The laws of the prohibition against theft and deceit. The laws of giving property to be watched for, returning lost objects and paying a worker on time.
1. One has to be very careful not to deceive others. All types of financial deceit are strictly forbidden by the Torah. Even keeping incorrect weights in one’s possession is forbidden. It is prohibited to change the way an object looks in order to create a false impression about its worth. For example, an old vessel for sale can not be colored so that it looks like new. A salesman is not allowed to put the best fruits on top of a basket and the worst ones on the bottom to make it look like the entire basket has only good fruits. It is forbidden to significantly raise prices as compared to what is charged for the same object in other stores. Certainly, if the company that made the object sets a price, one is not allowed to sell it for a higher price. Moreover, if soon after purchasing the buyer found out that he was overcharged he can sometimes return the object back. It is forbidden to create an impression that you want to buy something if in truth this is not so.
2. Just as the salesman can not deceive the customer, so to the buyer can not deceive the salesman. Moreover, he can not even take an advantage of the lack of knowledge of the store owner. For example, if the salesman thinks that an object is made of bronze whereas in reality it is golden, the buyer can not use the opportunity and buy it for a cheap price.
3. If some people agreed about a financial deal and decided on the price, they should keep their word. Similarly, if one promises to give an inexpensive gift to a rich person he should not change his mind. However, if he promised to make a large gift and is now having regrets, he may go back on his promise since the person he promised did not rely on him fully. On the other hand any promise to give a gift to a poor man has to be kept since supporting poor is a mitzvah and therefore a promise is tantamount to an oath.
4. It is forbidden to steel from any person. Even if one is planning to give the object back or he is taking someone’s things for fun it is still forbidden – any taking without asking is considered a theft. Moreover, the Torah prohibits us from even desiring other people’s property. The one who stole somebody else’s things has to return them. However if this is impossible, for example the stolen object was used up or disappeared, then the thief has to return back the cost of what he stole. The one who stole from many people and does not know who he stole from and how to return it should ask a Rabbi. It is forbidden to buy anything from professional thieves since most of what they sell was stolen from others.
5. The one who borrowed something from a friend is not allowed to give it to others without permission from the owner. Similarly, the one who was given property to watch can not give it over to somebody else. He himself is also not allowed to use what was given even if these objects do not become worse after usage.
6. The one hired to watch another person’s property should do so in the manner that such property is normally watched for. This is true even if he is usually lax when guarding his own property.
7. When time comes to return the borrowed item one is not allowed to simply drop it in the lender’s home or send it with someone else. He has to bring it to the lender and give it to him or his wife.
8. The Torah commands us to give loans to other Jews. If after the time of payment arrived, the borrower has no money or property, we are not allowed to simply keep bothering him and upsetting him by demanding back the money. Even if a rich man needs to borrow money, it’s a mitzvah to lend to him. The lending should be done in front of two witnesses and it is preferable to write a document which proves the loan. Sometimes the lender receives a collateral, in such a case he has to watch it as we mentioned regarding things given to be watched.
9. The Torah commands us to return an object lost by another Jew. (In some cases it may be a mitzvah to return an object even to a non-Jewish owner since it causes “Kiddush Hashem” – sanctification of the Divine Name. Moreover, in many countries the law requires returning the lost objects back to their owners, so if one found an object belonging to a non-Jew or in a non-Jewish neighborhood, he should consult a Rabbi.) The one who sees a lost object lying on the street in a Jewish neighborhood is not allowed to pass by but has to take it and watch it until he finds the owner. Usually advertises are placed in local synagogues and Jewish newspapers to locate the owner. Some communities have a special telephone number for lost and found. In any case, one who found a lost object should discuss with a Rabbi what to do next.
10. The Torah commands us to pay a Jewish worker on time. This law also applies to paying the rent for apartment or any borrowed object or animal. The one who does not pay on time is breaking a number of prohibitions and is considered to be taken away the life of the worker as it says: “his life depends on the payment”. Stories are told about a number of righteous people (Arizal, Chofetz Chaim), who were seen running on the street in order to make a payment on time.
11. When is the time for payment? If the work is finished during the day one has to pay before sundown. If the work was finished at night, one has to pay before daylight.
12. The one who left his articles to be fixed or clothes to be laundered even if he knows that the job was done, he is not required to pay until he picks his things up. He has to make the payment on the day when he will take back his articles.