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Thursday, 29 Tishrei 5775 / October 23, 2014
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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Edut - Chapter 3

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Edut - Chapter 3

Halacha 1

The questioning and interrogation of witnesses is required with regard to cases involving both monetary law and capital punishment, as Leviticus 24:22 states: "You shall have one judgment." Nevertheless, our Sages ordained that witnesses in cases involving financial law not be questioned or interrogated, lest this prevent loans from being given.

What is implied? If witnesses say: "So-and-so lent so-and-so a maneh in this year," their testimony is allowed to stand even though they did not specify the month or the place in which the maneh was given, nor did they say of which coinage the maneh was.

Halacha 2

When does the above apply? With regard to admissions of liability, loans, presents, sales, and the like. Cases involving fines, by contrast, require the full process of questioning and interrogation. Needless to say, this applies with regard to cases involving the penalties of lashes and exile. Similarly, if a judge perceives that a claim may be contrived and his suspicions are aroused, questioning and interrogation is necessary even with regard to cases involving financial matters.

Halacha 3

Although there is no requirement to subject witnesses in cases involving monetary law to the full process of questioning and interrogation, if the witnesses contradict each other with regard to the derishot or the chakirot, their testimony is nullified. If the witnesses contradict each other with regard to the bedikot, their testimony is allowed to stand.

What is implied? One witness says: "He borrowed from him in Nissan," and the other witness says: "No, he borrowed in Iyar," their testimony is nullified. Or one says: "The loan was given in Jerusalem," and the second says: "No; we were in Lod," their testimony is nullified. Similarly, if one says: "He lent him a barrel of wine," and the other says: "It contained oil," their testimony is nullified, for they contradicted themselves with regard to the fundamental questions.

If, by contrast, one said: "He lent him a black maneh," while the other said: "It was a white maneh. One said: "They were in the upper storey when he made the loan," and the other said: "They were in the lower storey," their testimony is allowed to stand. Moreover, even if one said: "He lent him a maneh and the other, "He lent him two hundred," the defendant is obligated to pay him at least a maneh, because 200 contains 100. Similarly, if one said: "He owes him the cost of a barrel of wine," and the other says: "...a barrel of oil," the defendant is required to pay the lesser amount of the two. Similar concepts apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 4

According to Scriptural Law, we do not accept testimony - neither in cases involving financial matter, nor in cases involving capital punishment - except orally from the witnesses, as implied by Deuteronomy 17:6: "On the basis of two witnesses...." Implied is that testimony is accepted only orally, and not on the basis of their written statements.

According to Rabbinic Law, however, we decide cases involving financial matters on the basis of testimony recorded in a legal document even if the witnesses are no longer alive. This measure was enacted lest the alternative prevent loans from being given. We do not adjudicate cases involving fines on the basis of testimony recorded in a legal document. Needless to say, cases involving lashes or exile are decided only on the basis of verbal testimony, not on the basis of a written document.

Halacha 5

In both cases involving financial matters and cases involving capital punishment, once a witness has testified and has been questioned in court, he cannot retract.

What is implied? If the witness state: "I testified in error," "I inadvertently forgot the details and now remembered that it was not so," or "I testified only out of fear of him" we do not heed him, even if he provides an explanation for his statements. Similarly, he cannot add that any of the matters he mentioned in his testimony were conditional.

The general principle is: Any statement made by a witness after his testimony was delivered and questioned that will lead to the nullification of that testimony or that adds a condition to the points stated is not heeded.

Halacha 6

Witnesses who sign a legal document are considered as if their testimony was delivered and questioned by a court of law. They cannot retract it.

When does the above apply? When the authenticity of the document can be verified without their testimony, e.g., other witness who could testify that it was their signatures were present or their signatures were found on other legal documents. If, however, the authenticity of the document could not be verified without their testimony and they said: "This is our handwriting, but we were compelled to do it," "...We were below majority at the time," "...We were related to the litigants," "...We were deceived," their statements are accepted and the legal document is nullified.

Halacha 7

If the witnesses say: "We were not acceptable as witnesses because of a transgression we violated," or "We took a bribe to testify on this document," their word is not accepted. The rationale is that a person's own testimony can never be used to have him considered as wicked. Instead, two witnesses must testify that he is wicked.

Similarly, if the witnesses say: "Our words were given on faith, their words are not accepted. For a person who signs as a witness on a promissory note given on faith is considered as if he gave false testimony.

Halacha 8

If witnesses say: "A protest was made by the seller to us with regard to this deed of sale," their words are accepted even though their signatures were found on other legal documents.

Halacha 9

When the witnesses signed on the document say: "The legal document was composed conditionally," their word is not accepted if their signatures were found on other legal documents. If, however, the authenticity of the document could not be verified without their testimony, their statements are accepted and we tell the litigants: "Fulfill the condition and then bring the matter to judgment."

Halacha 10

If one of the witnesses says: "The transaction was made conditionally," and the other says, "There was no condition involved," the testimony of the one witness is of consequence.

Halacha 11

Also in laws involving financial matters, we receive testimony only in the presence of the litigants. If, however, the plaintiff was deathly ill or the witnesses desired to travel overseas and the defendant was summoned and yet did not come, we receive the testimony outside his presence.

When does the above apply? To testimony given orally. The authenticity of the signatures of a legal document, by contrast, may be verified outside the defendant's presence. Moreover, even if the defendant is present and protests vociferously: "This document is a forgery," "They are false witnesses," or "They are unacceptable witnesses," we pay no heed to him. Instead, we verify the authenticity of the document. If the defendant brings proof which disqualifies the document, it is disqualified.

Halacha 12

Whenever a plaintiff has witnesses who will testify to prove his claim, he must tend to the witnesses until he brings them to court. If the court knows that the defendant is a strong and stubborn person and the plaintiff claims that the witnesses are afraid to come and testify on behalf of the plaintiff, the court compels the defendant to bring the witnesses. We adjudicate cases involving strong and stubborn people according to these and other analogous principles.

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