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Forgotten money/Returning theft

(1) I work in a store and someone took out money from an envelope to pay, and he forgot the envelope with the money in the store. The envelope is blank, without any name or number. Am I permitted to take the money? The person does not live in the area

(2) I took merchandise frome the store without paying, and I don’t know how much I owe the store. I also took money from the register, and I feel terrible about it, and want to repent. How can I repay, and how much do I have to pay in order to get out of being a gazlan or a ganav?

(3) I asked you yesterday about copying a highschool diploma. I asked a shayla before, and a dayan said I could do it, and I did it, and my wife got the job. Now I still feel terrible about it, but the school will not budge, and claim that they need the money to release the diplomas. What should I do? I’m in very big debt, and I need my wife’s income.

Answer:

1) Because the money was placed on the counter, and forgotten, the amount would be considered a siman. Therefore, if this is possible, you should place a notice up declaring that a sum of money was mistakenly left behind in the store. If somebody should come looking for his money, and tell you that he left the money in an envelope, and how much money there was, you should return it to him. If nobody shows up for a number of days, you can take the money for yourself. However, you should write down the amount you have taken for safekeeping, and should the owner even demand it (based on simanim), you would have to return it.

2) This is a true case of theft, and you have to return enought money until you are certain that the amount you have returned covers the amount you stole. This applies both to the money taken from the register, and to the stolen goods. Beware not to repeat the offense, and know that Hashem will provide you with your needs if you place your trust in Him, and make the (permitted!) hishtadlus you need to make.  

3) Post factum, there is no problem in your wife retaining her job, and continuing to work.

Sources: See Pischei Choshen, chap 4, no. 20. The forgotten money is derech hinuach, and therefore the obligation of returning the lost money is immediately incumbent on the finder, before yi’ush takes effect. However, after a number of days, when it is becomes fairly clear that the owner is not coming back, the money can be taken for the finder, provided he writes down the amount he has taken, and is prepared to return it to the owner, should the owner ever show up.

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