A minor who steals must return what he has stolen if it
still exists. If it does not, some say he is obligated to compensate the owner
even after he comes of age; some say he is exempt.
It is fitting for the court to give stripes to a minor
(according to his physical condition) who steals, so that he will not become
accustomed to steal. Similarly, a father should punish a child who steals. He
should consult with a qualified educator to assure that his punishment will be
effective and not incite him to rebellion.
A person who has stolen from the public and does not know
to whom to return what he has stolen should make a contribution to the public
welfare. For then the people from whom he stole will also benefit, and G-d
will make sure that all those from whom he stole will benefit according to the
measure of their loss, and will forgive him. When a person makes an effort to
purify himself, G-d helps him. Nevertheless, the court cannot force a person
to make a contribution to the public welfare, because it is not a complete act
of returning stolen property. Nevertheless, if a person who has stolen asks
how to do teshuvah, he should be told to make a contribution to the public
When a person who stole makes a contribution to the public
welfare, he should not do it in a manner that wins him honor and respect, such
as distributing charity in a public way.
A person who steals something is called a tzaddik from the
moment he decides to return it.
Even if a person has returned what he has stolen, his sin is not forgiven
until he appeases the person he stole from and asks forgiveness. And, he also
has to ask G-d to forgive him—he has to do teshuvah for stealing, for whenever a
person sins against his fellow man, he also sins against G-d.