Stealing as a joke

Stealing as a joke:[1]

It is forbidden to steal even if one plans to return it immediately afterwards.[2] It is forbidden to steal even if one has no intent at all to cause pain to the owner and is stealing the item [temporarily] merely out of jest [and plans to return it immediately afterwards[3]], it is nevertheless forbidden to do so.[4] One who steals [in the above way[5]] transgresses the negative command [against stealing].[6] However, some Poskim[7] rule it is only Rabbinically forbidden to steal with such intent [as a joke[8], with intent to return], and is not a Biblical prohibition.[9]

 

 

Summary:

It is forbidden to take another’s item without permission even if one plans to return it. This applies even if he is taking it as a joke. According to some Poskim, stealing under such conditions is only Rabbinically forbidden, however the main ruling follows that it is Biblically forbidden due to stealing.

 

Q&A

May one steal the Afikoman on the night of the Seder?
Some[10] communities are accustomed to have the children steal the Afikoman on the night of the Seder and hold it ransom until the father redeems it with a promissory gift of some kind.[11] Other[12] communities however specifically avoid doing so due to resemblance of the stealing prohibition, and so is the Chabad custom to avoid this Minhag.[13]

 

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[1] Admur Gzeila Ugineiva 3; Michaber C.M. 348/1; Rambam Hilchos Gneiva 1/2; Learned from Braisa Bava Metzia 61b “Liminkat” regarding stealing in order to pay Keifel [See Kuntrus Achron ibid 1]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is only forbidden to steal with intent to keep the item, however to steal temporarily is permitted, and so is done on a daily occurrence. [Shita Mekubetzes on Gemara ibid, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 348/2 and Ketzos Hachoshen 348/1]

[2] Source for prohibition against stealing even temporarily: Admur Gzeila Ugineiva 3; Michaber 348/1; Beis Yosef 348, brought in Smeh 347/2; Sifri explicitly writes even if one steals to cause pain and intends to return is forbidden; Implication of Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos L.S. 244, 1st pirush in Shita Mekubetzes on Gemara ibid, [above is all brought in Ketzos Hachoshen 348/1 and Pischeiy Teshuvah 348/2]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is only forbidden to steal with intent to keep the item, however to steal temporarily is permitted, and so is done on a daily occurrence. [second Pirush, and conclusion, in Shita Mekubetzes on Gemara ibid, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 348/2 and Ketzos Hachoshen 348/1; See Smeh ibid who seems to learn in Michaber that stealing for pain is to keep the item] Pischeiy Teshuvah 348/2 and Ketzos Hachoshen 348/1 conclude it is proper to be stringent

[3] See Admur and Poskim ibid who establishes the case of stealing for pain to be a case that one plans to return the item, and this next Halacha of stealing for jest is going on that ruling

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is only forbidden to steal with intent to keep the item, however to steal temporarily is permitted, and so is done on a daily occurrence. [Shita Mekubetzes on Gemara ibid, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 348/2 and Ketzos Hachoshen 348/1]

[4] Admur ibid; Kuntrus Achron ibid 1 in name of Rambam, or based on the ruling of stealing to pay Kefel; Michaber ibid; Rambam Hilchos Gneiva 1/2

[5] The Braisa mentions Kefel and pain to be learned from the verse; Stealing as a joke being Biblical can be derived from this Braisa who prohibits even stealing to benefit owner to pay Keifel, and hence certainly stealing as a joke is forbidden. [See Kuntrus Achron ibid 1] Vetzaruch Iyun, as stealing to pay Kefel perhaps refers to when he plans on keeping the object, and not when stealing temporarily.

[6] Stam opinion in Admur ibid; Implication of Braisa Bava Metzia 61b; Maggid Mishneh Gezeila 1/3 in opinion of Rambam [as explained in Kuntrus Achron ibid 2 that the Maggid Mishneh does not hold its an Asmachta, and the reason the Rambam gives a reason “so one does not come to accustom himself to stealing” does not come to negate its Biblical status, but is just an explanation of why the Torah prohibited it, as explains the Rambam regarding the prohibition of owning faulty weights]

[7] 2nd opinion in Admur ibid; Lechem Mishneh Gneiva 1/1 in opinion of Rambam ibid that the Drasha in Bava Metzia ibid is an Asmachta; Implication of Rambam ibid who writes the reason behind the prohibition is “so one does not become used to doing so”; Implication of Michaber ibid who writes like Rambam ibid

[8] See Lechem Mishneh ibid; See Michaber and Rambam ibid who mention all three in the same Halacha

[9] The reason: The Sages prohibited one from stealing even out of jest lest he make himself accustomed in doing so. [Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Rambam ibid]

[10] Many Ashkenazi communities

[11] Source: Chok Yaakov 472/2; Aruch Hashulchan 472/2; Mishneh Halachos 11/393; See Pesachim 109a “Chotfim Matzos Beleil Pesachim”, and as explained in Rambam Chameitz Umatzah 7/3, Sefer Hamichtam, Nimukei Yosef 109a it means “They grab/steal Matzos from each other”; Other Rishonim however explain this Gemara differently

The reason: This custom is followed as an incentive to keep the children awake. [Chok Yaakov ibid; Gemara ibid] There is no stealing prohibition involved being it us done as a holy custom, and is as if it is taken with consent of the father. [See Sukkah 45a regarding stealing Esrogim out of Simcha; Rama O.C. 695/2 regarding Purim; C.M.  378/9 regarding damages by Simchas Chasan Vekallah; Asei Leha Rav 6/35]

[12] Tzans; Beis Avi 3/26; Halichos Shlomo 9 footnote 210; Orchos Chaim Spinka 473/19; Most Sefardi communities don’t steal the Afikoman

[13] Hagada Shel Pesach of Rebbe “Afikoman”: “In the Rebbe’s home we are not accustomed to grab the Afikoman, and to mention the Mamar Chazal in Brachos 5b regarding tasting the taste of stealing”

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