Question Part I

I have been looking for ways to return money to a big medical insurance company in the US. A long time ago I was given medication under someone else’s name to allow me to get it cheaper. I can’t let them know my name or anyone in family. I am not sure how to return the money ($3000) without getting someone in trouble.

I should mention that I was told by my Rabbi that I must give it back to the company but he is here in Israel and doesn’t seem to understand the difficulty involved.

I could probably get a lawyer to do it but I am really in a difficult financial situation and can’t afford one now.

I have asked people to help by giving a check to them and having them send it, in their name, to the company with a letter explaining that I have done teshuva and want to return the money – anonymously of course- but no one, even the bigger organizations are willing to take the risk.

Answer Part I

I would be interested to know on what basis your Rav held that you must return the money. I am working with the assumption that the insurance company is owned primarily by non-jews. The halacha with regards to Jews stealing from non-jews is as follows:

It is forbidden to steal from anyone at any time1)Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 359:1. However, when a Jew steals from a Jew the Torah says not only have you transgressed the law of stealing but in addition the Torah obligates you to return the stolen item. The prohibition of stealing is bound to the obligation to return the item. In other words the Torah’s prohibition of stealing must be undone by the mitzvah of returning the stolen item. When a Jew steals from a non-jew there is a machlokess in poskim whether the Torah obligates the Jew to return the item. Most Achronim say we do not have to. Nevertheless the Rabbis require the item to be returned if a chillul Hashem could develop. In your case, what I am saying is the following: although you were not allowed to do what you did, the Torah (and in your case also the Rabbis) do not require you to return the item. You certainly should repent for that aspect of stealing which is between man and G-d but that is the extent of what is required. If you decide, nevertheless, to repay the money it should also be done so in a way where no chillul Hashem could develop from it. The amount should be calculated to the best of your ability based on the rates of the time when it happened.

Your case more closely resembles taus akum2)Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat Siman 348:1-2 in any event where everyone agrees we don’t have to return the money after the fact unless a chillul Hashem will develop. I can’t fathom in your case how the company could find out in which case no chillul Hashem could develop.

Question Part II

I agree they would not find out about it but I want to fix the situation and I don’t want to remain chayav for gezel or gneiva. I want to make sure that I can do teshuva in the proper way for this. It is only due to the difficulty in getting the money to them that I ask this question again of someone else. Can I give the money to tzedaka as a way of rectifying the transgression?

Answer Part II

There is no source that giving money to tzedaka repairs the sin of gneiva. This is a common misnomer (perhaps based on a misunderstanding of a Rambam in Hilchos Tshuvah who says that “if public money has been taken and therefore can’t be returned since there is no specific owner then the sin of gneivah is still standing as an aveirah and giving the money to the needs of the public can act as a form of tshuvah [for the part of the sin that is between man and G-d – but not to rectify the sin of gneivah between man and his fellow]”.

References   [ + ]

1. Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 359:1
2. Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat Siman 348:1-2