“Finders keepers” would have been the wrong choice
August 3, 2021
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[First posted November 14, 2013]
Noah Muroff, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, and his wife Esther went shopping online for a desk for the study in their home and found a cherry wood executive desk that they were able to buy for $150. When they got it home, they found it would not fit through the door of the study. The only option seemed to be to take it apart and then reassemble it inside the study.
When Rabbi Muroff pulled out the file drawer, he noticed a plastic shopping bag had fallen behind it. Inside the bag was $98,000 in US $100 bills. When they bought the desk the middle-aged woman they bought it from said she had bought it at Staples and assembled it herself, so there was no doubt where the money had come from.
The Muroffs say they didn’t need any time to discuss what they were going to do. Although it was 11:30 at night, they called the woman right away. She was shocked by their honesty. She told them that if they had decided to keep the money she would have been none the wiser.
The money was an inheritance from her parents who had died, one shortly after the other. She had been too overwhelmed to make any decisions about the money at the time and had simply stuffed it away in a safe place. Later she had looked in the desk and it was not there. She reasoned that it must be somewhere else in the house and put the desk up for sale, not realizing the bag had fallen behind the file drawer.
The next day the Muroffs returned the money, taking their children along to show what to do when one finds something that does not belong to him. The woman gave them $3,500 for their honesty and also returned the $150 they had paid for the desk.
Rabbi Muroff is 28, a Torah teacher at the Yeshiva high school in New Haven, Connecticut. He and his wife have four children. The oldest is six. The Yeshiva cannot afford to pay a big salary and the family is used to careful budgeting. Still, the money they found in the bag was not even tempting. “If God wants us to have the $98,000,” Esther said to her husband, “He’ll make sure He gets it to us in some other way. God is not limited.”