The Prohibition of Stealing when Stealing is Required to Save a Life

  1. The Maharsha wrote (Chidushei Agados, Kesubos 67a) that
    many in his generation gathered their wealth in ways that involved breach of
    faith and profaning the Name of G-d, as by stealing from gentiles. Then they
    would take that money and make charitable donations so that they will be
    honored by the community. This, the Maharsha writes, is a mitzvah that comes
    by way of an avera (sin).

  2. The Beir HaGolah writes that money acquired by deceiving a
    gentile should be returned, and adds that he has seen many who got rich by
    stealing and by deceiving gentiles who failed in the end and lost all their
    money. Those who conducted themselves in an upright way, returning money to
    gentiles if it was paid by mistake, became prominent and wealthy, and were
    able to leave the remainder of their fortune to their children.

  3. Even a person who is in danger of dying and has to take
    money from someone to save himself shouldn’t take it unless he has the
    intention to pay it back when he is able to. Even though it is permitted to
    violate all but the most severe averos in the Torah in order to save a
    life, since it is possible to repay the money that was taken, it is forbidden
    to save one’s life by taking money without permission with the intention of
    never returning it.

  4. Except when life is at stake, it is forbidden to take money
    without permission even with the intention of returning more than was taken,
    even to heal a disease which is not life threatening, or to avoid suffering
    which is not life threatening, because stealing is a Torah prohibition, and we
    are allowed, when there is no danger to life, to violate only rabbinical
    prohibitions for the sake of healing.

  5. It is forbidden for a woman to take something from her
    husband without permission, even for the purposes of charity. For this reason,
    it is not permissible for a person who collects charity to accept a large
    donation from a woman unless he knows that her husband agrees. He cannot
    accept even a small donation from her if her husband objects. Similarly, it is
    forbidden to buy something from a woman if there is any suspicion that her
    husband doesn’t know that she is selling it. Similarly, if a man offers the
    jewelry and clothing of his wife for sale, it is forbidden to buy them unless
    it is clear that he is selling them with her consent. And it is forbidden for
    a son to take something of his fathers, or a father to take something from his
    son—if his son is on his own—if they would object. Children may try—incorrectly—to
    assuage their conscience by telling themselves that they will inherit their
    father, and that eventually everything will belong to them. Of a child who
    takes from his parents without permission, Shlomo Hamelech writes “He who
    steals from his father and mother and says there is no sin, he is a companion
    to a destructive person.” Mishlei 28:29).

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