I spent this past Shabbos in the heart of Brooklyn, attending a popular Agudath Israel synagogue. On Friday night, the rabbi, an up-and-coming figure in the Agudah world and a very popular speaker, related to the entire congregation the following question he was recently asked:
Someone had bought a new computer and it arrived functioning less than perfectly. He called up the company and they agreed to send him a new computer and shipping labels for him to return the other computer. The new computer arrived without shipping labels. He called and waited for about an hour until someone could understand his complaint and agree to send him shipping labels. They still haven’t arrived. Does he have to continue pursuing this or can he just keep both computers?
The rabbi said that there is a leniency not to return an item to a negligent gentile who fails to properly retrieve it. However, as the Be’er Ha-Golah points out (I’m relaying this as the rabbi said it, regardless of precision), this is a leniency that should almost never be used. Give it back, even if you have to go well out of your way to do so. This gentleman should take the time to continue calling the company in the interest of returning the computer, and it wouldn’t hurt if he mentioned that he is an Orthodox Jew and has religious objections to keeping something that rightfully belongs to the company. However, he added that if the gentleman is honestly busy and cannot find the few hours it takes to convince this company to take their computer, he does not have to do this but he will be losing out on a great mitzvah.
I found this very refreshing. Not the portrayal of the black hat world you’d find in, say, the NY Times.