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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 53 - Gone in the Hilton - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Fellow Weekly - Issue 53

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table.

Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals. To join this mailing list, please send an email to with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 154: Gone in the Hilton!

Mr. Nate Reiss, President of Bernay's Investment Firm arrived in Newark on Monday morning on USAir flight 1251 from Chicago O'Hare. Scheduled to speak on investment management and responsibility at the Hilton East Brunswick Hotel & Executive Meeting Center at 1 pm. Reiss hailed a black limousine to take him directly to the hotel.

En route to East Brunswick, Reiss notices a black wallet lying on the bar. Curiously, he opens the wallet and finds inside three thousand dollars cash, a South African banking card which had a bank # with no name) as well as a driver’s license belonging to Michael Martins.

Nate was uncomfortable leaving the wallet in the Lincoln. Neither was he so excited about handing it to his chauffeur. Instead, he decided to take the wallet with him and attempt to locate Michael.

Reiss put the wallet in his front pocket.

At 1 PM Reiss began his address. The audience sat spellbound at the edge of their seats. About half way through his talk, the wallet began to annoy him. He removed the wallet from his pocket and laid it down on the lectern.

Reiss finished his speech, fielded questions from the floor and walked out the convention room feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Fifteen minutes passed when suddenly he broke out into a cold sweat. "The wallet..." "Responsibility, responsibility... His words came back to haunt him.

Reiss immediately ran back to the convention room. However, the wallet was gone...

The President of Berney's now lost Martin's wallet, cash, banking card, and driver's license.

Found in the Lincoln...Gone in the Hilton!

Does Reiss have any liabilities towards Martin?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at

Read next week's issue for the answer!


CASE 153: Shipwrecked ... [Based upon a Thousand Year Old True Story]

The beautiful European coastal city was forever a hub of activity and excitement. Especially heartwarming was the highly developed close-knit Jewish community, which provided a host of physical emotional and spiritual services for its members. Most importantly, the community provided its constituents with a feeling of belonging as well as the constant opportunity to share their talents and wherewithal to enhance each other's lives.

Commerce continued to develop nicely as the coastal site provided a host of business opportunities for the local population. Yet, the community's wheel of fortune took an abrupt challenging twist, when a fierce winter storm rocked through the region.

A sizable ship carrying tons of merchandise for export struggled to keep afloat against the raging gales and violent current. Yet it did not take long before the frightening crackling of wood and iron sent a terrifying cry along the shore side, as the natives watched in horror their investments fall into the waters.

Soon thereafter, the storm subsided and the waters returned to their typical peaceful character. The neighboring fishermen jumped at the opportunity to strike it rich and began coordinating an effort to capture the river's recent gain.

Two days later, the local government issued an edict forbidding the sale of the merchandise afloat, whereby encouraging the fishermen to return their catches to their initial owners. The fishermen though would be entitled to a substantial cut proportionate with the amount of merchandise they retrieved.

Ronald Jones ignored government policy and sold a designer pair of diamond studded gold cufflinks to Mr. Rubin, the local butcher. When David Gold, the local jeweler learned of the purchase, he demanded Rubin to return the jewelry to him. Rubin argued that he could have retrieved the jewelry himself before government policy came into effect.

Is Mr. Rubin required to return the diamond studded gold cufflinks to David Gold?

What is the law?

The Answer

We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the detailed explanation below.

Rubin is required to return the diamond studded gold cufflinks to David Gold [See detailed explanation]

Detailed Explanation

Shipwrecked implicates the following three laws.

1. One who loses an article to a lion, bear, and gales of a sea, rush of the river or similar circumstance of almost sure defeat despairs from ever retrieving it. Protesting the contrary is like crying over a collapsed home. As such, consciously or subconsciously the initial owner allows for another party to pick up the article.

2. Nevertheless, one who salvages an article under such conditions of despair which bears unique identifying features whereby traceable by the initial owner is strongly encouraged to follow the route to fulfill the mitzvah and noble route of acting "straight and good" and return the article nonetheless [See issue 51, 52]. Torah courts will even enforce following the noble route when local governments require returning article under such conditions [Choshen Mishpat 259: 5, 7].

3. Similarly, one who purchases goods, which turned out to be stolen is encouraged to act just and good and return the articles to the initial owner although the initial owner despaired. The Torah Court will even enforce such action if local government law requires so. [Choshen Mishpat 356: 7 Sha'ch 10 Ketzos HaChoshen 5].


The raging gales and violent storm created a situation of almost sure defeat. Hence, irrespective of David Gold's claim, he despaired from retrieving his jewelry. Therefore, according to the letter of the law, Jones would be permitted to keep his find and thereby sell it to Mr. Rubin . However, Mr. Rubin must fulfill a Mitzvah to be fair and good and return the cufflinks nonetheless. As local government law required Jones and his subsequent consumers to return the found goods to Gold, the Torah Courts would step in and require Rubin to return the cufflinks to Gold.

[Answered by the Fellow -Yesharim Research Center]

Note: Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

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