Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stealing from an Idolater

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The Gemora (Kiddushin 63) proves that Rabbi Meir holds a man may sell something that is not yet in existence from the following braisa: If a man said to a woman, “You shall be betrothed to me after I convert,” or “After you shall convert,” or “After I shall have been set free from slavery,” or “After you have been set free,” or “After your husband dies,” or “After your sister (my wife) dies,” or “After your yavam has submitted to chalitzah from you,” she, Rabbi Meir ruled, is legally betrothed! [The kiddushin is effective when the respective conditions are fulfilled, though at the time of the betrothal they were still unfulfilled; this indicates that an act that involves something that is not yet in existence is nevertheless, valid.]

The Acharonim ask: The Gemora in Bava Kamma (70b) explains that the acquisition using money (kinyan kesef) functions in the following way: When the seller receives the money, he becomes obligated to give the item being exchanged with the money. Now according to those that hold that it is permitted to steal from a gentile, how can the idolater betroth this woman with money after he converts? The woman is not obligated to return the money, and if she will lose the money, she would not be required to compensate him! If so, where is the kinyan?

Reb Shimon Shkop answers based upon the opinion of the Yereim, who says that even according to those that hold that it is permitted to steal from a gentile, one cannot fulfill his mitzvah with an esrog that he stole from a gentile. This is because it is not regarded as “his,” for the Torah did not render their money ownerless that anyone has the right to possess their money. “Stealing from an idolater is permitted” means that there is no prohibition against keeping that which was stolen from them. However, since it does not belong to the Jew, he still has an obligation to return it to its rightful owner, and he would be liable to compensate the gentile if he would lose it. Accordingly, the kinyan of money would still apply to an idolater.