My former employers owe me a significant amount of money. In legal documents, through their lawyer, they have acknowledged they owe me the money. They have also made it clear that they are not going to give it to me. The only way to get the money, at this point, would be if I went to secular court. My wife and I have decided to not do this because it would involve a heavy financial burden which we can’t afford.
In our move to Israel, the moving company accidentally packed mezuzahs which belong to my former employer. they are now sitting in my lift boxes waiting to be.
I had purchased the mezuzahs here in Israel for them before we took the job and was reimbursed two months later. The money they owe me is also in the category of reimbursement money. All of my chaplaincy expenditures were out of pocket and they would reimburse me. At the end of my time, they owed me several hundred pounds of my out of pocket expenses. Like I said, they admit they owe me the money but that they will not be paying.
1) Am I allowed to keep the mezuzahs given I was the one who originally bought them?
As an aside, each month they reimbursed me they never paid the full amount. They always shortchanged me a little here, a little there.
All the best.
This question involves the issue of “tefisa” – a creditor (or other person owed money) taking something belonging to the debtor (or person who owes money) on account of the debt.
In this case, if the value of the Mezuzos is certainly less that the amount you are owed, it is permitted to keep them.
The question of “grabbing” (taking hold of) property for purpose of reclaiming bad debt is discussed extensively by authorities.
Permission to do so, in appropriate circumstances, is found in a number of authorities (see Choshen Mishpat 4; Sema 4:3; see also Gra 15). In the case of the question, because you are already in holding of the Mezuzos, the case is more lenient and you can certainly rely on the permitting Poskim.
A condition for this is that you can prove your case in Beis Din. From the question I understand that this is the case – the documents you have prove the employer’s debt and this will be admissible in Beis Din – so that it is permitted to keep the Mezuzos on account of the debt.