwise he leaves me no choice for his benefit-so he never does it again-& my torah responsibilities- of preventing someone from sinning-but to report him to the owner & if necessary to the cops also.

    Avi K

    1. Please cite your source for your contention that the thief does not have to return the object he stole from a goy. How else would he do teshuva?
    2. The Meiri says that gentiles who have the rule of law are treated like Jews for these matters and Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook pasken like him.
    3. The kiddush Hashem would be greater than the chillul Hashem, as it always is (Yerushalmi Kiddushin 4:1).
    4. If he steals from a goy he will also steal from a Jew (Tanna d’Bei Eliahu and see Rema CM 388:12).
    5. Many shoplifters have various mental issues that cause this behavior. If he is one of them you will be doing him a favor as he will be sent to rehab. It might even be an aveira on “al taamod la dam r’eicha” not to report him.
    6. I do not suggest that you take physical action for various practical reasons. I once saw a girl get on the back entrance of the bus and start to proceed towards the rear. I gave her a look and she shamefacedly went to pay the driver.


    Avi, truthfully, you should be the one that needs to bring a ืžืงื•ืจ, but I happened to find these.
    ื ืชื™ื‘ื•ืช ืฉืž”ื—
    ืฉืขืจ ื”ืžืœืš (ืค”ื ืžื”ืœื›ื•ืช ื’ื–ื™ืœื”) ื‘ืฉื ืžื”ืจ”ื ื—ื‘ื™ื‘
    ืฉื•”ืช ื”ืจ ืฆื‘ื™ ืื•ืจื— ื—ื™ื™ื ื‘’ ืกื™ืžืŸ ืข”ื“


    ืฉืขืจ ื”ืžืœืš himself argues.


    Please cite your source for your contention that the thief does not have to return the object he stole from a goy. How else would he do teshuva?

    He must return it because of Chilul Hashem. There is no obligation MiHilchos Gzeilah, though. See Nesivos 348 for further explanation. The mitzva of ื•ื”ืฉื™ื‘ ืืช ื”ื’ื–ื™ืœื” ืืฉืจ ื’ื–ืœ doesn’t apply.

    (I don’t remember the whole sugya, nor do I have time to look at it now. There is definitely a discussion to locate source for the issur to steal from a goy – whether it is the regular ืœื ืชื’ื–ื•ืœ (Rambam), whether it is a ื“ืจื‘ื ืŸ (I think the Maharshal holds it is ืืกืžื›ืชื, and the Achronim are medayek that Rashi Sanhedrin 57[?] holds like that too), or if it is an ืขืฉื” (See BB”K 113). It will make a difference whether you have a mekor for a chiyuv Hashavah. See the Nesivos, who compares it to ื”ืคืงืขืช ื”ืœื•ืืชื•.)

    See the Rema here.

    Although, the Rambam seems to pasken that you must return it, although it might be because of Chillul Hashem. Not sure.


    How else would he do teshuva?

    Like every other Issur in the Torah.

    See here.


    The bottom line is as Yekke2 writes, that first we need to establish the ืžืงื•ืจ for the ืื™ืกื•ืจ ื’ื–ืœื”, then see if ื•ื”ืฉื™ื‘ applies.


    If it’s an expensive item, there’s always the chance the store owner may have hidden cameras and can review the footage if he discovers the loss. So then chillul Hashem is an actual risk, not just because a Jew stole, by because another Jew “looked the other way” if it’s ignored.

    Avi K

    According to Ramban even if there is no mitzva of hashava there might be an obligation of “keduushim tiyu” (see Be’er HaGola CM 348:5).

    Avi K

    Yekke and DY,

    1. The Rema says that the “only” reason for having to return it is kiddush Hashem. Is that light in your eyes? May one compel a fellow Jew to do a kiddush Hashem?

    2. Rav Menashe Klein disagrees with the Netivot ( <a href=”http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1878&st=%d7%92%d7%96%d7%9c&pgnum=373
    “>Mishna Halachot 6:305)). This is also the view of Rav Ovadia (ื”ืœื›ื” ืœื™ื•ื ืจื‘ื™ืขื™ ื›”ื˜ ื˜ื‘ืช ืชืฉืข”ื“). In any case, the Netivot himself says that the thief must pay for the object.

    3. The Chatam Sofer says (v. 6 Sukka 30) that the Rambam holds that one must return the object.

    4. See also Yerushalmi Baba Kama 4:1 and Biur HaGra EH 28:5.

    5. You have not addressed by citation of the Meiri nor have you addressed my other points.


    I don’t understand what you are quoting from the Meiri. If you quote his loshon, or provide a link, or explain in your own words what he says, I’d be happy to respond.

    Avi K

    Yekke, you can find his statement here .

    Rav Kook wrote:

    “ืื”ื‘ืช ื”ื‘ืจื™ื•ืช ืฆืจื™ื›ื” ืœื”ื™ื•ืช ื—ื™ื” ื‘ืœื‘ ื•ื‘ื ืฉืžื”โ€ฆ ืœื”ื™ื˜ื™ื‘ ืœืขืžื™ื ื›ื•ืœืโ€ฆ ืชื›ื•ื ื” ื–ื• ื”ื™ื ืฉืžืกื’ืœืช ืืช ืจื•ื—ื ื“ืžืœื›ื ืžืฉื™ื—ื ืœื—ื•ืœ ืขืœ ื™ืฉืจืืœ (ืžื›ืฉื™ืจื” ืืช ื™ืฉืจืืœ ืœืจื•ื—ื• ืฉืœ ืžืœืš ื”ืžืฉื™ื—). ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืงื•ื ืฉืื ื• ืžื•ืฆืื™ื ืจืžื–ื™ ืฉื ืื” (ื›ืœืคื™ ื”ื’ื•ื™ื™ื), ื”ืจื™ื ื• ื™ื•ื“ืขื™ื ื‘ืจื•ืจ ืฉื”ื›ื•ื•ื ื” ืจืง ืขืœ ื”ืจืฉืขื”, ืฉื”ื™ื ืžืจืชืงืช (ืื•ื—ื–ืช) ื‘ื—ื–ืงื” ืืช ื”ืื™ื’ื•ื“ ืฉืœ ืขืžื™ื ืจื‘ื™ื, ื’ื ื‘ื”ื•ื•ื” ื•ื‘ื™ื™ื—ื•ื“ ื‘ื™ืžื™ื ืžืงื“ื ืฉื”ื™ืชื” ื–ื•ื”ืžืช ื”ืขื•ืœื ื™ื•ืชืจ ืžืกื•ืื‘ืช. ืื‘ืœ ืขืœื™ื ื• ืœื“ืขืช ื›ื™ ื ืงื•ื“ืช ื”ื—ื™ื™ื, ืื•ืจ ื•ืงื•ื“ืฉ, ืชืžื™ื“ ืœื ื–ื–ื” ืžื”ืฆืœื ื”ืืœื•ืงื™ ืฉื ื—ื ืŸ ื‘ื• ื”ืื“ื ื‘ื›ืœืœื•, ื•ื—ื•ื ื ื• ื‘ื• ื›ืœ ืขื ื•ืœืฉื•ืŸโ€ฆ” (ืžื™ื“ื•ืช ืจืื™”ื” ืื”ื‘ื” ืกืขื™ืฃ ื”’):

    “โ€ฆื”ืขื™ืงืจ ื›ื“ืขืช ื”ืžืื™ืจื™ ืฉื›ืœ ื”ืขืžื™ื ืฉื”ื ื’ื“ื•ืจื™ื ื‘ื ื™ืžื•ืกื™ื ื”ื’ื•ื ื™ื ื‘ื™ืŸ ืื“ื ืœื—ื‘ืจื• ื”ื ื›ื‘ืจ ื ื—ืฉื‘ื™ื ืœื’ืจื™ื ืชื•ืฉื‘ื™ื โ€ฆ.” (ืื’ืจื•ืช ื”ืจืื™”ื” ืคื˜).

    This was also the view of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (The Collected Writings p. 225), Rav Yaakov Emden (on Pirkei Avot 4:13), Rav David Tzvi Hoffman (Fundamentals of Judaism ed. by Rav Jacob Breuer p. 182), Maharatz Chayes, and Rav Aharon Soloveitchik (Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind pp. 139 and 151. According to RAS the obligation of kiddush Hashem applies because there is a “deeper ethical responsibility” (ืงื“ืฉ ืขืฆืžืš ื‘ืžื•ืชืจ ืœืš). This follows from the fact that we do many things even though the other nations do not like them.

    Avi K

    Yekke, you can find his opinion in Bet HaBechira on href=”http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40773&st=&pgnum=325&hilite=”>Baba Kama 113b .

    This was also the opinion of Rav Kook (Iggeret 89), Maharatz Chajes (Tifferet l’Yisrael, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (<Collected ritings v. 7 โ€œTalmudic Judaism and Societyโ€, Rav David Tzvi Hoffman (Fundamentals of Judaism edited by Jacob Breuer ch. 8 , Rav Yaakov Emden (on Pirkei Avot 4:13), Rav Aharon Soloveichik ( โ€œLogic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind pages 139, 151) and Rav Nahum Rabinovich, and Rav Lichtenstein in the name of Rav Joseph Soloveichik (Laws of Medical Treatment on Shabbat by Rabbi Dov Karrol, who all say that gentiles who have an orderly society are considered gerim toshavim. RAS adds that the mitzva of ืงื™ื“ื•ืฉ ื”ืฉื only applies where there is an ethical imperative to so act (ืงื“ืฉ ืขืฆืžืš ื‘ืžื•ืชืจ ืœืš) – we do many things despite the fact that the other nations dislike them.

    Avi K

    See also Megilla 13a that anyone who denies a”z is called a Yehudi.


    Even if they are atheists?!

    Lilmod Ulelamaid

    There is a halachic chiyuv of tochacha in certain circumstances, as pointed out above by Yekke (and maybe others), but how to do it is not necessarily so simple, and one has to really think carefully and evaluate the situation and the best way to deal with it. (and maybe ask a sheilah).

    Giving tochacha the wrong way can be an aveirah and may be worse than not giving it.

    (Frum?) Jews rarely shoplift, so the two things I would want to figure out are: 1. Who is this person, and 2.Why he is shoplifting?

    Are we talking about someone with psychological problems, a kid-at-risk, a hardened criminal, a desperately poor person or a kid giving in to peer pressure? Is he a child, a teenager, or an adult? Do you personally know the person?

    I think that how one deals with it would depend a lot on the answer to those questions.


    Is tochacha the same thing as stopping someone mid action?

    Avi K

    Yekke, I already asked a rav that question. He did not have an answer. However, I contend that someone who does not believe in ethical monotheism has no inherent limits to what he will do. In fact, the most destructive war in history was started by two atheists, Hitler and Stalin ym”s. interestingly, a recent study published in Nature Human Behaviour shows that even most atheists consider atheists to be immoral (although it would seem to be that “amoral” would be more accurate.


    RebYidd23 – There is a chiyuv to rebuke at all times, before, during and after the sin.

    Where the source of the obligation to prevent a sin taking place comes from is a matter of debate in the Achronim. Many say the source is ื”ื•ื›ื— ืชื•ื›ื™ื—.

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