Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rav Eliashiv: Calling the police for theft

Rav Eliashiv(Divrei Sinai page 45-46): Question: On a number of occasions money has been stolen from the local religious affairs office. It appears that the thief is one of the employees. However we don’t have the means of bringing about a confession. The question is whether it is permitted to turn to the police who after investigation - if they are successful in getting a confession - will bring the person to judgment in a secular court. The consequences of this would be very serious since we suspect someone who has a large family and in addition since he is someone who is involved in religious work it will result in chilul hashem (desecration of G‑d’s name), Heaven forbid! On the other hand, public money is missing and who knows what else.

Answer: See Panim Me’eros (2:155) concerning our issue in which someone found an open chest from which much was stolen. There is reasonable circumstantial evidence that one of the workers was the thief. He was asked whether it was permissible to inform the secular authorities and that this will lead to him to confess … However at the end the Panim Me’eros concludes, “It is improper to turn a Jew over to secular authorities as our Sages say they will treat him like a trapped animal and there is concern that if he confesses they will kill him.”  From here it is clear that this ruling is not applicable in our times. Therefore it is permitted to turn to the police. However since you raise the concern that this will lead to a chilul hashem, I can’t render an opinion concerning this since I don’t know how to evaluate it and therefore the matter must be determined by your evaluation.


  1. So tzedaka's and their intended recipients can be continue to be victimized so as to avoid a chilul hashem.

    Sounds familiar, like the mosdos that kept (and still keep) molesters on staff.

    Yeah, that worked out well.

  2. does this mean that one can technically do nothing wrong, actually he can be involved in trying to right a wrong, and yet he would transgress Chilul Hahsem becaue something negative about the frum community would be made public by his actions? How can we understnd this? And how can we ever hope to correct things that need correction in the frum world if we are bound by secrecy because of Chilul Hashem? Rabbi Edenshohn I would greatly appreciate your answers to these questions.

  3. Over the years I have had exposure to information that shuold have bene turned over to law enforcement.

    I have spoken to three rabbanim about the situations.Every Rav told me to turn the information over to the relevant authoroties.When I asked about chillul hashem I was taugh very specifically that the chillul hashem occurs at the time the perosn does the illegal or immoral act.Not when it hits the newspapers.

    Unfrotunatly many Jews have been cowed into the concept , well if you do the rihgt thing by reporting xyz it will lead to a chillul hashem.Since when does the NY Times create a desecration of god"s name.It is the action of the indivdual who does so.

  4. I simply cannot fathom where the concern for chillul H' is here. Disclosing to goyim that amongst the members of frum klal Yisroel there is a thief somewhere?! That seems ridiculous, esp. given the presumed near universality of problems with theft outside of frumkeit.

    Can someone help me out here? There must be such a chashash, since Rav Eliyashiv refers to it as a possibility. Interesting to note, though, that no such cheshbon entered into the Panim Me’eros case.

  5. Also, it would seem that while the pesak there would excuse calling the secular authorities for anything involving punishments like jailtime, fines, or home confinement, any crime involving the possibility of a blue collar prison sentence--where, given its current conditions, inmates are like "trapped animals" in all manner of horrific ways--would require that we resist invoking secular help. Is that true?!

  6. Wait, Rav Elyashiv refused to Paskin on this issue? If he is not fit to decide, then who is?


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