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Shevat 5766 – Hashavas Aveida

15 Shevat 5766
Hashavas Aveida

Lichvod HaRav,
I have a question about Hashavas Aveida as it applies to “lost and found”s. If something has been in the lost and found for a long time, can it be considered hefker for someone to take for themselves? If so, is there any specific length of time that it needs to be there before it is considered hefker?
Thank you.

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Thank you for your question. If it is something that the Mitzvah of Hashavas Aveidah applies to, i.e. we may not assume that the owner has despaired from ever finding it before you picked it up (Yiyush), a person may not consider the item Hefker and should hold onto it until Eliyahu HaNavi comes and tells them who the rightful owner is. If it is perishable, you may use it, and set aside some money to reimburse the owner when Eliyahu HaNavi comes. If, however, it is something that does not have identifying marks, or even an item that has identifying marks but was lost in an area where the majority of the inhabitants are not Jewish, there is no Mitzvah of Hashavas Aveidah and you may keep it, because the owner surely despaired from finding it before you picked it up.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler