«Brit Shalom» – a guide to practical Noahide daily life, brief version

Chapter Seven. Inviolable Status of Possessions (Laws Against Robbery)

You shall not oppress (withhold the wages) of your fellow and you shall not rob. (Leviticus 19:17)

This is a brief version.

To get a full version [hide]1. The money of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own.217

2. When someone robs his fellow of anything, even if only the value of a penny, it is as if he is taking his fellow’s life.218

3. One of the foundations of human society is the inviolable status of another’s possessions.219 From here derives the Torah prohibition against robbery.220

4. Robbery of the public is especially severe since the sin is committed against many people.221

5. The prohibition of robbery concerns taking over the possessions, the body,222 or the land of another person223 against his will.224 The details of this prohibition include:

6. Robbery by violent means: taking money by force, in the light of day, such as when possessions of someone are grabbed out of his hands.225

7. Extortion: such as when someone owes money or property or performance of work and refuses to pay his debt.226

8. Theft: taking someone’s possessions in secret.227

9. It is forbidden to sell flawed merchandise without informing the buyer.228 Similarly, it is forbidden for the seller to cheat concerning the weight or the measurements of his merchandise.229

10. It is forbidden for both seller and buyer to deceive one another.230 Any deception in business is forbidden,231 even when such deception is only verbal in nature.232

11. It is forbidden for someone to threaten another person to sell him something or reduce the suggested price.233

12. Included in the prohibition against robbery is delaying payment of a debt such as wages owed to a laborer at the end of the day that he worked, or delay of payment for a purchase or for rent or any other matter of this kind.234

13. It is forbidden to steal even when there is intention to return what was stolen.235

14. Someone in mortal danger is allowed to save himself by using something owned by someone else, as long as he returns what he used afterwards.236

15. It is permissible for a laborer in a field or an orchard to eat fruit or stalks of grain – that he can hold in his hand – while engaged in their harvest, but he should not gather them into his own private containers. However, when not working for his employer, the above is forbidden.237

16. An employee who does not do his work diligently or does not work during the time for which he is being paid – without the knowledge of his employer – engages in robbery.238 However, if his behavior is consistent with accepted practices in his place of employment, it is permissible since his employer is accepting of such practices.239

17. The prohibition to rob applies to every monetary value, even if it is less than a penny.240

18. All of these prohibitions are nullified if the disadvantaged party forgives the person who caused him financial loss or used his possessions without authorization.241

19. The robbery prohibition applies to violations of laws instituted by a nation with a system of laws regarding financial matters.242

20. The laws and customs of a nation determine fines and punishment in financial matters and, in certain situations, non-enforcement of these laws. Altogether, these penalties or lack of them constitute society’s forgiveness, exempting transgressors from more severe punishment.243

Behavioral Guidelines

21. The robber must return what was taken. If the object that was taken is still in his possession, he returns what was taken. If the object was lost or completely damaged, he gives back the value of the object.244 A robber who wants to completely make up for what was done must appease the person who was robbed.245 It is highly praiseworthy for a victim of robbery to forgive the robber.246

22. It is forbidden not only to purchase a stolen object but also to partner with or assist a thief or a robber in any way.247

23. It someone stole from the public and wants to make restitution, it should be made to the same public entity involved, but if this is not possible then the money stolen should be contributed to another cause that benefits the public.248

24. No one should lust for the money of another.249

25. Slavery is indecent and has no place in the world.250

26. Someone who finds a lost object should seek to find the owner in order to return it to him.251

27. There are many laws Jews must follow concerning loaning with interest, and it shows great piety for a Noahide to adhere to said laws252 – especially where the poor are involved.253 Regarding governmental institutions and banks, however, such piety should not be pursued since their healthy operation is required for maintaining the economy.

28. No one should possess inaccurate commercial scales or other measuring devices even if they are not in use.254


216 Bavli Shabbat 31a.

217 Mishnah Avot 2:12.

218 Bavli Baba Kamma 119a.

219 See Vayikra Rabba, Chapter 2, Siman 7; Leviticus 1:2, ibid. Rashi, ד”ה אדם

220 Leviticus 19:13.

221 Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 366:2.

222 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:9.

223 Deuteronomy 27:17; see Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 522.

224 Mishneh Torah, Gezeilah Ve’Aveidah 3:15.

225 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:9, Gezeilah Ve’Aveidah 1:3.

226Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim ibid., Gezeilah Ve’Aveidah 1:4; see Yerushalmi Yevamot 8:1.

227 Mishneh Torah, Geneivah 1:3; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 348, Gimmel; see Rokei’ach, Siman 366.

228 Mishneh Torah, Mechirah 12:1.

229 Leviticus 19:35, Rokei’ach 366.

230 Mishnah Baba Metzia 4:11; Mishneh Torah, Mechirah 12:1.

231 Leviticus 25:14; Mishneh Torah, Sales 18:1; see Ramban, Bereishit 34:13; Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Part 6, Siman 14.

232 Mishnah Baba Metzia 4:10; Mishneh Torah, Mechirah 12:1.

233 Mishneh Torah ibid. 10:4-5; see Rokei’ach, 366.

234 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:9.

235 Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 348:1.

236 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:2.

237 See Deuteronomy 23:25; see Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:9.

238 Mishnah Baba Metzia 7:4; see The Path of the Just (Mesillat Yesharim), Chapter 11 דבר ד”ה כללו של

239 Mishnah Baba Metzia 7:1.

240 Mishneh Torah, ibid.

241 Mishneh Torah, Gezeilah Ve’Aveida 1:13.

242 Bavli Baba Kamma 113a. For the definition of medina metukenet (well-run, law abiding country), see laws of the state below.

243 Chelkat Yoav, Second Edition, Yud-Dalet (end).

244 Leviticus 5:23; Eruvin 62a, Tosafot ד”ה בן נוח שסובר שחייב; cf. Rashi ibid. ד”ה לא ניתן; for further details and elaboration, see Sheva Mitzvot HaShem, Part 2, Chapter 2, p. 546

245 Mishneh Torah, Teshuva 2:9.

246 Mishneh Torah, Gezeilah Ve’Aveidah 1:13.

247 Mishneh Torah, ibid. 5:1-2, Theft 5:1; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 356, Aleph; see below Chapter 14, Paragraph 11.

248 Leviticus 5:23; Bavli Baba Kamma, 94b; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 366:2.

249 Deuteronomy 5:18.

250 Igrot (Letters) of Rav Kook, Iggeret 89.

251 Deuteronomy 22:1-3.

252 Leviticus 25:37.