Suppose Reuven steals a rare picture of Shimon's great grandfather from Shimon. Reuven then disposes of the picture and later wants to (or is caught, and therefore needs to) return the money to Shimon.

Now, technically speaking the picture is probably worth a trivial amount. After all it's merely ink on paper. Similarly, there's virtually no market value as no one would quite be interested in a picture of a random person.

However, for Shimon that picture held a tremendous amount of value. After all, it was the sole remaining copy of his grandfather's photo, and there is simply no way for him to ever get it back now. Or what we would call, "Sentimental Value."

Of course, I simply chose the case to be that of stealing, but an equal question would probably exist in the case of damages as well.

So my question is, is there any provision in halacha that accounts for such value?

  • Interesting. The picture itself is worth 10¢, meanwhile Shimon wouldn't sell the picture for less than $100. If the picture were to get destroyed, would Reuven have to pay the double fine of 20¢ or $200? No basis for me saying this, but I'm inclined to think that the value of the object is whatever the person who owned it attributed to it.
    – A L
    Aug 30, 2013 at 1:35
  • 2
    Off the top of my head, no. But no source (as of now) Aug 30, 2013 at 2:01
  • Anyone could attach sentimental value to anything... Aug 30, 2013 at 15:05
  • @HachamGabriel True. So my question can apply to anything as well.
    – yydl
    Aug 30, 2013 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


R. Asher Weiss addresses this question in his responsa Minchat Asher (siman 111, p. 378). Here is my paraphrase:

A person may have an item which is worth a great deal to him for sentimental reasons, such as an object that he inherited from his ancestors, or a picture of his parents or a family album, even though these items have no value on the market, they are a treasure to their owners--does one who damages such an object have to pay, and how much?

It seems obvious that according to the letter of the law, one doesn't have to pay--not because of what the Netivot ha-Mishpat (siman 148) says [that one is not obligated for damaging something which has no value to be sold] because we have already explained that the halakha does not follow the Netivot. But rather for a different reason, because in these cases there is no monetary value, but only sentimental value which cannot be repaid, and in accordance with monetary laws he can only receive the value of a piece of paper. However, it seems to me that since it is clear as day that these objects are more precious than gold, a beit din should use its authority to fix this wrong and obligate the damager in a reasonable sum.

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