Stealing Money, Returning it and Mechilla
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler
In my high school days, I and a friend stole approx $300 between us from someone in my class. I was 16 years old and stupid. She was rich and I was poor.
I have wanted to give it back all this time.
This was 5 years ago. I really want to give it all back, and I want to get mechilla, but am too embarrassed to tell the girl it was me.
I have been saving up money to return what we stole, and have just about enough at this time.
1. How can I return it to her and get mechila without telling her it was me?
2. Do I return my half $150 or the whole amount $300 (It was my fault we both stole)
3. Do I have to send her some interest on the money?
Please help if you can.
Dear Jemsem Reader,
Thank you for your questions. I’m glad to be of assistance in helping you take care of this problem.
Rav Moshe Feinstein OB”M discusses these exact issues in his reponsa in Iggros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat Vol. 1, Chapter 88. It is not necessary that your friend know that it was you who stole it, but it is necessary that you know that the money reached her. Consequently, you could send the cash anonymously via certified mail, or you can leave it in her mailbox in a manner that you are certain that she’ll get it when she checks for her mail. An anonymous note should be included requesting Mechilah, and even though you don’t hear from her mouth the she forgives you, you may assume that she does.
The reason you aren’t obligated to identify yourself and ask her for Mechila directly is because of Takanas HaShavim, our Chaza”l wanted to make it easier for people to do Teshuva for their misdeeds.
You are responsible to make sure that she gets the entire amount back. If your friend is unwilling to pay her half, then you should return the entire $300.
It is forbidden by the Torah to return the money with interest.
I hope that this is helpful for you. May you be rewarded in the merit of this Teshuvah with much wealth and happiness.
Rabbi Aaron Tendler