We have already explained that a promissory note concerning a loan that was affirmed by a kinyan may be composed for a borrower even when the lender is not together with him. Similarly, we compose a deed of sale for a seller even though the purchaser is not together with him. And we compose a receipt for a lender even though the borrower is not together with him. We compose a receipt for a woman even though her husband is not together with her, and a bill of divorce for a man even though his wife is not with him.

We do not compose legal documents for consecration and marriage, sharecropping agreements, business contracts, the choice of judges, the claims of the litigants, and any act of court without the consent of both principals. It is necessary to be careful about all the particulars of the composition of these documents, as is the case with regard to other legal documents.


כְּבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ שֶׁשְּׁטַר חוֹב שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ קִנְיָן כּוֹתְבִין אוֹתוֹ לַלּוֶֹה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הַמַּלְוֶה עִמּוֹ. וְכֵן כּוֹתְבִין שְׁטָר לַמּוֹכֵר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הַלּוֹקֵחַ עִמּוֹ. וְכֵן כּוֹתְבִין שׁוֹבֵר לַמַּלְוֶה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הַלּוֶֹה עִמּוֹ וְשׁוֹבֵר לְאִשָּׁה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין בַּעְלָהּ עִמָּהּ וְגֵט לְאִישׁ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ. אֲבָל אֵין כּוֹתְבִין שִׁטְרֵי אֵרוּסִין וְנִשּׂוּאִין וְשִׁטְרֵי אֲרִיסוּת וְקַבְּלָנוּת וּשְׁטַר בְּרֵרַת הַדַּיָּנִין אוֹ שְׁטַר טַעֲנַת בַּעֲלֵי דִּינִין וְכָל מַעֲשֵׂה בֵּית דִּין אֶלָּא מִדַּעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם. וְכָל הַשְּׁטָרוֹת הָאֵלּוּ צְרִיכִין לְהִזָּהֵר בְּתִקּוּנָן כִּשְׁאָר הַשְּׁטָרוֹת:


Who must pay the scribe's fee for the composition of these documents? With regard to promissory notes, the borrower must pay. With regard to deeds of sale, the purchaser must pay. The woman must pay the fee for the bill of divorce. The groom must pay the fee for documents for consecration and marriage. The recipient of the field, the sharecropper, or the worker must pay the fee for the composition of a contract. With regard to the document recording the choice of judges and the claims of litigants, both parties must share the fee.


וּמִי נוֹתֵן שְׂכַר הַסּוֹפֵר. בְּשִׁטְרֵי הַלְוָאָה הַלּוֶֹה נוֹתֵן שָׂכָר. וּבְשִׁטְרֵי מִקָּח וּמִמְכָּר הַלּוֹקֵחַ נוֹתֵן שָׂכָר. וְהָאִשָּׁה נוֹתֶנֶת שְׂכַר הַגֵּט. וְהֶחָתָן נוֹתֵן שְׂכַר שְׁטַר הָאֵרוּסִין אוֹ הַנִּשּׂוּאִין. וְהַמְקַבֵּל וְכֵן הָאָרִיס אוֹ הַשָּׂכִיר נוֹתֵן שְׂכַר הַשְּׁטָר. אֲבָל שְׁטַר בְּרֵרַת הַדַּיָּנִין אוֹ טַעֲנוֹת בַּעֲלֵי דִּינִין שְׁנֵיהֶם נוֹתְנִין שָׂכָר:


The following law applies both to legal documents composed for one of the parties when the other is not present, and legal documents that can be composed only when both consent and both are present - e.g., a promissory note written at the request of the lender, or a deed of sale written at the request of the purchaser. In all instances, the witnesses must recognize the identity of the individuals mentioned in the legal document, that this is so-and-so, the son of so-and-so, and that this is so-and-so, the son of so-and-so. This is necessary, lest two individuals come and try to perpetrate deceit, changing their names to the names of other people, and then acknowledge obligations to each other.


אֶחָד הַשְּׁטָרוֹת הַנִּכְתָּבִין לְאֶחָד שֶׁלֹּא בִּפְנֵי חֲבֵרוֹ וְאֶחָד הַשְּׁטָרוֹת שֶׁאֵין כּוֹתְבִין אוֹתָן אֶלָּא מִדַּעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם וּשְׁנֵיהֶן עוֹמְדִין כְּגוֹן שְׁטָר שֶׁכּוֹתְבִין לַמַּלְוֶה אוֹ לַלּוֹקֵחַ כֻּלָּן צְרִיכִין שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הָעֵדִים מַכִּירִין הַשֵּׁמוֹת שׁבַּשְּׁטָר שֶׁזֶּה הוּא פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי וְזֶהוּ פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁמָּא יָבוֹאוּ שְׁנַיִם וְיַעֲשׂוּ קְנוּנְיָא וִישַׁנּוּ שְׁמוֹתֵיהֶן בְּשֵׁמוֹת אֲחֵרִים וְיוֹדוּ זֶה לָזֶה:


Whenever a person has established a name for 30 days in a city, we do not suspect that he has another name and has changed his name to perpetrate deceit. For if we would raise such suspicions, there would be no end to the matter.

Therefore, if a person who has not established has name in a city for 30 days comes and asks: "Write a promissory note for me that I am obligated to so-and-so" - or "... to this person for these and these many dinarim" we do not compose such a document for him unless he brings proof that this is his name, or he waits until his identity is established.


כָּל מִי שֶׁהֻחְזַק שְׁמוֹ בָּעִיר שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם אֵין חוֹשְׁשִׁין לוֹ שֶׁמָּא שֵׁם אַחֵר יֵשׁ לוֹ וְהוּא שִׁנָּהוּ כְּדֵי לְרַמּוֹת וְלַעֲשׂוֹת קְנוּנְיָא שֶׁאִם אַתָּה אוֹמֵר כֵּן אֵין לַדָּבָר סוֹף. לְפִיכָךְ מִי שֶׁלֹּא הֻחְזַק שְׁמוֹ בָּעִיר שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּבָא וְאָמַר כִּתְבוּ עָלַי שְׁטָר שֶׁאֲנִי חַיָּב לִפְלוֹנִי אוֹ לָזֶה כָּךְ וְכָךְ דִּינָרִין. אֵין כּוֹתְבִין לוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבִיא רְאָיָה שֶׁזֶּה שְׁמוֹ אוֹ יֻחְזַק:


The following laws apply when there is a dispute with regard to any promissory note produced before us. For example, the borrower claims: "I do not owe anything. Maybe a charlatan pretended that his name was my name and acknowledged owing money to this person." Or he might claim: "I do not owe anything to this person, but rather to another person. This plaintiff is a charlatan in claiming that his name is the same as the name of the person to whom I owe." Since it has not been established that there are two people in that city with the same name, we pay no attention to his claim. For it is an accepted presumption that witnesses will not sign a legal document unless they know the identity of the people mentioned within it.

Similarly, it is an accepted presumption that witnesses will not sign a legal document unless they know with certainty that the persons making the statements concerning themselves are adults and mentally competent. And witnesses will not sign a legal document unless they know how to read and sign their names.


כָּל שְׁטָר שֶׁיָּצָא לְפָנֵינוּ וְיִטְעֹן הַלּוֶֹה וְיֹאמַר אֵינִי חַיָּב כְּלוּם שֶׁמָּא רַמַּאי אַחֵר הֶעֱלָה שְׁמוֹ כִּשְׁמִי וְהוֹדָה לָזֶה אוֹ שֶׁאָמַר לֹא לָזֶה אֲנִי חַיָּב כְּלוּם אֶלָּא לְאַחֵר וְזֶה רַמַּאי הוּא וְהֶעֱלָה שְׁמוֹ כְּשֵׁם בַּעַל חוֹבִי. מֵאַחַר שֶׁלֹּא הֻחְזַק שָׁם שְׁנַיִם שֶׁשְּׁמוֹתֵיהֶן שָׁוִין אֵין חוֹשְׁשִׁין לִדְבָרָיו שֶׁחֲזָקָה הוּא שֶׁאֵין הָעֵדִים חוֹתְמִין עַל הַשְּׁטָר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן מַכִּירִין אֵלּוּ הַנִּזְכָּרִים בּוֹ. וְכֵן חֲזָקָה שֶׁאֵין חוֹתְמִין עַל הַשְּׁטָר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נוֹדַע לָהֶם בְּוַדַּאי שָׁאֵלוּ שֶׁהֵעִידוּ עַל עַצְמָן גְּדוֹלִים וּבְנֵי דַּעַת. וְאֵין הָעֵדִים חוֹתְמִין עַל הַשְּׁטָר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יוֹדְעִים לִקְרוֹת וְלַחְתֹּם:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


When witnesses do not know how to sign their names, and the names of the witnesses were cut out from a blank paper and placed over the legal document, and then the witnesses "signed" with this script, they are given stripes for rebellious conduct, and the promissory note is unacceptable.


עֵדִים שֶׁאֵין יוֹדְעִין לַחְתֹּם וְקָרְעוּ לָהֶן נְיָר חָלָק וְחָתְמוּ עַל הָרָשׁוּם מַכִּין אוֹתָן מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת וְהַשְּׁטָר פָּסוּל:


When the head of a court of law knows about the general circumstances described in a legal document, he may sign it even though he does not read it himself, but instead, it was read to him by one of his scribes. The rationale is that the head of the court trusts the scribe, and the scribe is afraid. No other person can do this. A witness may not sign a legal document until he reads it word for word.


רֹאשׁ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁהָיָה יוֹדֵעַ עִנְיַן הַשְּׁטָר וְקָרָא הַשְּׁטָר שֶׁלְּפָנָיו הַסּוֹפֵר שֶׁלּוֹ הוֹאִיל וְהוּא מַאֲמִין אוֹתוֹ וְאֵימָתוֹ עָלָיו הֲרֵי זֶה חוֹתֵם עַל הַשְּׁטָר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא קְרָאָהוּ הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ. וְאֵין שְׁאָר הָעָם רַשָּׁאִין לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן עַד שֶׁיִּקְרָא הָעֵד הַשְּׁטָר מִלָּה מִלָּה:


The following laws apply when there are two people in a city, each named Yosef, the son of Shimon. Neither of them can demand payment from the other on the basis of a promissory note that he produces, nor can a third party demand payment from either of them on the basis of a promissory note that he produces unless the witnesses who signed the promissory note come themselves and testify: "This is the promissory note concerning which we testified, and this is the person concerning whom we testified regarding the loan."

Similarly, such individuals cannot divorce their wives unless they do so in the presence of the other individual with the same name. Similarly, if a person finds a receipt among his legal documents saying, "The promissory note concerning the debt owed to Yosef, the son of Shimon, has been paid," the debts recorded in the promissory notes this person owes to both of these individuals with the same name are considered to be paid.

What should people whose names and the names of their parents are alike do to enable them to compose valid legal documents? They should write the third generation as identification in the legal document. If the names of their grandparents are the same, they should write a sign. If the signs also looked alike, they should write their family lineage. If they were both priests or both Levites, they should write further generations.


שְׁנַיִם שֶׁהָיוּ בָּעִיר שֵׁם כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן יוֹסֵף בֶּן שִׁמְעוֹן אֵינָן יְכוֹלִין לְהוֹצִיא שְׁטַר חוֹב זֶה עַל זֶה וְלֹא אַחֵר יָכוֹל לְהוֹצִיא עֲלֵיהֶן שְׁטַר חוֹב אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן בָּאוּ עֵדֵי הַשְּׁטָר בְּעַצְמָן וְאָמְרוּ זֶהוּ הַשְּׁטָר שֶׁהֵעַדְנוּ עָלָיו וְזֶהוּ שֶׁהֵעַדְנוּ לוֹ בְּהַלְוָאָה. וְכֵן אֵין מְגָרְשִׁין נְשׁוֹתֵיהֶן אֶלָּא זֶה בִּפְנֵי זֶה. וְכֵן אִם נִמְצָא לְאֶחָד בֵּין שִׁטְרוֹתָיו שׁוֹבֵר שֶׁשְּׁטָרוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף בֶּן שִׁמְעוֹן פָּרוּעַ שִׁטְרוֹת שְׁנֵיהֶן שֶׁעָלָיו פְּרוּעִין. וְכֵיצַד יַעֲשׂוּ אֵלּוּ שֶׁשְּׁמוֹתֵיהֶן שָׁוִין וּשְׁמוֹת אֲבִיהֶן שָׁוִין. יְשַׁלְּשׁוּ. הָיוּ שְׁמוֹת אֲבוֹת אֲבוֹתֵיהֶן שָׁוִין יִכְתְּבוּ סִימָנֵיהֶן. הָיוּ דּוֹמִין זֶה לָזֶה בְּצוּרָתָן יִכְתְּבוּ יִחוּסָן. הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם לְוִיִּם שְׁנֵיהֶם כֹּהֲנִים יִכְתְּבוּ דּוֹרוֹת:


The following laws apply when a person produces a promissory note against a colleague that states: "I, so-and-so, the son of so-and-so, borrowed a maneh from you." Although the name of the lender is not mentioned in the promissory note, any person who produces this promissory note from his possession can expropriate payment with it. The borrower cannot rebuff the plaintiff by saying that the promissory note belonged to another person from whom it fell.

Similarly, when there are two people named Yosef, the son of Shimon, dwelling in the same city and one of them produces a promissory note against one of the inhabitants of the city, the defendant cannot rebuff him by saying: "I am obligated to so-and-so whose name is the same as yours and this promissory note fell from him." Instead, the person who produced the promissory note may use it to collect the debt. We do not suspect that the promissory note fell.


הוֹצִיא עָלָיו שְׁטָר שֶׁכָּתוּב בּוֹ אֲנִי פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי לָוִיתִי מִמְּךָ מָנֶה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ שֵׁם הַמַּלְוֶה כָּל מִי שֶׁיָּצָא שְׁטָר זֶה מִתַּחַת יָדוֹ גּוֹבֶה בּוֹ וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִדְחוֹתוֹ וְלוֹמַר שֶׁל אַחֵר הוּא וְנָפַל. וְכֵן שְׁנֵי יוֹסֵף בְּנֵי שִׁמְעוֹן הַדָּרִין בְּעִיר אַחַת שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶחָד מֵהֶן שְׁטַר חוֹב עַל אֶחָד מִבְּנֵי הָעִיר אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִדְחוֹתוֹ וְלוֹמַר לוֹ לִפְלוֹנִי שֶׁהוּא כְּשִׁמְךָ אֲנִי חַיָּב וּמִמֶּנּוּ נָפַל הַשְּׁטָר אֶלָּא הֲרֵי זֶה שֶׁיָּצָא מִתַּחַת יָדוֹ גּוֹבֶה וְאֵין חוֹשְׁשִׁין לִנְפִילָה:


The following laws apply when two persons produce promissory notes against each other. The latter cannot tell the first: "If I owed you money, why would you borrow from me?" Instead, each one is entitled to collect the debt mentioned in his promissory note.

If both of the promissory notes were for 100 zuz, both of the principals possessed property of equivalent value, be it property of superior quality, property of intermediate quality, or property of inferior quality, we do not attend to them. Instead, each person remains with what he possesses. If one possesses property of superior quality and property of intermediate quality, and the other only property of inferior quality, the one should expropriate the property of intermediate quality, and the other should expropriate the property of inferior quality.


שְׁנַיִם שֶׁהוֹצִיאוּ כָּל אֶחָד מִשְּׁנֵיהֶם שְׁטַר חוֹב עַל חֲבֵרוֹ אֵין הָאַחֲרוֹן יָכוֹל לוֹמַר לָרִאשׁוֹן אִלּוּ הָיִיתִי חַיָּב לְךָ הֵיאַךְ אַתָּה לוֶֹה מִמֶּנִּי אֶלָּא זֶה גּוֹבֶה חוֹבוֹ וְזֶה גּוֹבֶה חוֹבוֹ. הָיָה זֶה בְּמֵאָה וְזֶה בְּמֵאָה וְיֵשׁ לָזֶה עִידִית וְלָזֶה עִידִית אוֹ לָזֶה בֵּינוֹנִית וְלָזֶה בֵּינוֹנִית לָזֶה זִבּוּרִית וְלָזֶה זִבּוּרִית אֵין נִזְקָקִין לָהֶן אֶלָּא כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד עוֹמֵד בְּשֶׁלּוֹ. הָיָה לָזֶה עִידִית וּבֵינוֹנִית וְלָזֶה זִבּוּרִית זֶה גּוֹבֶה מִן הַבֵּינוֹנִית וְזֶה גּוֹבֶה מִן הַזִּבּוּרִית:


The following laws apply when a person produces a promissory note against a colleague and that person produces a deed of sale, stating that the alleged lender sold him a field. If they are in a place where the purchaser pays the money, and afterwards the seller writes the deed of sale, the promissory note is invalidated. The rationale is that the borrower will tell the alleged lender: "If I was indebted to you, you should have used the money to pay the debt."

In a place where the deed of sale is composed and then the money is paid, however, the promissory note is viable. For the alleged lender can claim: "I sold you the field so that you would have known property from which I could collect my debt if you claimed bankruptcy."


הוֹצִיא שְׁטַר חוֹב עַל חֲבֵרוֹ וְהַלָּה מוֹצִיא שְׁטָר שֶׁמָּכַר לוֹ הַשָּׂדֶה אִם הָיוּ בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁנּוֹתֵן הַלּוֹקֵחַ הַמָּעוֹת וְאַחַר כָּךְ כּוֹתֵב לוֹ הַמּוֹכֵר אֶת הַשְּׁטָר הֲרֵי שְׁטַר חוֹבוֹ שֶׁל זֶה בָּטֵל שֶׁהֲרֵי אוֹמֵר לוֹ אִלּוּ הָיִיתִי חַיָּב לְךָ הָיָה לְךָ לִפְרֹעַ חוֹבְךָ. אֲבָל בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁכּוֹתְבִין וְאַחַר כָּךְ נוֹתְנִין הֲרֵי שְׁטַר הַחוֹב קַיָּם שֶׁהֲרֵי זֶה אוֹמֵר מָכַרְתִּי לְךָ אֶת הַשָּׂדֶה כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לְךָ נְכָסִים יְדוּעִים שֶׁאֶגְבֶּה מֵהֶן חוֹב שֶׁלִּי: