Translation:Shulchan Aruch/Choshen Mishpat/369

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Paragraph 1- One is prohibited from a purchasing a robbed item from a robber. One is prohibited from assisting the robber to change the item so that he acquire it because anyone who does such a thing or something similar strengthens the hands of sinner and violates the negative commandment of, “do not place a stumbling block in front of the blind.” If one purchases movable items from him, it has the same law as one who buys from a thief, which was discussed in Siman 356.

Paragraph 2- One is prohibited from deriving benefit from a robbed item, even after the owner gave up hope. This assumes he knew with certainty that this item was the actual robbed item. How so? If he knew this animal was robbed, he is prohibited from riding on it or plowing with it. If the robber robbed a house or field, one is prohibited from passing through it or entering the property in the summer because of the sun or in the rainy season because of the rain. If he lives there he must pay rent to the owner if it was a property generally rented out. If the robber stole palm trees and made a bridge with them, one is prohibited from crossing the bridge. The same applies to anything similar. If the robber gave it to the public, however, one may derive benefit from it because there is a giving up hope along with a change in possession. If a king cut down trees of a homeowner and made a bridge, however, one is permitted to cross the bridge. Even if the king instructed his servants to cut a set amount from each person and they went and cut everything from one person, he is permitted to cross the bridge. Similarly, if the king destroyed houses and created a path or wall, one is permitted to derive benefit from it. The same applies to anything similar because the instruction of the kings is law, so long as his control spreads to those lands because the people of those lands have in effect agreed that he is their master and they are servants, because otherwise he would just be a strong robber.

Paragraph 3- One is prohibited from deriving benefit from a robber because there is a presumption that his money came via robbery. If a minority of his properties belonged to him, even though most of his money was a result of robbing, one may derive benefit from him unless he knows with certainty that this item in his possession was robbed.

Paragraph 4- One is prohibited from deriving benefit from people who are presumed robbers and all their money is presumed robbed money because their work is that of robbers, such as tax collectors and bandits, because the presumption of such work is robbery. We would not combine dinar from their box because everything is assumed to be robbed. With respect to the what they have in the house or market, but not in the tax-collector’s box, however, that may be combined. Even from his box, if he is required to pay ½ dinar and he only has one dinar, he may give it to him and take the ½ dinar from the collector-box because it is like he is rescuing from the collector’s possession.

Paragraph 5- If tax collectors took one’s garment and replaced it with another, he may keep it because it is like it was sold to him. There is a presumption the owner gave up hope and he doesn’t know with certainty that this was robbed. If he was careful and stringent on himself, he would return to the original owner. Where it was known that the owner did not give up hope, he would need to return it at no cost.

Paragraph 6- When is it true that a tax collector is like a bandit? Where the tax collector is a gentile, he created the tax on his own or the tax is from the king but has no set amount and he can take what he wants. If the tax was set by the king and was a set amount, however- even if the king instructed that the Jew give more than the gentile, it is still considered a set amount for each person- and the king appointed a Jewish collector to collect for him and this person is known as trustworthy and would not add anything to what the king instructed, he is not presumed to be a robber because the law of the government is the law. Moreover, one who evades the tax violates “do not steal” because he has stolen the king’s gift, whether the king was Jewish or a gentile. Similarly, if a Jew acquired the tax from the king, if one evades the tax he is robbing the Jew who acquired the rights to it. There are those who say that even where it is known that the Jew takes more than the set amount, one is still prohibited from evading the set amount, because it is like he is robbing a robber, which is prohibited. If a gentile acquired the tax, however, one is permitted to evade because it is like evading a loan which is permissible where there is no desecration of God’s name. There are those who say that even if the tax collector is Jewish, if he did not acquire for himself and just collects on behalf of the king, although one is prohibited from evading because of the government law, if a person were to evade the collector cannot force him to give because is like evading a loan, which is permissible. If there is any concern that he is afraid of the king, however, he is certainly able to force him to give.

Paragraph 7- Similarly, if a king placed a tax on the residents of a city or a set an annual tax on each individual or each field, or if he decreed that if anyone violates a certain matter then all his properties will be given to the king or that anyone discovered in a field during the threshing seasons must pay a tax, regardless of whether he owns the field or not, or anything similar, there is no issue of robbery and a Jew who collects such taxes for the king is not presumed to be a robber and is in good standing. This assumes he does not add, deviate or take anything for himself.

Paragraph 8- Similarly, if a king becomes angry with one of his servants or assistants from his jurisdiction and he took his field or courtyard, it is not robbery and one is permitted to derive benefit from him. If one purchases it from the king, it belongs to him and the owner cannot remove it from him. If the king took a field or courtyard from one of his citizens not in compliance with the laws he set up, he is a robber and if one purchases it from him, the owner may remove him from the property. The general rule is that any general law that the king sets up for everyone, and not just for one person, is not robbery, and if anyone takes property from one person not known to comply with the laws that are not know to all, then it is robbery. If the law was set for just one industry, such as were he made a law that a certain item can be loaned with interest, there are those who say we do not apply the principle of the law of the land is the law because it was not set for everyone. There are those who say we do not apply the principle of the law of the land is the law except with regards to taxes and property-taxes because the king decrees that people can only live on his lands in this fashion. With respect to other matters, however, we would not apply such a principle. There are those who disagree and hold we apply the principle that the law of the land is the law on all matters. Thus, if one lends on collateral, he may sell the collateral after a year because that is the law of the land. This is the primary view, as was discussed above in 356:7.

Paragraph 9- Thus, if the king’s collectors or officers sold fields because of the set tax on fields, the sale is valid. With respect to tax on the actual person, however, they may only collect from the person himself. If they sold a field for the individual tax, the sale is not valid unless that was the king’s law. See above Siman 68 regarding the law of the land, as well as more on this law in 104:2.

Paragraph 10- If a king had a law that anyone who does not pay the tax assessed to their field, then the field will go to whomever pays the tax, and the field-owner fled because of the tax, and another came and gave the required tax to the king and consumed its fruits, it would not be robbery. Rather, he may consume the fruits and pay the tax until the owner returns because the law of the king is the law, as we have said. Similarly, it is the king’s rule that whomever is discovered in the field must pay the tax for the entire valley and he will collect from the others or that he collect the annual tax from one person.

Paragraph 11- Similarly, if the king decreed that anyone who pays the affixed personal tax on behalf of another, then the person that paid has rights on the person he paid for, and one paid the tax for a poor Jew, the donor may work him more than is typical because the law of the king is the law, but he may not work him like a slave. If a Jew owed a gentile, and the gentile sold the document to a Jew, although he is prohibited from litigating with the other Jews in the presence of gentiles, and although he is coming via a gentile, the Jewish judges would still rule for this Jewish creditor that which the gentile would have profited from the gentile judges because this Jew is coming via the gentile judges, which is the government law. If one marries a woman in a place where they judge with secular law, and his wife dies, the wife’s father or other inheritors cannot say that anyone who gets married does so with the understanding that they will follow local custom and that any matter should be litigated in secular courts so that if she were to die her husband would not inherit her or something similar. The principle of government law does not apply here because we do not say the principle except for something where there is a benefit to the king or it is a regulation for the citizens, but not that they litigate in secular court, because if that were to happen all Jewish laws would become void.