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The Difficult Choice
‘His Father’s Lost Object and his Rebbi’s Lost Object…’
(Bava Metzia 33a)



Our Mishna rules that when one is confronted with a difficult choice of whether to return a lost article that belongs to his father or that which belongs to his rebbi, he is to return that of the rebbi first.

The Mishna explains the reason for the rebbi’s precedence. Though his father brought him into this world, the rebbi, on the other hand, is the one who brings him into the world to come.


A Father’s Tuition Payment

Rema (Yoreh De’ah 242:34) cites Sefer Chassidim (siman 585) who asserts that this halacha only applies with regard to a rebbi who teaches without remuneration.

However, if the father pays the rebbi for his services, then the father’s lost object takes precedence.

Aruch HaShulchan (ad loc. Yoreh De’ah 242:sk 5) notes that, nevertheless, even where the rebbi receives remuneration one is required to fear and honor him. Aruch HaShulchan (Choshen Mishpat 264:sk 2) states even further that if the father is not the one remunerating the rebbi, and the rebbi’s remuneration comes from another source, then the father’s lost object takes precedence.


A Sponsor

Aruch HaShulchan (Choshen Mishpat ad loc.) cites the Shach (both Choshen Mishpat and Yoreh De’ah ad loc.), who rules that where the rebbi’s remuneration comes from another source, a sponsor, that individual would take precedence over the rebbi when one is confronted with the choice of returning one or the other.

Obviously, where the tuition is covered by a communal scholarship fund, and not by an individual, this last halacha would lose its relevance.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.