In my college days, I stole approximately $300. This was 7 years ago. I have wanted to give it back all this time. But I am too embarrassed to tell the guy I stole from. Also, he might go to the police or something. Here's my questions:
a) How can I return it to him and be forgiven without telling him it was me?
b) Since the whole thing was actually another's guy's idea, yet I did the deed, are we both equally responsible.
c) Do I have to send him some interest, or will he be happy enough receiving money out of the blue?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
First, I am deeply moved by your desire to make amends. Imagine the sensitivity of your soul to be bothered by this for so long!
This reminds me of an incident that happened to me recently. I was visiting my old neighborhood where I used to live. Suddenly a boy about 12 years old called out to me from down the street. He ran up to me and said, "Excuse me, did you used to live here?" "Yes," I said. "Well, about five years ago I borrowed a dollar from you, and now I'd like to return it." He had borrowed one dollar at age 7 and had never forgotten it!
So on to your questions...
a) If you think this person will go to the police, then you should give it back anonymously. If you are not afraid of him going to the police, you must ask him for forgiveness as well.
b) Whoever actually stole the money has to pay back. It doesn't matter whose idea it was, since anyway the Torah prohibits stealing. Which means that if someone suggests to steal, the suggestion has no force to override the pre-existing Torah prohibition.
c) You do not have to pay any interest.
If for some reason you can't locate the person you stole from, you should use that money to assist in some community-related project.
May the Almighty bless you for your honesty.