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There are lots of charity boxes from different organisations put out on a table in the foyer of our synagogue on Purim.

The wardens have attached a note that says that boxes not taken away by the end of Shushan Purim will be emptied, the contents given to the shul and the boxes disposed of.

Is this (a) in the spirit of Judaism (b) within the laws of Judaism?

While I understand that anyone can make conditions to the entry and free use of space in a building, could it be that to appropriate charity funds intended for one receiver is prohibited (or at least slightly in the spirit of Sodom) even under such conditions?

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  • 2
    Can't all the givers see the signs? They know what they're getting into.
    – Double AA
    Feb 24, 2013 at 13:34
  • Hefker B"D Hefker.
    – Seth J
    Feb 25, 2013 at 12:35
  • Building on @DoubleAA's question, I'd say that the synagogue's position is strongest if the note has been up since before the boxes were placed and if the note is prominent enough that anyone who has since placed or donated to one of these boxes could be reasonably expected to have seen it.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 25, 2013 at 16:26
  • @IsaacMoses I agree mei'ikkar hadin. But don't you find it a bit reminiscent of Sodom? Feb 25, 2013 at 20:22
  • @AvrohomYitzchok, I'm just trying to point out circumstances that may be relevant to the question. Is the intent of the question to ask or to advocate?
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 25, 2013 at 20:28

1 Answer 1

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It appears to me the laws of asheivat aveida (returning lost objects) would apply here. The money left in the charity boxes is like money found in your property. In this case it has a siman (distinguishing feature) in that you know to whom the money belongs (the organization marked on the charity box).

In a case like this, the one who finds the money must inform the organization that it should pick up its money (and he doesn't have an obligation to spend money/time to bring the money to the organization). In the meantime, the money should be safely kept aside until the organization comes to pick it up.

For fungible items (like money), one is permitted to use them if the owner doesn't come back for them, with the condition one will replace them when the owner comes. In your practical example, after a reasonable waiting period (a month?), the synagogue could use this money for its own needs as long as it has money set aside when the owner comes back to claim it.

It is possible however to change how the "default law" through public posting of a lost-and-found policy (or in this case a "Purim charity box policy". To quote R Yisroel Pinchos Bodner (Halachos of other people's money, ch. 185)

Any institution or individual catering to the public (e.g., yeshivos, shuls, stores), has a right to make their own lost-and-found policy governing what will be done with items left behind on their property. The owner of a property can require that people who enter do so on the condition that anything they leave behind may be disposed of according to the way the owner says it will be disposed of.

In order for the policy to take effect the institution must display it prominently for all to see (e.g., a notice on the bulletin board). For example, the institution may introduce a policy stating that anything left behind on their facilities will be placed in a lost-and-found room (or cabinet), and disposed of after a specified time (e.g., the end of every semester, etc.).

So it appears to me the behavior you describe is halachically permitted, although it would be wise for the synagogue to allow the charity organization to claim its money even beyond the time mentioned on the policy.

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