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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

To’en veNit’an - Chapter 7

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To’en veNit’an - Chapter 7


When a person admits that he owes a maneh to a colleague in the presence of two witnesses, and makes his statement as an admission and not as a casual matter of conversation, his remarks serve as the basis for testimony. This applies even if he did not charge the witnesses to serve in that capacity, and the plaintiff was not present. If the plaintiff lodged a claim against him and he denied making these statements, his words are not heeded, and he is required to make restitution on the basis of the testimony of the witnesses. If there was only one witness present when he made his statements, he is required to take an oath, for he made his statement as an admission.

If, after the witnesses came and testified, the defendant claimed: "I made the admission in order not to appear wealthy," his word is accepted, but he is required to take a sh'vuat hesset. If the plaintiff was with the witnesses at the time the defendant made the admission, he cannot claim that he made the admission so as not to appear wealthy. If, however, he claims that he paid the debt afterwards, his word is accepted, but he is required to take a sh'vuat hesset.


הַמּוֹדֶה בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִפְלוֹנִי אֶצְלוֹ מָנֶה וְאָמַר לָהֶן בְּדֶרֶךְ הוֹדָיָה לֹא דֶּרֶךְ שִׂיחָה. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר אַתֶּם עֵדַי וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הַתּוֹבֵעַ עִמּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה עֵדוּת. תְּבָעוֹ בְּדִין אִם אָמַר לֹא הָיוּ דְּבָרִים מֵעוֹלָם אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ וּמְשַׁלֵּם עַל פִּיהֶם. וְאִם הָיָה עֵד אֶחָד נִשְׁבָּע הוֹאִיל וְאָמַר דֶּרֶךְ הוֹדָיָה. טָעַן כְּשֶׁבָּאוּ אֵלּוּ הָעֵדִים וְאָמַר שֶׁלֹּא לְהַשְׁבִּיעַ אֶת עַצְמִי הוֹדֵיתִי נֶאֱמָן וְנִשְׁבָּע הֶסֵּת. וְאִם כְּשֶׁהוֹדָה בִּפְנֵיהֶם הָיָה הַתּוֹבֵעַ עִמּוֹ אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִטְעֹן וְלוֹמַר כְּדֵי לְהַרְאוֹת שֶׁאֵינִי עָשִׁיר הוֹדֵיתִי. אֲבָל אִם טָעַן שֶׁנָּתַן נֶאֱמָן וְנִשְׁבָּע הֶסֵּת:


Whenever a person makes an admission in the presence of two witnesses, he cannot claim again: "I was speaking facetiously." Needless to say, this applies if he made the admission before three people. Instead, he is obligated to pay the sum that he admitted. For whenever a person makes a statement as an admission, it is as if he charges them with serving as witnesses.

Nevertheless, a legal record of his statements is not composed unless he charges them: "Compose a record, sign it and give it to the plaintiff." Even if he charged them, they must consult with him a second time before they give it to the plaintiff, as we have explained.

Similarly, if a person makes an admission in the court after he was summoned, a legal record may be composed, as will be explained in the following halachah. This applies provided the court knows the identity of both principals," so that two people will not perpetrate deception to obligate another person.


כָּל הַמּוֹדֶה בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַחְזֹר וְלוֹמַר מְשַׁטֶּה הָיִיתִי בּוֹ וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם הוֹדָה בִּפְנֵי שְׁלֹשָׁה. אֲבָל מְחַיְּבִין אוֹתוֹ לִתֵּן בְּהוֹדָיַת פִּיו. שֶׁכָּל הָאוֹמֵר בְּדֶרֶךְ הוֹדָיָה הֲרֵי זֶה כְּאוֹמֵר אַתֶּם עֵדַי. אֲבָל אֵין כּוֹתְבִין אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן אָמַר לָהֶם כִּתְבוּ וְחִתְמוּ וּתְנוּ לוֹ. וּצְרִיכִין לְהִמָּלֵךְ בּוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְכֵן אִם הוֹדָה בְּבֵית דִּין אַחַר שֶׁשָּׁלְחוּ לוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ כּוֹתְבִין. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בֵּית דִּין מַכִּירִין אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶם כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲרִימוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם לְחַיֵּב אִישׁ אַחֵר:


The following rule applies when a court of three judges were sitting on their initiative in the place fixed for their sessions, and the plaintiff came and lodged a complaint in their presence. If they sent a messenger summoning the defendant, he came and admitted owing the debt in their presence, they may compose a legal record and give it to the plaintiff.

Different rules apply, however, if they were not in their fixed place, and they did not summon him, but instead, he collected them and caused the three judges to sit in session, admitting his debt in their presence and telling them: "Act as judges with regard to my issue." If the plaintiff comes afterwards and says: "Write down the admission for me," we do not compose the document. The rationale is that we suspect that the defendant paid him, and despite that, the plaintiff will try to lodge a claim against the defendant with the legal document. When does the above apply? With regard to a claim involving movable property. If, however, a person admitted an obligation involving landed property, the witnesses may compose a legal record and give it to him even though the admission was made only in the presence of two witnesses, the defendant did not affirm his statement with a kinyan, and the defendant did not instruct them: "Compose a document and give it to him." The rationale is that we need not worry that the defendant will give the defendant the land and then the plaintiff will lodge a claim against him again.


בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל שְׁלֹשָׁה שֶׁהָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִין מֵעַצְמָן בַּמָּקוֹם הַקָּבוּעַ לָהֶן וּבָא הַתּוֹבֵעַ וְקָבַל לִפְנֵיהֶם וְשָׁלְחוּ שָׁלִיחַ אֵצֶל הַנִּתְבָּע וּבָא וְהוֹדָה בִּפְנֵיהֶם הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ כּוֹתְבִין וְנוֹתְנִין לְבַעַל דִּינוֹ. אֲבָל אִם לֹא הָיוּ קְבוּעִין וְלֹא שָׁלְחוּ לוֹ אֲפִלּוּ קִבֵּץ אוֹתָן וְהוֹשִׁיב הַשְּׁלֹשָׁה וְהוֹדָה בִּפְנֵיהֶן וְאָמַר לָהֶן הֱווּ עָלַי דַּיָּנִין וּבָא אַחַר כָּךְ הַתּוֹבֵעַ וְאָמַר כִּתְבוּ לִי הוֹדָיָתִי אֵין כּוֹתְבִין שֶׁמָּא יִתֵּן לוֹ וְנִמְצָא זֶה תּוֹבֵעַ אוֹתוֹ בִּשְׁטָר. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּמִטַּלְטְלִין. אֲבָל אִם הוֹדָה בְּקַרְקָעוֹת אֲפִלּוּ בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא קָנוּ מִיָּדוֹ וְלֹא אָמַר לָהֶם כִּתְבוּ וּתְנוּ הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ כּוֹתְבִים וְנוֹתְנִין שֶׁאֵין כָּאן לָחוּשׁ שֶׁמָּא יִתֵּן לוֹ וְנִמְצָא תּוֹבְעוֹ פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה:


Despite the fact that a legal record of a debtor's admission produced by the plaintiff does not state: "The defendant told us: 'Write down this record, sign it, and give it to the plaintiff,'" it is acceptable. For it is an accepted presumption that if the defendant had not given the witnesses such instructions, they would not have composed a legal record and given it to the plaintiff.

A question may arise if a legal document states only: "So-and-so acknowledged a debt in our presence in court." If the document does not state that there were three judges present or state information that would indicate that there were three judges present, we suspect that there were only two people present, and they erred and thought that an admission made in the presence of two people is considered an admission made in court. Therefore, we do not regard such a record as a legal document.


שְׁטַר הוֹדָיָה שֶׁיָּצָא וְלֹא הָיָה כָּתוּב בּוֹ אָמַר לָנוּ כִּתְבוּ וְחִתְמוּ וּתְנוּ לוֹ. הֲרֵי זֶה כָּשֵׁר שֶׁחֲזָקָה הִיא שֶׁאִלּוּ לֹא אָמַר לָהֶם כִּתְבוּ וְחִתְמוּ וּתְנוּ לֹא הָיוּ נוֹתְנִין. הָיָה כָּתוּב בַּשְּׁטָר הוֹדָה פְּלוֹנִי בְּפָנֵינוּ בֵּית דִּין. אִם אֵין כָּתוּב בּוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה אוֹ דְּבָרִים שֶׁשּׁוֹמְעִין מִכְּלָל שֶׁהָיוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה חוֹשְׁשִׁין שֶׁמָּא שְׁנַיִם הָיוּ וְטָעוּ וְדִמּוּ שֶׁהַהוֹדָיָה בִּשְׁנַיִם הוֹדָיָה בְּבֵית דִּין וּלְפִיכָךְ אֵין דָּנִין בּוֹ דִּין שְׁטָר:


We have already explained that an admission made in court or testimony given by witnesses in court has the same legal power as a loan supported by a promissory note.

When does the above apply? When the defendant did not accept the judgment until he was summoned and brought to court, as we have explained. If, however, two people come to a judgment and one lodges a claim against the other saying, "You owe me a maneh" and the defendant acknowledges the debt, his word is accepted if, after he departs, he claims to have paid the debt. He must, however, affirm that claim with a sh'vuat hesset.

The above applies whether the judges said: "You are obligated to pay him," or "Go out and pay him." Therefore, if the plaintiff comes back and says:

"Write down the admission he made," we do not write it down, for it is possible that the defendant paid him.

Similarly, if a person who was obligated to take an oath in court leaves the court and then returns and said: "I took the oath," his word is accepted. He is not required to take an oath that he took an oath. If there are witnesses who testify that he did not take an oath, a presumption that the defendant is lying with regard to that oath is established. His word is not accepted if he states that he took an oath unless the other litigant acknowledges - or he brings witnesses - that he took the oath in their presence.


כְּבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ שֶׁהוֹדָיָה בְּבֵית דִּין אוֹ עֵדוּת בְּבֵית דִּין כְּמִלְוֶה הַכְּתוּבָה בִּשְׁטָר וּלְפִיכָךְ כּוֹתְבִין וְנוֹתְנִין לְבַעַל דִּינוֹ. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁלֹּא קִבֵּל אֶת הַדִּין עַד שֶׁשָּׁלְחוּ וֶהֱבִיאוּהוּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. אֲבָל שְׁנַיִם שֶׁבָּאוּ לְדִין וְתָבַע אֶחָד מֵהֶן אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ וְאָמַר מָנֶה לִי בְּיָדְךָ וְאָמַר לוֹ הַנִּתְבָּע הֵן יֵשׁ לְךָ בְּיָדִי. בֵּין שֶׁאָמְרוּ הַדַּיָּנִין חַיָּב אַתָּה לִתֵּן לוֹ בֵּין שֶׁאָמְרוּ צֵא תֵּן לוֹ וְיָצָא וְאָמַר פָּרַעְתִּי נֶאֱמָן וְיִשָּׁבַע הֶסֵּת שֶׁפְּרָעוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ אִם חָזַר הַתּוֹבֵעַ לַדַּיָּנִים וְאָמַר כִּתְבוּ לִי הוֹדָיָתִי אֵין כּוֹתְבִין לוֹ שֶׁמָּא פְּרָעוֹ. וְכֵן מִי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב שְׁבוּעָה בְּבֵית דִּין וְיָצָא וְאָמַר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי נֶאֱמָן וְאֵין מַשְׁבִּיעִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע. הָיוּ הָעֵדִים מְעִידִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁבַּע הֻחְזַק כַּפְרָן לְאוֹתָהּ שְׁבוּעָה וְאֵינוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְעוֹלָם לוֹמַר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי עַד שֶׁיּוֹדֶה לוֹ בַּעַל דִּינוֹ אוֹ יָבִיא עֵדִים שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע בִּפְנֵיהֶם:


The following rule applies when two people come to judgment, one is obligated to the other, and the judges tell him: "Go out and pay him." If he leaves the court and then returns and said: "I paid," but there are witnesses who testify that he did not pay, a presumption that the defendant is lying with regard to that money is established.

Different rules apply if the judges tell him: "You are obligated to pay him." If he leaves the court and then returns and said: "I paid," but there are witnesses who testify that he did not pay, we do not say that a presumption that the defendant is lying is established. The rationale is that we assume he is procrastinating until the judgment is researched.

Therefore, if on another occasion he claimed that he paid the money that he was obligated to pay by these judges and there are no witnesses who deny his statements this second time, he is required to take a sh'vuat hesset and is then released from all obligations. For this reason, the trained men of wisdom of Spain would, in the presence of the court, tell the judges and a lender who admitted a debt or who was obligated to take an oath in court: "Serve as witnesses that he should not pay me or take an oath for me outside the presence of witnesses."


שְׁנַיִם שֶׁבָּאוּ לְדִין וְנִתְחַיֵּב הָאֶחָד לַשֵּׁנִי וְאָמְרוּ לוֹ צֵא וְתֵן לוֹ וְיָצָא וְחָזַר וְאָמַר פָּרַעְתִּי וְעֵדִים מְעִידִים אוֹתוֹ שֶׁלֹּא פְּרָעוֹ הֻחְזַק כַּפְרָן לְאוֹתוֹ מָמוֹן. אָמְרוּ לוֹ חַיָּב אַתָּה לִתֵּן לוֹ וְיָצָא וְחָזַר וְאָמַר פָּרַעְתִּי וְעֵדִים מְעִידִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁלֹּא פְּרָעוֹ לֹא הֻחְזַק כַּפְרָן שֶׁזֶּה נִשְׁמָט מֵהֶן עַד שֶׁיַּחְקְרוּ דִּינוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ אִם חָזַר פַּעַם אַחֶרֶת וְטָעַן שֶׁפְּרָעוֹ זֶה הַמָּמוֹן שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב בּוֹ בִּפְנֵיהֶם וְלֹא הָיוּ שָׁם עֵדִים שֶׁמַּכְחִישִׁין אוֹתוֹ פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבָּע הֶסֵּת שֶׁפְּרָעוֹ וְנִפְטָר. לְפִיכָךְ הָיוּ בְּקִיאֵי הַדַּעַת שֶׁבִּסְפָרַד כְּשֶׁיּוֹדֶה הַלּוֶֹה אוֹ כְּשֶׁיִּתְחַיֵּב שְׁבוּעָה בְּבֵית דִּין אוֹמֵר לוֹ בִּפְנֵי בֵּית דִּין הֱיוּ עָלַי עֵדִים שֶׁלֹּא יִפְרָעֵנִי אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יִשָּׁבַע לִי אֶלָּא בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים:


When a person acknowledges in court that he owes a plaintiff a maneh and then says: "I now remember paying him the debt that I acknowledged and here are witnesses who substantiate my present claim," their testimony is effective, and the appropriate action is taken. The rationale is that he did not contradict the testimony of the witnesses, and it is not considered as if he said: "I never took this loan."


מִי שֶׁהוֹדָה בְּבֵית דִּין שֶׁאֲנִי חַיָּב לְזֶה הַתּוֹבֵעַ מָנֶה וְאַחַר כָּךְ אָמַר נִזְכַּרְתִּי שֶׁפָּרַעְתִּי לוֹ חוֹבוֹ זֶה שֶׁהוֹדֵיתִי בּוֹ וַהֲרֵי עֵדִים. הֲרֵי זֶה עֵדוּת מוֹעֶלֶת וְעוֹשִׂין עַל פִּיהֶם שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הִכְחִישׁ עֵדָיו וְאֵינוֹ כְּאוֹמֵר לֹא לָוִיתִי מֵעוֹלָם:


A litigant who advanced a claim in court can return and issue a second claim that contradicts the first one. We rely on the second claim even though he did not provide an explanation why he originally lodged a different claim. Even if he left the court and returned he may change and reverse any claims he desires, until witnesses come and testify.

After witnesses come and contradict the final claim on which he relied, he cannot change it to another claim, unless he provides an explanation for the claim on which he relied that could extend its meaning to include also the claim that he made afterwards.

The above applies provided he did not depart from the court. If, however, he departed from the court, he cannot come back and issue a different claim after witnesses came and testified. This is not acceptable; we fear that perhaps wicked people taught him to issue false claims. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.


יֵשׁ לַטּוֹעֵן בְּבֵית דִּין לַחְזֹר וְלִטְעֹן טַעֲנָה אַחֶרֶת לְהַכְחִישׁ הַטַּעֲנָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה וְסוֹמְכִין עַל טַעֲנָתוֹ הָאַחֲרוֹנָה. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא נָתַן אֲמַתְלָא לַטַּעֲנָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיָּצָא מִבֵּית דִּין וְחָזַר יֵשׁ לַחְזֹר וְלִטְעֹן וּלְהַפֵּךְ כָּל הַטְּעָנוֹת שֶׁיִּרְצֶה עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ עֵדִים. אֲבָל מֵאַחַר שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ עֵדִים וְיַכְחִישׁוּ טַעֲנָתוֹ הָאַחֲרוֹנָה שֶׁסָּמַךְ עָלֶיהָ אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהַשִּׁיאוֹ לְטַעֲנָה אַחֶרֶת אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נָתַן אֲמַתְלָא לַטַּעֲנָה שֶׁסָּמַךְ עָלֶיהָ. וְיֵשׁ בְּמַשְׁמָעָהּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהִשִּׁיא בְּזֹאת הַטַּעֲנָה הָאַחֶרֶת. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יָצָא מִבֵּית דִּין. אֲבָל אִם יָצָא מִבֵּית דִּין אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַחְזֹר וְלִטְעֹן אַחַר שֶׁבָּאוּ עֵדִים. שֶׁמָּא אֲנָשִׁים רָעִים לִמְּדוּהוּ טְעָנוֹת שֶׁל שֶׁקֶר. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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