Why is it forbidden to return lost property to a non-Jew?

Its been a while since I learnt the discussion about hashovas aveido (returning lost property) in Baba Metzia; but I just learnt Sanhedrin 76b where it says it is a sin, and cites a verse (Deuteronomy 29:19) to say "Lo Havei Hashem Sloach Lo" (God won't forgive him), and the Rashi there ("hamachzir aveido l'kuti/goy") which tries to explain it - make no sense to me.

Zogt Rashi: It's a bizui (degradation) to return a lost item to a non-Jew because there's no mitzvo (command; the verses is: "avedas ohicho", the lost property of your brother). But how is this different from Loshon Horo (gossip) which is forbidden to speak about a goy? Isn't it general middos (character traits), chessed (kindness), Kiddush Hashem (for God's greater glory)?

Not required I hear, but forbidden?!

Also see Rambam in Hilkhos G'zelo Va'aveido 11:3, where he makes some allowances where it would cause a big Kiddush Hashem, but base case is still forbidden.

  • 1
    related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/12254/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:06
  • Shkoiach for pointing this out @DoubleAA, it is certainly related. Frustratingly though, I don't think it answers why it should be ossur. I think its easier to understand with the girsa of "kuti" than "goy" if you use the principle of not wanting to strengthen their hand.
    – Etzbah
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:21
  • Note that this site is not intended for practical guidance, and a competent halakhist should be consulted.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 17:12
  • But how is this different from Loshon Horo (gossip) which is forbidden to speak about a goy Actually AFAIK there is not particular prohibition of LH against non-Jews.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 18:09
  • 1
    Very important.... The original girsa was almost certainly aku"m. The problem is giving a lawless polytheist more of the world to be lawlessly polytheistic with. In any case, the Smag says that people being "machmir" on this is part of a general lack of fiscal honesty that is preventing the ge'ulah. G-d cannot save us at a time when it would make it look like He doesn't care about honesty. Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 1:35

2 Answers 2


We are not required to treat gentiles better than they treat each other. According to Roman Law a finder obtained ownership of the object. Even now there is a slogan "finders keepers, losers weepers". However, there is a requirement to do a kiddush Hashem and an aveira to do a chillul Hashem (see Yerushalmi Bava Mezia 2:5 in Vilna ed. 8a regarding Shimon ben Shetach and the precious stone and Midrash Tehillim 12 regarding a certain chassid who returned an expensive object to a gentile aristocrat).

Where the gentiles have belief in Gd and the rule of law some hold that here is a no prohibition to return it (Rambam according to Be'er HaGolah CM 266:2, Mammon Yisrael - Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Pinchas Bodner, pg. 153). Where the law requires the object to be returned or given to the lost and found or police there may be a requirement of dina d'malchuta (Rema CM 259:7 and 356:7 but see Shach 356:10; Ketzot 259:3).


This question is good, first, if you look carefully the Rashi, you will realize that the person in question does not accept to distinguish between Samaritan and Jew concerning the Mitsva to return. So, if he returned the Samaritan's lost by extra duty (in a duty free way) there is no problem.

The words of Rashi are :

והמחזיר אבידה לכותי - השווה וחבר כותי לישראל ומראה בעצמו שהשבת אבדה אינה חשובה לו מצות בוראו שאף לכותי הוא עושה כן שלא נצטווה עליהם:‏

He decided to make an equivalency and a bound between Samaritan and Israeli. He clearly shows that he refuses to consider "Hashavat Aveda" as his creator's order. He demonstrates this when he returns the lost of the Samaritan while he has no "Toraic" obligation to return them.

Not required I hear, but forbidden?!

Rambam (see Kessef Mishne for sources) said clearly that if by performing Hashavat Aveda to the Samaritan you will make a kiddush Hashem and avoid a chilul Hashem, then these would be reasons to return it. The reason for the early prohibition is that Tora doesn't regard the money of a gentile as dedicated to a good thing regarding avodat Hashem. They are not fascinated by avodat Hashem.

Not required I hear, but forbidden?!

Here you mean he is exempt from duty, and is forced to stop the instinctual act of returning. Because the mitzvah of hashavat aveda has a rationale beyond simply returning everything to the owner. The general rationale is to help him to continue to serve his master (Hashem).

We learn this from our Gemara:

והמחזיר אבידה לכותי עליו הכתוב אומר (דברים כט, יח) למען ספות הרוה את הצמאה לא יאבה ה' סלוח לו

One who returns a lost to a Samaritan, Tora says about him "to add drunkenness to thirst"


רוה - עובדי כוכבים ששבעים ואינן צמאין ליוצרם צמאה זו כנסת ישראל שצמאה ותאיבה ליראת יוצרה ולקיים מצותיו: ‏

Idolaters have more than enough of their creator. Jewish people is called thirsty, because it is thirsty and willing. Id est to maintain a relationship with Hashem, based on fear, and to obey his orders.

The act is the same than the act of mitsva but the spiritual background is not the same.

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    Thanks. I think you are saying: You can return items as long as: (1) You are conscious you have no commandment to do so; or (2) It would cause a KH or avoid a CH.
    – Etzbah
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 13:54

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