1

A ruling is never delivered in any judgment on the basis of the testimony of one witness, not in cases involving financial law, nor in cases involving capital punishment, as Deuteronomy 19:15 states: "One witness should not stand up against any person with regard to any transgression or any sin." According to the Oral Tradition, we learned that his testimony is effective with regard to an oath, as stated in Hilchot Toein ViNitan.

א

אֵין חוֹתְכִין דִּין מִן הַדִּינִין עַל פִּי עֵד אֶחָד לֹא דִּינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת וְלֹא דִּינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט טו) "לֹא יָקוּם עֵד אֶחָד בְּאִישׁ לְכָל עָוֹן וּלְכָל חַטָּאת". וּמִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמַדְנוּ שֶׁקָּם הוּא לִשְׁבוּעָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת טוֹעֵן:

2

In two situations, the Torah accepted the testimony of one witness:

a) with regard to a sotah, so that she does not drink the bitter waters; and

b) with regard to a calf whose neck is broken, to prevent its neck from being broken, as we explained.

Similarly, according to Rabbinic Law, we accept the testimony of one witness with regard to testimony concerning a woman, if he testifies regarding her that her husband died.

ב

בִּשְׁנֵי מְקוֹמוֹת הֶאֱמִינָה תּוֹרָה עֵד אֶחָד. בְּסוֹטָה שֶׁלֹּא תִּשְׁתֶּה מֵי מָרִים וּבְעֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה שֶׁלֹּא תֵּעָרֵף כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְכֵן מִדִּבְרֵיהֶן בְּעֵדוּת אִשָּׁה שֶׁיָּעִיד לָהּ שֶׁמֵּת בַּעְלָהּ:

3

Whenever the testimony of one witness is effective, a woman and a person disqualified as a witness may also testify. There is, however, an exception: a witness who requires that an oath be taken. We do not require that an oath be taken except on the basis of testimony that is acceptable and fit to be joined with the testimony of another person to obligate the person taking the oath to make financial restitution.

Deuteronomy 19:15 states: "On the basis of the testimony of two witnesses or on the basis of the testimony of three witnesses...," establishing an equation between three witnesses and two witnesses. Just as when there are two witnesses, if one of them is discovered to be a relative or unfit to deliver testimony, the entire testimony is nullified; so, too, if there are three - or even 100 - witnesses and one of them is discovered to be a relative or unfit to deliver testimony, the entire testimony is nullified. This applies both in matters involving financial law and in cases involving capital punishment.

ג

וְכָל מָקוֹם שֶׁעֵד אֶחָד מוֹעִיל אִשָּׁה וּפָסוּל כְּמוֹ כֵן מְעִידִים. חוּץ מֵעֵד אֶחָד שֶׁל שְׁבוּעָה שֶׁאֵין מְחַיְּבִין שְׁבוּעָה אֶלָּא בְּעֵדוּת כָּשֵׁר הָרָאוּי לְהִצְטָרֵף עִם אַחֵר וְיִתְחַיֵּב זֶה הַנִּשְׁבָּע מָמוֹן עַל פִּיו. עַל פִּי שְׁנַיִם עֵדִים אוֹ עַל פִּי שְׁלֹשָׁה עֵדִים לַעֲשׂוֹת שְׁלֹשָׁה כִּשְׁנַיִם מַה שְּׁנַיִם נִמְצָא אֶחָד מֵהֶן קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל בָּטֵל הָעֵדוּת אַף שְׁלֹשָׁה וְהוּא הַדִּין לְמֵאָה. נִמְצָא אֶחָד מֵהֶן קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל בְּטֵלָה הָעֵדוּת בֵּין בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת בֵּין בְּדִינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת:

4

When does the above apply? When all of the potential witnesses had the intent of delivering testimony. If, however, they did not all intend to deliver testimony, the testimony will not be nullified. What should two brothers do when they are together with other people and they and the others see a person murder a colleague, injure him, or grab an article from his hand?

ד

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בִּזְמַן שֶׁנִּתְכַּוְּנוּ כֻּלָּם לְהָעִיד. אֲבָל אִם לֹא נִתְכַּוְּנוּ כֻּלָּם לְהָעִיד מַה יַּעֲשׂוּ שְׁנֵי אַחִים בִּכְלַל הָעָם וְרָאוּ הָעָם כְּשֶׁהָרַג זֶה אֶת זֶה אוֹ כְּשֶׁחָבַל בּוֹ אוֹ כְּשֶׁחָטַף חֵפֶץ מִיָּדוֹ:

5

How do we investigate the matter? When many witnesses come to the court as a single group, we ask them: "When you saw this person kill or injure was your intent to serve as a witness or merely to observe?" All those who say that their intent was not to serve as a witness, but they came merely to observe the matter as part of people at large are set aside. And all those who say: "I stood and took notice solely for the purpose of serving as a witness and being precise in my testimony," are set aside. If a relative or an unacceptable witness is found among those who intended to deliver testimony, the entire testimony is nullified.

When does the above apply? When a relative or an unacceptable witness was present. If, however, they are all acceptable to serve as witnesses, their testimony is taken into account whether they intended to serve as witnesses or not. Since they observed the matter, related the particulars of the testimony, and a warning was given the transgressor, the matter is adjudicated on this basis. This applies both in matters involving financial law and in cases involving capital punishment.

ה

וְכֵיצַד בּוֹדְקִין אֶת הַדָּבָר. כְּשֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ לְבֵית דִּין עֵדִים מְרֻבִּין. כַּת אַחַת אוֹמֵר לָהֶם כְּשֶׁרְאִיתֶם זֶה שֶׁהָרַג אוֹ חָבַל לְהָעִיד בָּאתֶם אוֹ לִרְאוֹת. כָּל מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵר לֹא לְהָעִיד עָלָיו אֶלָּא לִרְאוֹת מָה הַדָּבָר וּבִכְלַל הָעָם בָּאתִי מַפְרִישִׁין אוֹתוֹ. וְכָל מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵר לֹא הָיִיתִי עוֹמֵד אֶלָּא לְהָעִיד וּלְכַוֵּן הָעֵדוּת מַפְרִישִׁין אוֹתוֹ. אִם נִמְצָא בְּאֵלּוּ שֶׁנִּתְכַּוְּנוּ לְהָעִיד קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל עֵדוּת כֻּלָּם בְּטֵלָה. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיָה בָּהֶן קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל. אֲבָל אִם כֻּלָּם כְּשֵׁרִים אֶחָד שֶׁנִּתְכַּוֵּן לְהָעִיד אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא נִתְכַּוֵּן לְהָעִיד הוֹאִיל וְרָאָה הַדָּבָר וְכִוֵּן עֵדוּתוֹ וְהָיָה שָׁם הַתְרָאָה חוֹתְכִין הַדִּין עַל פִּיו. בֵּין בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת בֵּין בְּדִינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת:

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.

6

The following laws apply when there is a legal document with many witnesses and one of them is discovered to be a relative or unacceptable or two of them are related to each other and the witnesses are not alive so that they could be asked whether they intended to sign as witnesses or not. If there is definitive testimony that they all sat down with the intent of signing - i.e., they intended to give testimony - the document is unacceptable. If not, the testimony may be maintained on the basis of the other witnesses.

Why may the testimony be maintained on the basis of the other witnesses? Because it is possible that the acceptable witnesses signed and left a place for a person of stature to sign and the relative or the unacceptable witness signed without them knowing.

ו

שְׁטָר שֶׁהָיוּ עֵדָיו מְרֻבִּין וְנִמְצָא אֶחָד מֵהֶן קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ בָּהֶם שְׁנַיִם קְרוֹבִים זֶה לָזֶה. וַהֲרֵי אֵין הָעֵדִים קַיָּמִין כְּדֵי לִשְׁאל אוֹתָן. אִם יֵשׁ שָׁם עֵדוּת בְּרוּרָה שֶׁכֻּלָּם יָשְׁבוּ לַחְתֹּם שֶׁהֲרֵי נִתְכַּוְּנוּ לְהָעִיד הֲרֵי זֶה בָּטֵל. וְאִם לָאו תִּתְקַיֵּם הָעֵדוּת בַּשְּׁאָר. וְלָמָּה מְקַיְּמִין הָעֵדוּת בַּשְּׁאָר שֶׁהֲרֵי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁחָתְמוּ הַכְּשֵׁרִים וְהִנִּיחוּ מָקוֹם לַגָּדוֹל לַחְתֹּם וּבָא זֶה הַקָּרוֹב אוֹ הַפָּסוּל וְחָתַם שֶׁלֹּא מִדַּעְתָּם:

7

Even though an unacceptable witness is the first whose signature appears on the legal document, the document is acceptable.

ז

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהָעֵד שֶׁחָתוּם מִתְּחִלָּה בַּשְּׁטָר הוּא הַפָּסוּל הֲרֵי הַשְּׁטָר כָּשֵׁר:

8

Whenever a witness delivers testimony in a case involving capital punishment, he may not rule as a judge with regard to this murder. He may not offer an opinion in favor of the accused's acquittal or conviction. If he states: "I have a rationale that should lead to his acquittal, he is silenced, as implied by Numbers 35:30: "One witness shall not make a statement with regard to a case involving capital punishment," i.e., his words are not accepted neither for acquittal, nor for conviction.

What is the intent of the phrase "involving capital punishment"? That once a witness testifies with regard to capital punishment, he should make no further statements. He should deliver his testimony and be silent. With regard to cases involving financial matters, he may, however, offer an opinion leading to the defendant being released from financial liability or held liable. He may not, however, be counted among the judges or serve as a judge. For a witness may not serve as a judge. This applies even in cases involving financial matters.

ח

כָּל עֵד שֶׁהֵעִיד בְּדִינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת אֵינוֹ מוֹרֶה בְּדִין זֶה הַנֶּהֱרָג וְלֹא יְלַמֵּד עָלָיו לֹא זְכוּת וְלֹא חוֹבָה. וְאִם אָמַר יֵשׁ לִי לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת מְשַׁתְּקִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה ל) "וְעֵד אֶחָד לֹא יַעֲנֶה בְנֶפֶשׁ לָמוּת". בֵּין לִזְכוּת בֵּין לְחוֹבָה. וּמַהוּ זֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לָמוּת כְּלוֹמַר עֵד שֶׁהֵעִיד בְּנֶפֶשׁ לָמוּת לֹא יַעֲנֶה דָּבָר אֶלָּא יָעִיד וְיִשְׁתֹּק. אֲבָל בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת יֵשׁ לוֹ לְלַמֵּד עָלָיו זְכוּת אוֹ חוֹבָה. אֲבָל לֹא יִמָּנֶה עִם הַדַּיָּנִים וְלֹא יֵעָשֶׂה דַּיָּן שֶׁאֵין עֵד נַעֲשֶׂה דַּיָּן אֲפִלּוּ בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת:

9

When does the above apply? With regard to matters that, according to Scriptural Law, require testimony and adjudication by judges. In matters of Rabbinic Law, by contrast, a witness may serve as a judge.

What is implied? A person brought a bill of divorce and stated: "It was written and signed in my presence." He and two other individuals may serve as a court and give the woman the bill of divorce. It is as if she received it in a court. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

ט

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּדָבָר שֶׁצָּרִיךְ עֵדִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְצָרִיךְ דַּיָּנִים לָדוּן בְּאוֹתוֹ הַדָּבָר מִן הַתּוֹרָה. אֲבָל בְּשֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם עֵד נַעֲשֶׂה דַּיָּן. כֵּיצַד. אֶחָד שֶׁהֵבִיא הַגֵּט וְאָמַר בְּפָנַי נִכְתַּב וּבְפָנַי נֶחְתַּם. הוּא וּשְׁנַיִם נוֹתְנִין אוֹתוֹ לָהּ וְנִמְצָא כְּאִלּוּ נְטָלוּהוּ מִבֵּית דִּין. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה: