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Question on Gemara 76b

*Sanhedrin 76b

Yes, I really am posting this at almost 3AM. Just one of those days.

I’ve decided to do something unthinkable recently: read gemara. Though I don’t mean to STUDY Gemara, as in seriously studying it; I mean READ Gemara. Literally just going through random texts in Sefaria out of curiosity. No way in hell am I shlepping to yeshiva at this point in my life.

According to Sanhedrin 76b: “One who marries his daughter to an old man, and one who takes a wife for his minor son, and one who returns a lost item to a gentile are all individuals who are the cause of sin.”

So many questions here.

  1. Why is someone returning a lost item to a gentile “the cause of sin?” The paragraph later states a rationale that “returning lost property to gentiles adds to the property they stole from Jews”, yet that’s presumptuous. Not every lost item was stolen. And even if that were the case, returning an item that a goy stole doesn’t necessarily cause that goy to sin again. One does not automatically lead to the other. What if the goy felt guilty and wanted to return the stolen item himself?
  2. If this is meant to be metaphorical, what context makes it metaphorical?
  3. Why is the return of lost property lumped in with a discussion about choosing a marriage partner? Seems like a completely random combination.
  4. Isn’t failing to return someone else’s lost item a form of sin in itself? Even if it’s just a wallet that you find on the ground and then immediately put back, you consciously choose to continue depriving someone of their property. I’d argue that’s a minimal form of theft. It also creates chilul Hashem on the Jews if someone finds out that a Jew is keeping something that doesn’t belong to him.
  5. Why is all associated commentary on this passage, in the Rambam, Shulchan Arukh and elsewhere, related solely the marriage part and not the returning items to gentiles part? It just seems like a random passage to put in and never mention again in commmentary.


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