Many people own various mitzvah items that they do not use. It could be a Kiddush cup, tallit, and notably, tefillin.

I know that ideally, someone should convince (force?) them to perform the mitzvah and use these items. But, let's say it becomes obvious that the person can't be convinced after numerous attempts.

Let's say there is a person who you know would perform the mitzvah but can't afford to obtain the mitzvah item. Halachically, can someone coerce the owner to donate his item? By "coerce" I don't mean threaten but strongly pressure that person until he is willing to donate it?

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    Bill Gates has billions of dollars that he doesn't use. Can I reappropriate to someone who wants it? – Double AA Apr 30 '18 at 15:25
  • Wait a sec! Who said anything about stealing? I put in with owner's consent. It's that someone may force / coerce the owner to do this. – DanF Apr 30 '18 at 15:27
  • @Dan F I don't recall the sources quoted, but I clearly remember a story told by R' Yitzchak Zilberstein of Bnei Brak of some students who were fundraising for their Yeshivah. The Solicitee agreed to donate a certain amount, after which the students began pressuring him to raise his donation. The donor wrote out a check for an extremely large sum and signed it in English with the name George Washington. (The students being Israeli did not take note of this). When the check bounced they came back to the donor to demand the sum written on the check- (Continued in following comment) – RibbisRabbiAndMore Apr 30 '18 at 16:02
  • (Continuation) He refused to give them the money. They went to R' Yizchack Zilberstein who justified the act of the donor by citing a source (I believe it was from the Gemara) saying that it was a sin to pressure someone into giving more than he wants to give. If in your question, by "coerce" you meant convince by putting pressure, and surely with use of force I believe that this issue might be relevant. – RibbisRabbiAndMore Apr 30 '18 at 16:07
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    @DanF I've been to synagogues that have library boxes and other collection areas for people to donate or take things they might need/not still need. – Gary Apr 30 '18 at 18:51

There is a concept in Halacha called כופים על מידת סדום - one can force somebody not to behave like they did in Sedom.

This means if you have nothing to gain or lose from letting me do something, then we can force you to approve.

But I cannot force you to give me your possesions, since you are losing out - you now own less.

Even if I know for a fact that you never use an item, never have and never will, and you hide it in a bottom drawer so as to never see it, I cannot force you to hand it over.

Even forcing you to sell it to me is called חמס - and besides for giving over money is considered stealing in halacha.
(See Rashi in Kidushin 13a: גזל. דלא יהיב דמי: חמסן. דיהיב דמי אבל לא נתרצו בעלים מעולם למכור‏)

In this case, it's worse: If I request this uninterested party to donate his unused Tefilin then I am making 100% sure he will never don them again. Even if he one day decides to do so he no longer has them handy.

I see no halachic justification for that - you're creating a stumbling block; ensuring he'll never wear Tefilin again.

  • Thanks. This answers the general scenario, and certainly my question. It seems that I may have to edit my question to make it more general. – DanF May 1 '18 at 13:36
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    Further, there are very limited cases in which we apply כופין על מדת סדום. Just because it’s זה נהנה וזה לא חסר doesn’t mean that we can force him to give his stuff. – DonielF May 1 '18 at 17:50

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