If a non-Jew gave you equipment to use for a job, after the job is complete, is not returning the equipment considered theft or simply not returning a lost item?

After the fact, is returning it forbidden, as typically returning lost objects to non-Jews is forbidden (assuming they’ve despaired of ever getting it back)?

  • 2
    How would this be considered a lost item? Jul 30, 2019 at 20:52
  • Why would returning it be forbidden. If you let your friend know that you forgot to return it earlier, I’m sure he’ll be fine. After all, he let you borrow it and it’s not your fault you forgot, though responsibility is key.
    – Turk Hill
    Jul 30, 2019 at 21:08
  • Typically, not returning borrowed equipment is a desecration of G-d's name and severely prohibited. (Likewise, one is obligated to sanctify G-d's name with regard to lost objects as well.)
    – Loewian
    Jul 30, 2019 at 21:46
  • 1
    True, you addressed the second question, but not the more important first question (and IMO without explaining why this might possibly be considered a lost object, the question would basically be 'Can one steal from non-Jews?', to which the answer is a resounding no). Jul 30, 2019 at 22:00
  • I don't see that your updates clarified anything. It's a given that equipment used in the office for job purposes is never under your ownership. If you take it, you stole it. Doesn't matter if the owner is Jewish or Gentile.
    – DanF
    Jul 30, 2019 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


In your case of a non-Jew giving someone equipment for a job, that equipment was always the property of the non-Jew. It was never lost. Keeping it against the owner's will is theft.

The fact that the owner is a non-Jew doesn't make it any less of a theft. It is true that the gemara in Sanhedrin and the Rishonim discuss whether one should return an item lost by an idolater but (1) modern non-Jews might not be the same idolaters, (2) it is forbidden to keep such an object if it would create a chilul Hashem and (3) it is explicitly permitted to return it if it creates a kidush Hashem. See here on MY for more details.

In any case, your case is not one of a lost object. And regarding robbery from non-Jews the Rambam writes (MT Gezelah v'Avedah 1:2)

It is forbidden to rob even the slightest amount. It is forbidden even to rob or to withhold money from a gentile who worships idols. If one robs or withholds money from such a person, one must return it.


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