The following true story was told by Rav Zilbershtein and appears in U'Piryo Matok on Shmos ( pg. 308)
The daughter of a widow living here in Israel had gotten engaged. This widow hardly had money and her family was living in abject poverty. Still with tireless effort she worked for months and months until she was able to accumulate a significant sum for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. At least now she would be able to see her daughter to the chupah with dignity.
A few days before the wedding, in the middle of the night, a burglar broke into the apartment. Apparently he knew about the large sum of money that was in the house and he immediately began looking for it. He searched and searched in every possible place, every closet, every drawer, until he eventually found the packet of money.
As he took the large packet and was about to leave he heard crying. He turned around and saw a seven year old boy, the youngest child in the family, who had been watching the goings on. He understood that this man was a thief and that he was in the process of stealing the money that his poor mother had worked so hard to accumulate.
The theif stood and watched as this child was crying and crying .
Suddenly the boy began to speak.
“My mother is a widow and we live in extreme poverty. The money in your hands was set aside to marry off my sister, the orphan bride. My mother gave up everything to put this money together so that she could see my sister to the chupah.”
The thief’s heart melted upon hearing these pure words straight from the little boy’s heart.
He came close to the child and incredibly gave him back all the money.
The boy thanked him profusely and the robber made his way out of the house.
As incredulous as this may sound what happened next is almost beyond belief. As the theif was leaving he suddenly turned around, came back, and went over to the young child. He took out a significant amount of cash and in an emotional voice said, “I would like to take part in the mizva of hachnossas kala. Here is money for your sister’s wedding.”
The theif placed a wad of money in the child’s hand who just stood there in shock at what had just transpired. When the mother woke up in the morning her son told shared with her all that had happened and he gave her the money the theif had given him.
The almanah now came to Rav Zilbershtein with a question, asking if she is allowed to keep this money and use it for her daughter’s wedding needs.
At this point please allow your family to voice their opinions as to what they imagine the halachah to be.
Please do not rush to the answer.
After hearing the various opinions please share the following thoughts from Rav Zilbershtein.
1. If all of this person’s money is from stealing then it is prohibited to take from their money.
2. If only a small portion of the money is from stealing then it is permissible.
3. If we are not sure we may be lenient since this is an issur derabanan a rabbinical prohibition
4. In this case since we are not sure the widow may take the money.
Rav Zibershtein provides another reason why the widow should be allowed to use the money.
Even if the money is stolen money the rightful owner has probably given up on ever getting it back. Since he will never get it back he would certainly prefer that his money go for hachnosas kalah than to remain in the hands of the thief.
And even if we should not accept charity from a ganav in order not encourage him to steal
This is only lechatchilah (prior to the act), before he gives us the money. But after he has given us the money we are not encouraging him any more by using the money he has given us.
In summary, it is permissible to use the money