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This past Erev Succos I arrived at a local synagogue that had a fellow selling Lulavim and Esrogim in their Simcha hall. The fellow left three Esrogim (not in the greatest condition - yet Kosher) on the Synagogue porch without any sign or information as to their ownership. They were left in such a way that they seemed to be Hefker. I even overheard a few people saying "I guess these are the leftover Esrogim and the guy selling them left them for anyone to take".

After Succos a sign appeared on the bulletin board "Whoever took the three Esrogim from the porch on Erev Succos please call ..... to arrange payment".

I do not know who took them and if they were used for the Mitzva of Lulav / Esrog or perhaps hung as a decoration in a Succah. Suppose they were used for the Mitzva - how does one determine whether an item is / was Hefker? Does the fact that a seller put up a sign demanding payment reverse the Hefker status of an item?

A stolen Esrog may not be used for the Mitzva

  • Try ShA CM 260-261 – Double AA Nov 4 '16 at 14:49
  • Lichora makom sheharabbim metsuyim sham is one of the elements secondo the fact that they was knowing that the esrogs in bet knesset and don't take it is a siman that they did not want to sell them. "Whoever took the three Esrogim from the porch on Erev Succos please call ..... to arrange payment". seems to be more humoristic than serious – kouty Nov 5 '16 at 18:47
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    I don't think Hefker status can ever be reversed except by a kinyan. – Rafael Oct 2 '17 at 18:49
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We will try to understand the cases through cases described in Gemara, to examin the similarities and the dissimilarities. The OP says:

They were left in such a way that they seemed to be Hefker. I even overheard a few people saying "I guess these are the leftover Esrogim and the guy selling them left them for anyone to take".

In Baba Metsia the Mishna said:

מצא פירות מפוזרין מעות מפוזרות... הרי אלו שלו

If he found scattered fruits (on the ground) they belong to him.

Gemara concludes:

א''ר עוקבא בר חמא במכנשתא דבי דרי עסקינן קב בארבע אמות דנפיש טרחייהו לא טרח איניש ולא הדר אתי ושקיל להו אפקורי מפקר להו

There are fruits abandoned on the spot. The owners is not going to bother to pick them up. Gemara discussed for the value, quantity, size and concentration of fruits. The purpose is to evaluate if the effort is worthwhile. If it is the case, the owner will come back. We have a goods, it can be grain (generally when the mishna says "perot", this is wheat), of any kind of good. The circumstances suggest that a small amount of the goods was abandoned.

Here in our case the owners were aware that some esrogs leftover there. But despite this, they have not bothered to come back to take them. The place is not a secure place. Thus, the owner left them intentionally and this is called "Aveda midaat" (an intentional loss) as one who junk a seal in a non secure place. They innocently testimonied that esrogs were intentionally abandoned. They cannot come after the Holiday and expect payment. Maximum they can take the esrogs if they are still here. But even this is no more their property. Why a synagogue is not a secure place? This is a public place and non-Jewish persons often are cleaning up the spill. Children can damage the Esrogim. and to leave even not intentionally a valuable object in such a place maybe automatically considered as yeush. Gemara told about bate knesiot and makom she akum metsuyim.

Thus we have strong reasons to validate the mitsva without paying.

See SA CM 260, 7. and 261, 4

  • Here in our case the owners did know and didn't come back. So it is Hefker because Aveda midaat What does that mean? Consider dejargonfying. || Additionally a synagogue is a public place and to leave intentionally a valuable object in such a place maybe Aveda midaat Isn't a makhnashta d've dari a public place as well? Why is this different? Consider substantiating your claims with sources, and translating the relevant terms. – mevaqesh Nov 6 '16 at 4:34
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Many monetary arguments are a matter of a mere misunderstanding. The rule is always "המוציא מחברו עליו הראייה".

The presumption holds that whatever people possess they possess rightfully. Therefore the seller must prove his point, namely that the Esrogim were left intentionally and there was a note or a person that would ensure that people don't confuse then with Hefker, and not the taker.

Until then the taker had fulfilled the Mitzvah of Esrog.

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