Is there a formal prohibition of stealing time from someone?

For instance, making an appointment and coming late? Or telling someone to come 30 minutes before the start of an event to ensure he will be ontime knowing full well he might have to wait?

Is that part of the laws of theft? Or ethical behavior with one's neighbor? Are there formal sources referring to stealing time?

  • Sforno brings that "stealing someone's mind" (ie, deceiving them, making them believe lies to be truth) is included in the prohibition of Lo Tignov. Did you look in any of the commentaries to Shemot 20:13?
    – ezra
    Jun 4, 2018 at 5:20
  • @ezra I have not but will now although feel free to write an answer when and if you have time. I also wonder how that would apply to non premeditated behavior such as arriving late
    – mbloch
    Jun 4, 2018 at 5:21
  • @ezra The fact that Sforno does not mention stealing time may be proof that it is not included. Jun 4, 2018 at 7:58

1 Answer 1


I have personally heard from Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit"a that the term "גזל זמן" (stealing time) [and גזל שינה - stealing sleep] is a halachic misnomer, because stealing time [or sleep] is not considered theft.

He cited the TOSEFTA (BK 7:3) which says that there are 7 types of theft, and stealing time is not listed there. Also the Sforno in Shmos 20:13 lists kidnapping and theft of money and deceiving as included in the prohibition of "Do not steal". He does not include stealing time [or sleep*].

R' Kanievsky added that these are still forbidden under the laws of ואהבת לריעך כמוך.

*[Regarding disturbing sleep, RCK cited Baba Kama 20b which includes disturbing a neighbor's sleep in the category of נזקי שכנים - damages to neighbors].

  • The evidence from S'forno is also via R'CK?
    – msh210
    Jun 4, 2018 at 15:12
  • @msh210 No, it is mine, based on the same line of thought. Jun 4, 2018 at 21:24
  • Apparently, sleep was something that Hashem allows one to have as a gift. (Don't know where I heard that, offhand.) So, it can't be stolen.
    – DanF
    Jun 4, 2018 at 21:42
  • @DanF Can you please explain that reasoning? If your Grandma gives you a gift for your birthday, and someone steals it, is that not considered theft?? Jun 4, 2018 at 21:49
  • How can you steal from G-d? G-d takes the sleep away from you, and he controls it. It's not a tangible item that you can steal.
    – DanF
    Jun 4, 2018 at 21:57

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