From the Rav’s Desk: Babysitter incurred large phone bill

Question: [Wednesday, 9th Iyar 5781]

When I was a teenager and used to babysit for families in the neighborhood, I often used their house phone without asking their permission and at times I would be on for many hours which I’m sure gave them an extra-large bill as this was before the time that there was unlimited calls available for land lines. I understand that this was wrong and considered stealing and would like to know how I should go about doing Teshuvah.



Certainly, this is considered stealing according to Halacha and therefore if you would like to do complete repentance for this you should call the families whom you babysat for and ask them if they would like compensation and at the very least to ask them to forgive any debt you may have due to using their phone line.


Explanation: It is obvious that one cannot assume that people for the most part do not mind the babysitters using their phone when it is a pay per call service, especially when it is being used for several hours, and especially if doing so may compromise their quality of babysitting, and therefore it is considered like regular stealing and hence since a bill was incurred due to the use of the phone, the bill must therefore be paid, unless they choose to forgive it. [This type of monetary damage that is caused by using the phone is similar to a Gerami type of damage, of which one is liable for.]


Sources: See regarding returning stolen goods and that one can ask for forgiveness if it is too much to pay back: Admur Gezeila Ugeneiva 6-7; See regarding Gerama versus Gerami: Michaber C.M. 386; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Gerama pp. 461-499

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