A judge may adjudicate cases involving monetary law bases on factors that he is inclined to regard as true and concerning which he feels strongly in his heart are correct even though he does not have proof of the matters. Needless to say, that if he personally knows that a matter is true, he may judge the case according to his knowledge.

What is implied? A person was obligated to take an oath by the court. A person who the judge regards as trustworthy and upon whose word the judge relies tells him that this person is suspect to take a false oath. The judge may reverse the obligation for the oath and place it on the other litigant, allowing him to take an oath and collect his claim because the judge relied on the statements of this person.

Moreover, even if he regards a woman or a servant as trustworthy, should he feel strongly that the matter about which they are speaking is correct, he may rely on their statement and judge accordingly. Needless to say, if he himself knows that a person is suspect to take a false oath, he may judge accordingly.

Similarly, when a promissory note comes before him and a person upon whom he relies - even a woman or a relative - says that it has been repaid, if he trusts his word, he may tell the bearer of the note: "Payment will be required only when an oath is taken." Similarly, if the alleged debtor is also indebted to another person, the judge may have the debtor pay the creditor whose promissory note was not impugned at all and leave the promissory note that was impugned by the person's testimony unpaid. Or he may reject the promissory note and not consider it in judgment if he sees fit.

Similar laws apply if a person comes and claims that he entrusted an article to so-and-so who died and identified the article with extremely precise descriptive marks. If the claimant did not frequent the home of the deceased, and if the judge knows that the deceased did not have the means to own such an article and he firmly believes that the article did not belong to the deceased, the article may be expropriated from the heirs and given to the person provided he has the means to own it and identified it with descriptive marks. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

These matters are solely given over to the heart of the judge to decide according to what he perceives as being a true judgment. Why then did the Torah require two witnesses? Because when two witnesses appear before a judge, he must judge according to their testimony whether or not he knows it to be true.


יֵשׁ לַדַּיָּן לָדוּן בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת עַל פִּי הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁדַּעְתּוֹ נוֹטָה לָהֶן שֶׁהֵן אֱמֶת וְהַדָּבָר חָזָק בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁהוּא כֵּן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם רְאָיָה בְּרוּרָה וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁהַדָּבָר כֵּן הוּא שֶׁהוּא דָּן כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיּוֹדֵעַ. כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב אָדָם שְׁבוּעָה בְּבֵית דִּין וְאָמַר לַדַּיָּן אָדָם שֶׁהוּא נֶאֱמָן אֶצְלוֹ וְשֶׁדַּעְתּוֹ סוֹמֶכֶת עַל דְּבָרָיו שֶׁזֶּה הָאִישׁ חָשׁוּד עַל הַשְּׁבוּעָה יֵשׁ לַדַּיָּן לַהֲפֹךְ הַשְּׁבוּעָה עַל שֶׁכְּנֶגְדוֹ וְיִשָּׁבַע וְיִטּל הוֹאִיל וְסָמְכָה דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל דַּיָּן עַל דִּבְרֵי זֶה. אֲפִלּוּ הָיְתָה אִשָּׁה אוֹ עֶבֶד נֶאֱמָנִים אֶצְלוֹ הוֹאִיל וּמָצָא הַדָּבָר חָזָק וְנָכוֹן בְּלִבּוֹ סוֹמֵךְ עָלָיו וְדָן. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם יָדַע הוּא עַצְמוֹ שֶׁזֶּה חָשׁוּד. וְכֵן אִם יָצָא שְׁטַר חוֹב לְפָנָיו וְאָמַר לוֹ אָדָם שֶׁסָּמַךְ עָלָיו אֲפִלּוּ אִשָּׁה אוֹ קָרוֹב זֶה פָּרוּעַ הוּא אִם סָמְכָה דַּעְתּוֹ עַל דְּבָרָיו יֵשׁ לוֹ לוֹמַר לָזֶה לֹא תִּפָּרַע אֶלָּא בִּשְׁבוּעָה. אוֹ אִם הָיָה עָלָיו שְׁטַר חוֹב לְאַחֵר יִתֵּן לְזֶה שֶׁלֹּא נִפְגַּם שְׁטָרוֹ כְּלָל וְיַנִּיחַ זֶה שֶׁנִּפְגַּם שְׁטָרוֹ בְּדִבְרֵי הָאֶחָד אוֹ יַשְׁלִיךְ הַשְּׁטָר בְּפָנָיו וְלֹא יָדוּן בּוֹ כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיִּרְאֶה. וְכֵן מִי שֶׁבָּא וְטָעַן שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ פִּקָּדוֹן אֵצֶל פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁמֵּת בְּלֹא צַוָּאָה וְנָתַן סִימָנִין מֻבְהָקִין וְלֹא הָיָה זֶה הַטּוֹעֵן רָגִיל לְהִכָּנֵס בְּבֵית זֶה הָאִישׁ שֶׁמֵּת. אִם יָדַע הַדַּיָּן שֶׁזֶּה הַמֵּת אֵינוֹ אָמוּד לִהְיוֹת לוֹ חֵפֶץ זֶה וְסָמְכָה דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁאֵין זֶה הַחֵפֶץ שֶׁל מֵת מוֹצִיאוֹ מִן הַיּוֹרְשִׁין וְנוֹתְנוֹ לְזֶה הָאָמוּד בּוֹ וְנָתַן סִימָנִים. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה שֶׁאֵין הַדָּבָר מָסוּר אֶלָּא לְלִבּוֹ שֶׁל דַּיָּן לְפִי מַה שֶּׁיֵּרָאֶה לוֹ שֶׁהוּא דִּין הָאֱמֶת. אִם כֵּן לָמָּה הִצְרִיכָה תּוֹרָה שְׁנֵי עֵדִים שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ לִפְנֵי הַדַּיָּן שְׁנֵי עֵדִים יָדוּן עַל פִּי עֵדוּתָן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ אִם בֶּאֱמֶת הֱעִידוּ אוֹ בְּשֶׁקֶר:


All of the matters mentioned above are the fundamental standard of law. Nevertheless, when courts which were not fitting - not necessarily courts which were not upright, but even those whose deeds were just, but whose judges were not sufficiently wise and masters of understanding - proliferated, the majority of the courts among the Jewish people agreed not to reverse oaths unless there was clear proof that a litigant was suspect of taking a false oath. Similarly, they agreed not to disqualify a promissory note on the basis of the testimony of a woman or an unacceptable witness, nor accept their testimony with regard to all other judgments, nor to judge according to the inclinations of one's thoughts without firm knowledge.

The rationale for this stringency is to prevent any simple person from saying: "My heart trusts this person's words and my mind relies on this." Similarly, we do not expropriate property from orphans unless there is clear proof. We do not rely on the judge's opinion, the evaluation of the deceased's financial capacity, or that of the claimant. Even though a trustworthy person delivered testimony concerning a certain matter and the mind of the judge was inclined to believe that he was telling the truth, he should hesitate in judgment. He should not reject his testimony. Instead, he should mediate between the litigants until they accept the testimony of the witness or agree to a compromise. Alternatively, the judge may withdraw from the case.


כָּל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים הֵן עִקַּר הַדִּין. אֲבָל מִשֶּׁרַבּוּ בָּתֵּי דִּינִין שֶׁאֵינָן הֲגוּנִים וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ הֲגוּנִים בְּמַעֲשֵׂיהֶם אֵינָן חֲכָמִים כָּרָאוּי וּבַעֲלֵי בִּינָה הִסְכִּימוּ רֹב בָּתֵּי דִּינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁלֹּא יְהַפְּכוּ שְׁבוּעָה אֶלָּא בִּרְאָיָה בְּרוּרָה. וְלֹא יִפְגְּמוּ שְׁטָר וְיַפְסִידוּ חֶזְקָתוֹ בְּעֵדוּת אִשָּׁה אוֹ פָּסוּל וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר כָּל הַדִּינִין וְלֹא יָדוּן הַדַּיָּן בִּסְמִיכַת דַּעְתּוֹ וְלֹא בִּידִיעָתוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמַר כָּל הֶדְיוֹט לִבִּי מַאֲמִין לְדִבְרֵי זֶה וְדַעְתִּי סוֹמֶכֶת עַל זֶה. וְכֵן אֵין מוֹצִיאִין מִן הַיְתוֹמִים אֶלָּא בִּרְאָיָה בְּרוּרָה לֹא בְּדַעַת הַדַּיָּן וְלֹא בְּאֻמְדַּן הַמֵּת אוֹ הַטּוֹעֵן. וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן אִם הֵעִיד אָדָם נֶאֱמָן בְּדָבָר מִכָּל הַדְּבָרִים וְנָטְתָה דַּעַת הַדַּיָּן שֶׁאֱמֶת הוּא אוֹמֵר מַמְתִּין בַּדִּין וְאֵינוֹ דּוֹחָה עֵדוּתוֹ וְנוֹשֵׂא וְנוֹתֵן עִם בַּעֲלֵי דִּינִין עַד שֶׁיּוֹדוּ לְדִבְרֵי הָעֵד אוֹ יַעֲשׂוּ פְּשָׁרָה אוֹ יִסְתַּלֵּק מִן הַדִּין:


What is the source which teaches that a judge who knows that a claim is contrived should not say: "I will deliver a judgment and the responsibility will lie with the witnesses"? It is written Exodus 23:7: "Keep distant from words of falsehood."

What shall he do? He should question and cross-examine the witnesses exceedingly, following the cross-examination process employed in cases involving capital punishment. If it appears to him according to his understanding that there is no deception, he should deliver a judgment. If, however,

a) he still has hesitations because he feels that deception is involved,

b) he does not rely on the testimony of the witnesses although he cannot disqualify them,

c) he feels that one of the litigants is a deceiver and a beguiler and misled the witnesses even though they are fit to testify and testified honestly, it is only that the litigant led them astray, or

d) that from the things that were said, he feels that there are hidden factors which they do not desire to reveal,

in these and in all similar matters, it is forbidden for him to deliver a ruling. Instead, he should withdraw from this judgment and allow it to be decided by someone whose heart is at peace with the matter. These matters are given over to a person's heart. Concerning these Deuteronomy 1:17 states: "Judgment is God's."


וּמִנַּיִן לְדַיָּן שֶׁהוּא יוֹדֵעַ בְּדִין שֶׁהוּא מְרֻמֶּה שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמַר אֶחְתְּכֶנּוּ וְיִהְיֶה הַקּוֹלָר תָּלוּי בְּצַוְּארֵי הָעֵדִים. תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (שמות כג ז) "מִדְּבַר שֶׁקֶר תִּרְחָק". כֵּיצַד יַעֲשֶׂה. יִדְרשׁ בּוֹ וְיַחְקֹר הַרְבֵּה בִּדְרִישָׁה וּבַחֲקִירָה שֶׁל דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת אִם נִרְאֶה לוֹ לְפִי דַּעְתּוֹ [שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ רַמָּאוּת חוֹתֵךְ אֶת הַדִּין עַל פִּי הָעֵדוּת אֲבָל אִם הָיָה לִבּוֹ נוֹקְפוֹ] שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ רַמָּאוּת אוֹ שֶׁאֵין דַּעְתּוֹ סוֹמֶכֶת עַל דִּבְרֵי הָעֵדִים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְפָסְלָן אוֹ שֶׁדַּעְתּוֹ נוֹטָה שֶׁבַּעַל דִּין זֶה רַמַּאי וּבַעַל עָרְמָה וְהִשִּׁיא אֶת הָעֵדִים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵם כְּשֵׁרִים וּלְפִי תֻּמָּם הֵעִידוּ וְזֶה הַטַּעַם אוֹ שֶׁנִּרְאֶה לוֹ מִכְּלַל הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם דְּבָרִים אֲחֵרִים מְסֻתָּרִין וְאֵינָן רוֹצִים לְגַלּוֹתָם. כָּל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אָסוּר לוֹ לַחְתֹּךְ אוֹתוֹ הַדִּין אֶלָּא יְסַלֵּק עַצְמוֹ מִדִּין זֶה וִידִינֶנּוּ מִי שֶׁלִּבּוֹ שָׁלֵם בַּדָּבָר. וַהֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים מְסוּרִים לַלֵּב וְהַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר (דברים א יז) "כִּי הַמִּשְׁפָּט לֵאלֹהִים הוּא":


A court has the authority to administer lashes to a person who is not required to receive lashes and to execute a person who is not liable to be executed. This license was not granted to overstep the words of the Torah, but rather to create a fence around the words of the Torah. When the court sees that the people have broken the accepted norms with regard to a matter, they may establish safeguards to strengthen the matter according to what appears necessary to them. All the above applies with regard to establishing directives for the immediate time, and not with regard to the establishment of halachah for all time.

An incident occurred where they had a man lashed for engaging in relations with his wife under a tree. And an incident occurred concerning a person who rode on a horse on the Sabbath in the era of the Greeks and they brought him to the court and had him stoned to death. And an incident occurred and Shimon ben Shetach hung 80 women on one day in Ashkelon. All of the required processes of questioning, cross-examination, and warnings were not followed, nor was the testimony unequivocal. Instead, their execution was a directive for that immediate time according to what he perceived as necessary.


יֵשׁ לְבֵית דִּין לְהַלְקוֹת מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְחֻיַּב מַלְקוֹת וְלַהֲרֹג מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְחֻיַּב מִיתָה וְלֹא לַעֲבֹר עַל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה אֶלָּא לַעֲשׂוֹת סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁרוֹאִים בֵּית דִּין שֶׁפָּרְצוּ הָעָם בַּדָּבָר יֵשׁ לָהֶן לִגְדֹּר וּלְחַזֵּק הַדָּבָר כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיֵּרָאֶה לָהֶם הַכּל הוֹרָאַת שָׁעָה לֹא שֶׁיִּקְבַּע הֲלָכָה לְדוֹרוֹת. מַעֲשֶׂה וְהִלְקוּ אָדָם שֶׁבָּעַל אִשְׁתּוֹ תַּחַת אִילָן. וּמַעֲשֶׂה בְּאֶחָד שֶׁרָכַב עַל סוּס בְּשַׁבָּת בִּימֵי יְוָנִים וֶהֱבִיאוּהוּ לְבֵית דִּין וּסְקָלוּהוּ. וּמַעֲשֶׂה וְתָלָה שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן שֶׁטַח שְׁמוֹנִים נָשִׁים בְּיוֹם אֶחָד בְּאַשְׁקְלוֹן וְלֹא הָיוּ שָׁם כָּל דַּרְכֵי הַדְּרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה וְהַהַתְרָאָה וְלֹא בְּעֵדוּת בְּרוּרָה אֶלָּא הוֹרָאַת שָׁעָה כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁרָאָה:


Similarly, at any time, and in any place, a court has the license to give a person lashes if he has a reputation for immorality and people gossip about him, saying that he acts licentiously. This applies provided the rumor is heard continuously, as we explained, and he does not have any known enemies who would spread this unfavorable report. Similarly, a person with such an unsavory reputation may be humiliated and scorn may be heaped on his mother in his presence.


וְכֵן יֵשׁ לְבֵית דִּין בְּכָל מָקוֹם וּבְכָל זְמַן לְהַלְקוֹת אָדָם שֶׁשְּׁמוּעָתוֹ רָעָה וְהָעָם מְרַנְּנִים עָלָיו שֶׁהוּא עוֹבֵר עַל הָעֲרָיוֹת וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה קוֹל שֶׁאֵינוֹ פּוֹסֵק כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ וְלֹא יִהְיוּ אֵלּוּ אוֹיְבִים יְדוּעִים שֶׁמּוֹצִיאִין עָלָיו שְׁמוּעָה רָעָה. וְכֵן מְבַזִּין אֶת זֶה שֶׁשְּׁמוּעָתוֹ רָעָה וּמְחָרְפִין אֶת יוֹלַדְתּוֹ בְּפָנָיו:

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.


Similarly, at all times, a court has the prerogative to declare money belonging to others as ownerless. It may destroy those funds or give them to whomever they see fit to close any breaches in the faith and to strengthen its observance or to penalize a stubborn and difficult person. The Book of Ezra 10:8 states: "Whoever fails to come in three days according to the advice of the officers and the elders will have all of his property confiscated." From this we learn that when a court declares property ownerless, their declaration is effective.


וְכֵן יֵשׁ לַדַּיָּן תָּמִיד לְהַפְקִיר מָמוֹן שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בְּעָלִים וּמְאַבֵּד וְנוֹתֵן כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיִּרְאֶה לִגְדֹּר פְּרָצוֹת הַדָּת וּלְחַזֵּק הַבֶּדֶק אוֹ לִקְנֹס אַלָּם זֶה וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר בְּעֶזְרָא (עזרא י ח) "וְכל אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָבוֹא לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת הַיָּמִים כַּעֲצַת הַשָּׂרִים וְהַזְּקֵנִים יָחֳרַם כָּל רְכוּשׁוֹ" מִכָּאן שֶׁהֶפְקֵר בֵּית דִּין הֶפְקֵר:


Similarly, a judge may apply a ban of ostracism or excommunication to a person to whom these measures would not ordinarily be applied according to his perception of what is necessary at that time. He should state that he is ostracizing him or excommunicating him on his own conviction and should publicize his transgression in public. This is indicated by Judges 5:23: "'Curse Meroz,' said the angel of G‑d. 'Curse him. Those who dwell with him are cursed, because they did not come to the aid of God's people.'"


וְכֵן יֵשׁ לַדַּיָּן לְנַדּוֹת וּלְהַחֲרִים מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ בֶּן נִדּוּי כְּדֵי לִגְדֹּר פֶּרֶץ כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיֵּרָאֶה לוֹ וְהַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה לְכָךְ וְיֹאמַר שֶׁנִּדָּהוּ וְהֶחְרִימָהוּ עַל דַּעְתּוֹ וִיפַרְסֵם חֶטְאוֹ בָּרַבִּים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שופטים ה כג) "אוֹרוּ מֵרוֹז אָמַר מַלְאַךְ ה' אֹרוּ אָרוֹר ישְׁבֶיהָ כִּי לֹא בָאוּ לְעֶזְרַת ה'":


Similarly, a judge may enter into a controversy with a person with whom it is necessary to enter into controversy, cursing him, having him beaten, having his hair pulled out, and compelling him to take an oath to God against his will so that he will not perform or that he did not perform a specific action, as Nechemiah 13:25 states: "I entered into controversy with them; I cursed them; I beat people among them; I tore their hair out, and I made them take an oath to God."


וְכֵן יֵשׁ לַדַּיָּן לַעֲשׂוֹת מְרִיבָה עִם הָרָאוּי לָרִיב עִמּוֹ וּלְקַלְּלוֹ וּלְהַכּוֹתוֹ וְלִתְלֹשׁ שְׂעָרוֹ וּלְהַשְׁבִּיעַ בֵּאלֹהִים בְּעַל כָּרְחוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲשֶׂה אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (נחמיה יג כה) "וָאָרִיב עִמָּם וָאֲקַלְלֵם וָאַכֶּה מֵהֶם אֲנָשִׁים וָאֶמְרְטֵם וָאַשְׁבִּיעֵם בֵּאלֹהִים":


Similarly, he may have a person's hands and feet bound. He may imprison him and have him pushed to the ground and dragged, as Ezra 7:26 states: "Judgment will be speedily administered to him, to be executed, to be uprooted, to be punished by a loss of property, and to be imprisoned."


וְכֵן יֵשׁ לוֹ לִכְפּוֹת יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם וְלֶאֱסֹר בְּבֵית הָאֲסוּרִים וְלִדְחֹף וְלִסְחֹב עַל הָאָרֶץ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (עזרא ז כו) "הֵן לְמוֹת הֵן לִשְׁרשִׁי הֵן לַעֲנָשׁ נִכְסִין וְלֶאֱסוּרִין":


All of the above measures should be applied according to the judge's perception that it is appropriate that the violator be punished in this manner or the situation at large requires it. All of his deeds should be for the sake of heaven and the honor of people at large should not be light in his eyes. For consideration of their honor overrides the observance of a Rabbinic prohibition. Certainly, this applies with regard to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who uphold the Torah of truth. He must take care not to ruin their honor and act only to increase the honor of the Omnipresent. For whenever a person debases the Torah, his person will be degraded for people at large. Conversely, when a person honors the Torah, his person will be honored by people at large. And there is no other honor for the Torah except to follow its statutes and judgments.


כָּל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים לְפִי מַה שֶּׁיִּרְאֶה הַדַּיָּן שֶׁזֶּה רָאוּי לְכָךְ וְשֶׁהַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה. וּבַכּל יִהְיוּ מַעֲשָׂיו לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם וְאַל יִהְיֶה כְּבוֹד הַבְּרִיּוֹת קַל בְּעֵינָיו שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא דּוֹחֶה אֶת לֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן כְּבוֹד בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב הַמַּחֲזִיקִין בְּתוֹרַת הָאֱמֶת שֶׁיִּהְיֶה זָהִיר שֶׁלֹּא יַהֲרֹס כְּבוֹדָם אֶלָּא לְהוֹסִיף בִּכְבוֹד הַמָּקוֹם בִּלְבַד שֶׁכָּל הַמְבַזֶּה אֶת הַתּוֹרָה גּוּפוֹ מְחֻלָּל עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת וְהַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַתּוֹרָה גּוּפוֹ מְכֻבָּד עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת. וְאֵין כְּבוֹד הַתּוֹרָה אֶלָּא לַעֲשׂוֹת עַל פִּי חֻקֶּיהָ וּמִשְׁפָּטֶיהָ: