1,203. Returning a Stolen Object

182:5 If one person covets the home or possessions of another, or any object that the other has no intention of selling him, and he sends friends to pressure him, or he pushes the other person himself until he consents to sell him the item, then he has transgressed the prohibition against coveting (Deuteronomy 5:18). He actually violates the prohibition against desiring (ibid.) from the moment he thought, "How can I get this thing?" This is because desire is a mere emotion, but it leads to coveting. The one who acquires an object in such a manner violates two distinct prohibitions, not to covet and not to desire.

182:6 There is a positive commandment for a thief to return the very object he stole so long as it still exists and hasn't been altered, as per Leviticus 5:23, "he must return the stolen object, which he stole." This law applies to both robbery by force and theft by stealth. One does not fulfill his obligation by paying money, even if the owners have given up hope of getting the object back. However, if the object was lost or changed in such a way that it could not be restored to its original state, or if it was built into a building so that it would be financially prohibitive to demolish the structure, then a thief would fulfill his obligation by giving what the object was worth at the time it was stolen. If the one who was robbed is elsewhere, the thief need not send the money there. The thief may simply notify him to come and he will pay him. If the victim of the theft died, the thief must pay his heirs.