Me'ilah 20 - An Agent Who Did As He Was Told

If one picked up a stone belonging to the Temple, he has not misappropriated it yet. Actually, this is talking about a Temple treasurer, who is authorized to handle Temple's property. Even though lifting normally effects acquisition, his lifting leaves it in the domain of the Temple. If he then gave it to another, he has transgressed, but his fellow has not. The treasurer, by his giving the stone over, removed it from the domain of the Temple, and no further misappropriation will apply. If he built it into his house, he also has not transgressed, until he has lived in the house, deriving the benefit of a perutah (small coin).

If an agent misappropriated the property of the Temple, by following precisely the instruction given him by another, the one who gave the instruction is responsible for misappropriation, but the agent is not. However, if the agent deviates from the instruction, he becomes liable. For example, if one told his agent, "Give my guests meat," and the agent gave them liver, (and later it was discovered that it was Temple property) the agent has committed misappropriation.

If one told his agent, "Give my guests one piece of meat each," and the agent told them to take two, but they took three - then all of them: the host, his agent, and his guests, have committed misappropriation.

Art: Gustave Courbet - The Stone Breakers