I recently saw a flyer that quoted from R' Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita as saying that if one find a smartphone that is not "kosher" there is no mitzvah obligation to return it. Is this in fact the halacha; meaning if one finds an object that is "assur" or would cause the owner to sin (pornography) does the finder have an obligation to return it to the owner and judge the owner favorably that he has some sort of heter to own it? Or, would this be considered placing a stumbling block before a blind person?

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    What is an "aveirah item"? – Double AA Oct 31 '12 at 14:57
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    @CharlesKoppelman תלמוד בבלי פסחים דף ו עמוד ב אמר רבי אלעזר: שני דברים אינן ברשותו של אדם ועשאן הכתוב כאילו ברשותו, ואלו הן: בור ברשות הרבים, וחמץ משש שעות ולמעלה. – Double AA Oct 31 '12 at 15:38
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    @DoubleAA it's a term I made up! I'm trying to describe items that are used to sin (pornography, smartphone according to some) – user1668 Oct 31 '12 at 15:45
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    @PM Do you include a hammer? You could use it to kill someone. Do you only go by rov use of the object? Miut hamatzui? Is it only for chayvei mittah? What about non-kosher dog food which is theoretically edible for humans too? What about stam not-kosher meat which is theoretically dog food too? What about a rock? After all you could carry it in a reshut harabbim on Shabbat. What about a car? – Double AA Oct 31 '12 at 15:53
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    @DoubleAA, I think the point is that, fundamentally, R' Kanievsky was apparently Paskening that a lost smartphone doesn't have a Din of an Aveidah. PM is asking if this is a wider Halachic principle. – Seth J Oct 31 '12 at 17:03

The Rambam (Aveidah 11:13, also see Choshen Mishpat 263:1) writes:

"The following rule applies when a person finds a sack or a large basket. If he is a sage or a respected elder, who would not usually carry such articles himself, he is not obligated to concern himself with them.

"He should judge his status in the following way. If the article were his own and he would return it, so too, is he obligated to return an article belonging to a colleague. If, however, he would not forgo his honor even if the article were his own, he is not obligated to return a similar article belonging to a colleague."

So if one believes it is embarrassing to carry an iPhone, then one would not be required to return such an item.

In Choshen Mishpat 65:8, the Sefer Me'irat Enayim writes that if one finds a shtar in the street which includes interest, one does not return it, rather one rips it up. He quotes the Teshuvos Maimoniyos Mishpatim 59 that even if it means a loss to the person, still the shtar should be ripped up. So here we see a case of a "davar issur" and not only does one not return it, but he should destroy it.

Also, in the sefer Mishpat Ha-Aveidah (259, p24, in the footnotes, http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20420&st=&pgnum=37&hilite=) he considers a case of finding immodest clothing (which should be sold to non-Jews and the money returned to the Jew), forbidden images of constellations (which should be broken first then the broken pieces returned), and a forbidden children's doll (which can be returned whole since some authorities permit it anyway).

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    I don't think this was the question. It asked if returning an 'aveirah object' (whatever that is) would be a problem of lifnei iver or not? Presumably the only issue involved is lifnei iver, not one's own kavod. – Double AA Oct 31 '12 at 15:06
  • Are you the regular user named Curiouser? – Double AA Oct 31 '12 at 15:07
  • @DoubleAA is correct regarding the intent of the question – user1668 Oct 31 '12 at 15:12
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    @DoubleAA, one's Kavod might be a separate aspect not covered in the question. Maybe the question is flawed in assuming only Lifnei 'Iver is a concern. – Seth J Oct 31 '12 at 17:05

Hashavat Aveida, and indeed all mitzvot that are between man and his fellow man, is only applicable where the subject would benefit.

In a case where returning an object would harm the person more than benefiting him, there is no mitzva. Perhaps this is the rationale behind R. Chaim Kanievsky's ruling.

For example, if storage costs charged to the owner would outweigh the item's value, the finder should sell the item and hold the money until it can be returned. Another example (no source for this but using common sense), there would be no mitzva to return a bottle of liquor to an alcoholic, or a pack of cigarettes to a smoker, certainly if they were trying to kick the habit.

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    can you source any of this? – user1668 Nov 1 '12 at 21:03
  • See B"M 90a: no mitzva of Chasima where it would harm the animal, and see Tosfoth Rosh there, that it is common sense that the mitzva of the chasima is only where it benefits the animal. – Barry Jul 10 '13 at 14:54
  • Why are you not obligated to at least sell the phone/liquor/cigarettes, and give him the money? – hazoriz May 13 '16 at 15:09

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