ColosseumIn this aggadic passage, the Jerusalem Talmud stresses the importance of the return of lost objects to their owner. Not only is it the honest thing to do, but it brings honor upon God and His people.

Rabbi Hanina related this story- “Some old Rabbis bought a pile of wheat from some soldiers 30 and found in it a purse full of dinars, and they returned it to them.” The soldiers said, “Blessed be the God of the Jews.”

Abba Oshaya of Tiraya was a laundry-man. Once the queen came to wash in a pool of water and lost her bath clothes. [Abba Oshaya] found them. When she came out, he gave them to her. She said to him, “They are yours. What use have I for them? Of what importance are they to me? I have better ones and I have many more.”

He responded to her, “The Torah decrees that we must return [lost property].” She said, “Blessed be the God of the Jews.”

Rabbi Samuel bar Sursetai went to Rome. The queen lost her necklace and he found it. A proclamation was issued throughout the province that whoever returns it within thirty days will receive such-and-such [as a reward], but [whoever returns it] after thirty days will be beheaded. [Rabbi Samuel] did not return it within the thirty days. After the thirty days he returned it.

She said to him, “Were you not in the province?”

He responded to her, “Yes, [I was here].”

She said to him, “Did you not hear the proclamation?”

He said to her, “Yes, [I heard it].”

She said, to him “What was it?”

He responded to her, “Whoever returns it within thirty days will receive such-and-such, but if after thirty days he will be beheaded.”

She said to him, “Then why did you not return it within the thirty days?”

He said to her, “So that no one may say that I did it because of fear of you; for, [actually, I did it] because of fear of the All-Merciful.”

She said, “Blessed be the God of the Jews.”

29. Trans. S. Berrin and L. H. Schiffman. The translation follows E. S. Rosenthal Lieberman, Yerushalmi Neziqin (Jerusalem- Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1983), pp. 48, 135-6.

30. The translation of this word is uncertain.