The three laws that the Torah states with regard to the four watchmen apply only with regard to movable property that is not consecrated and which belongs to a Jew.

This is derived from Exodus 22:6,9, which mentions: "money or articles and any animal." This excludes landed property and slaves, for they are equated with landed property. And it excludes promissory notes, for they themselves are not money.

And consecrated property is excluded, for ibid.:6 states: "When a person will give to his colleague." And this also excludes property owned by gentiles. Accordingly, our Sages stated: An unpaid watchman need not take an oath with regard to claims involving slaves, promissory notes, landed property and consecrated property. Similarly, a paid watchman or a renter need not pay if they are destroyed. If the watchman performed a kinyan confirming his responsibility for such articles, he is responsible for them.


שְׁלֹשָׁה דִּינִין הָאֲמוּרִין בַּתּוֹרָה בְּאַרְבָּעָה הַשּׁוֹמְרִין אֵינָן אֶלָּא בְּמִטַּלְטְלִין שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְשֶׁל הֶדְיוֹט שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב ו) "כֶּסֶף אוֹ כֵלִים" (שמות כב ט) "וְכָל בְּהֵמָה" יָצְאוּ קַרְקָעוֹת וְיָצְאוּ הָעֲבָדִים שֶׁהֻקְּשׁוּ לְקַרְקָעוֹת וְיָצְאוּ הַשְּׁטָרוֹת שֶׁאֵין גּוּפָן מָמוֹן וְיָצְאוּ הֶקְדֵּשׁוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב ו) "כִּי יִתֵּן אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ" וְיָצְאוּ נִכְסֵי עַכּוּ''ם. מִכָּאן אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים הָעֲבָדִים וְהַשְּׁטָרוֹת וְהַקַּרְקָעוֹת וְהַהֶקְדֵּשׁוֹת שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם שֶׁלָּהֶן אֵינוֹ נִשְׁבָּע. וְנוֹשֵׂא שָׂכָר אוֹ שׂוֹכֵר אֵינוֹ מְשַׁלֵּם. וְאִם קָנוּ מִיָּדוֹ חַיָּב בְּאַחֲרָיוּתָן:


Our Sages ordained that the oaths required of watchmen should be taken with regard to consecrated property in the same manner as required by the Torah with regard to other property so that people should not deal lightly with consecrated property.


וְתִקְּנוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּעִין עַל הַהֶקְדֵּשׁוֹת שְׁבוּעַת הַשּׁוֹמְרִין כְּעֵין שֶׁל תּוֹרָה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְזַלְזְלוּ בַּהֶקְדֵּשׁוֹת:


It appears to me that a watchman who was negligent with regard to the care of slaves and the like is obligated to make restitution. For he is freed of responsibility with regard to slaves, landed property and promissory notes - only for the obligations stemming from theft, loss, death and the like. For if he was an unpaid watchman for movable property, and it was stolen or lost, he would be required to take an oath; but for slaves, landed property and promissory notes, he is not required to take an oath. Similarly, if he was a paid watchman, he would be required to make restitution for movable property that was stolen or lost, but for these he is freed of liability. If, however, he was negligent, he is required to make restitution. For everyone who is negligent is considered to be one who damages property, and there is no difference between the laws applying to a person who damages landed property and one who damages movable property.

This is a true judgment, as those who understand will see, and this is the appropriate way to rule. Similarly, my teachers issued the following rulings with regard to a person who entrusts his vine to a sharecropper or to a watchman and stipulates that he dig, prune or dust it from his own resources. If the watchman is negligent and does not perform the required task, he is liable as if he destroyed it with his hands. Similarly, he is liable in all instances where he causes a loss through his actions.


יֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁאִם פָּשַׁע הַשּׁוֹמֵר בַּעֲבָדִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם. שֶׁאֵינוֹ פָּטוּר בַּעֲבָדִים וְקַרְקָעוֹת וּשְׁטָרוֹת אֶלָּא מִדִּין גְּנֵבָה וַאֲבֵדָה וּמֵתָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. שֶׁאִם הָיָה שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם עַל מִטַּלְטְלִין וְנִגְנְבוּ אוֹ אָבְדוּ יִשָּׁבַע וּבַעֲבָדִים וְקַרְקָעוֹת וּשְׁטָרוֹת פָּטוּר מִשְּׁבוּעָה. וְכֵן אִם הָיָה שׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר שֶׁמְּשַׁלֵּם גְּנֵבָה וַאֲבֵדָה בְּמִטַּלְטְלִין פָּטוּר מִלְּשַׁלֵּם בְּאֵלּוּ. אֲבָל אִם פָּשַׁע בָּהּ חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם שֶׁכָּל הַפּוֹשֵׁעַ מַזִּיק הוּא. וְאֵין הֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּין דִּין הַמַּזִּיק קַרְקַע לְדִין הַמַּזִּיק מִטַּלְטְלִין. וְדִין אֱמֶת הוּא זֶה לַמְּבִינִים וְכֵן רָאוּי לָדוּן. וְכֵן הוֹרוּ רַבּוֹתַי שֶׁהַמּוֹסֵר כַּרְמוֹ לְשׁוֹמֵר בֵּין בַּאֲרִיסוּת בֵּין בִּשְׁמִירוּת חִנָּם וְהִתְנָה עִמּוֹ שֶׁיַּחְפֹּר אוֹ יִזְמֹר אוֹ יְאַבֵּק מִשֶּׁלּוֹ וּפָשַׁע וְלֹא עָשָׂה חַיָּב כְּמִי שֶׁהִפְסִיד בַּיָּדַיִם. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה שֶׁהִפְסִיד בַּיָּדַיִם חַיָּב עַל כָּל פָּנִים:


When a person entrusts produce that is growing on land - even grapes that are ready to be harvested - to a colleague to watch, they are considered to be landed property with regard to the laws of watchman.


הַמּוֹסֵר לַחֲבֵרוֹ דָּבָר הַמְחֻבָּר לַקַּרְקַע לִשְׁמֹר אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ עֲנָבִים הָעוֹמְדוֹת לְהִבָּצֵר הֲרֵי הֵן כְּקַרְקַע בְּדִין הַשּׁוֹמְרִין:


The following principle applies if a person entrusts consecrated property to a watchman and then redeems it, and so it is no longer consecrated at the time the owner takes it from the watchman, or he lends it to a person when it was not consecrated and then consecrates it while it is in the borrower's possession, or a gentile entrusts property and then converts. In all these situations, the laws of watchmen do not apply, unless the article was not consecrated property and belonged to a Jew from the beginning of the time the article was entrusted until the conclusion of that period.


הִפְקִיד הֶקְדֵּשׁ וְאַחַר כָּךְ פָּדָהוּ וַהֲרֵי הוּא חֻלִּין בְּעֵת שֶׁנְּטָלוֹ מִיַּד הַשּׁוֹמֵר. אוֹ שֶׁהִשְׁאִילוֹ חֻלִּין וְאַחַר כָּךְ הִקְדִּישׁ וְהוּא בְּיַד הַשּׁוֹאֵל. וְכֵן עַכּוּ''ם שֶׁהִפְקִיד וְאַחַר כָּךְ נִתְגַּיֵּר. כָּל אֵלּוּ אֵין בָּהֶן כָּל דִּינֵי הַשּׁוֹמְרִין עַד שֶׁתִּהְיֶה תְּחִלָּתָן וְסוֹפָן נִכְסֵי הֶדְיוֹט וְנִכְסֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

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.


The laws applying to borrowers apply equally to men and to women. This applies if the woman is the owner of the entrusted article, or an article was entrusted to her care.


אֶחָד הָאִישׁ וְאֶחָד הָאִשָּׁה בְּדִין הַשּׁוֹמְרִין בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה הַדָּבָר הַשָּׁמוּר שֶׁל אִשָּׁה אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה בְּיַד הָאִשָּׁה:


When a minor entrusts an article to an adult or lends it to him, the adult must take the oaths required of a watchman to the minor. My teachers ruled that the adult is not taking the oath because of the claim of the minor in which instance, the oath would not be required. For an oath is never taken with regard to a claim made by a minor. The rationale is that all the oaths taken by watchmen are taken because of an indefinite claim.


קָטָן שֶׁהִפְקִיד בְּיַד גָּדוֹל אוֹ הִשְׁאִילוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה הַגָּדוֹל נִשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעַת הַשּׁוֹמְרִים לַקָּטָן. הוֹרוּ רַבּוֹתַי שֶׁאֵין זֶה נִשְׁבָּע בְּטַעֲנַת הַקָּטָן כְּדֵי שֶׁנֹּאמַר אֵין נִשְׁבָּעִין עַל טַעֲנַת קָטָן שֶׁכָּל הַשּׁוֹמְרִין שְׁבוּעָתָן שְׁבוּעַת שֶׁמָּא הִיא:


Just as our Sages ordained that a purchaser must finalize his acquisition of an article through meshichah; so, too, they ordained that a watchman's responsibility for an article is established through meshichah.

When a person tells a colleague: "Watch an article for me," and he tells him: "Place it down in front of me," he is an unpaid watchman. If he tells him: "Place it down before yourself," or "Place it down" without saying anything else, or tells him: "My house is before you," he is neither a paid watchman nor is an unpaid watchman, nor is he obligated to take an oath at all. The owner of the article may, however, have a ban of ostracism issued applying to anyone who took his article and did not return it to its owner. Similar principles apply in all analogous situations.

Whenever a person entrusts, lends or rents an article to a colleague, the same laws apply whether or not the transfer was observed by witnesses. When the watchman himself admits that he served as a watchman, or he borrowed the article, he is required to take the oath required of watchmen. We do not employ the principle of miggo to absolve a person of the responsibility for an oath, but only to free him of the responsibility to make restitution.

Even if the article that was borrowed, entrusted or rented was worth only a p'rutah, the watchman is required to take an oath concerning it. None of the watchmen are required to admit to a portion of the plaintiff's claim before being required to take the oath.


כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁתִּקְּנוּ חֲכָמִים מְשִׁיכָה בְּלָקוֹחוֹת כָּךְ תִּקְּנוּ מְשִׁיכָה בְּשׁוֹמְרִין. הָאוֹמֵר לַחֲבֵרוֹ שְׁמֹר לִי זֶה וְאָמַר לוֹ הַנַּח לְפָנַי הֲרֵי זֶה שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם. אָמַר לוֹ הַנַּח לְפָנֶיךָ אוֹ הַנַּח סְתָם אוֹ שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ הֲרֵי הַבַּיִת לְפָנֶיךָ אֵינוֹ לֹא שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם וְלֹא שׁוֹמֵר שָׂכָר וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב שְׁבוּעָה כְּלָל אֲבָל מַחֲרִים עַל מִי שֶׁלָּקַח הַפִּקָּדוֹן שֶׁלּוֹ וְלֹא יַחֲזִירוֹ לִבְעָלָיו. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. אֶחָד הַמַּפְקִיד אוֹ הַמַּשְׁאִיל אוֹ הַמַּשְׂכִּיר אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ בְּעֵדִים אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְּעֵדִים דִּין אֶחָד יֵשׁ לָהֶן כֵּיוָן שֶׁהוֹדָה זֶה מִפִּי עַצְמוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמַר לוֹ אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁאַל מִמֶּנּוּ הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעַת הַשּׁוֹמְרִין שֶׁאֵין אוֹמְרִים מִגּוֹ לְפָטְרוֹ מִשְּׁבוּעָה אֶלָּא לְפָטְרוֹ מִלְּשַׁלֵּם. אֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הַדָּבָר הַשָּׁאוּל אוֹ הַמֻּפְקָד אוֹ הַמֻּשְׂכָּר שְׁוֵה פְּרוּטָה הֲרֵי זֶה הַשּׁוֹמֵר נִשְׁבָּע עָלָיו. וְאֵין אֶחָד מִן הַשּׁוֹמְרִים צָרִיךְ לְהוֹדָיָה בְּמִקְצָת:


An unpaid watchman may make a stipulation to be freed of the responsibility to take an oath, and a borrower may make a stipulation to be freed of the responsibility to make restitution. Similarly, the owner of the entrusted object may make a stipulation that an unpaid watchman, a paid watchman or a borrower will be liable in all situations as a borrower is. This is acceptable, for any stipulation regarding money or an oath that involves money that is agreed upon by both principals is binding. Neither a kinyan to affirm it nor witnesses are required.


מַתְנֶה שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם לִהְיוֹת פָּטוּר מִשְּׁבוּעָה וְהַשּׁוֹאֵל לִהְיוֹת פָּטוּר מִלְּשַׁלֵּם. וְכֵן מַתְנֶה בַּעַל הַפִּקָּדוֹן עַל שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם אוֹ נוֹשֵׂא שָׂכָר וְשׂוֹכֵר לִהְיוֹת חַיָּבִין בַּכּל כְּשׁוֹאֵל. שֶׁכָּל תְּנַאי בְּמָמוֹן אוֹ בִּשְׁבוּעוֹת שֶׁל מָמוֹן קַיָּם וְאֵין צָרִיךְ קִנְיָן וְלֹא עֵדִים:


When the owner claims that there was a stipulation made requiring the watchman to undertake more responsibility, and the watchman denies that such a stipulation was made, the watchman must take the oath required of a watchman, and on the basis of the principle of gilgul sh'vuah he must include in his oath that there was no stipulation involved.


טָעַן זֶה שֶׁהָיָה שָׁם תְּנַאי וְהַשּׁוֹמֵר אוֹמֵר לֹא הָיָה שָׁם תְּנַאי נִשְׁבָּע הַשּׁוֹמֵר שְׁבוּעַת הַשּׁוֹמְרִין וּמְגַלְגֵּל בָּהּ שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה שָׁם תְּנַאי:


If the owner of an object claims that he entrusted it to a watchman, and the watchman answers that he said merely: "Place the article down before yourself," and thus never became obligated as a watchman, the defendant is required to take a sh'vuat hesset that this was the manner in which he received the article. He should include in his oath that he did not use it for his own purposes, destroy it with his own hands or cause it to be destroyed in a manner that would obligate him to make restitution.


טָעַן שֶׁהִפְקִיד אֶצְלוֹ וְזֶה אוֹמֵר לֹא אָמַרְתִּי אֶלָּא הַנַּח לְפָנֶיךָ וְלֹא נַעֲשֵׂיתִי לוֹ שׁוֹמֵר נִשְׁבָּע הֶסֵּת שֶׁלֹּא קִבְּלוֹ אֶלָּא בְּדֶרֶךְ זוֹ וְכוֹלֵל בִּשְׁבוּעָתוֹ שֶׁלֹּא שָׁלַח בּוֹ יָד וְלֹא אִבְּדוֹ בַּיָּדַיִם וְלֹא בִּגְרָם שֶׁגָּרַם לוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה חַיָּב לְשַׁלֵּם:


If the owner of an object claims: "I lent it to you," "I rented it to you," or "I entrusted it to you," and the defendant responds: "This never took place," or "That is true, but I returned it to you, and my responsibility was concluded. There is no obligation between us at all," the defendant must take a sh'vuat hesset. He is then freed of responsibility.

When does this apply? When the watchman's responsibility is not recorded in a legal document. If, however, a legal document recorded that the article was entrusted, rented or lent, and the watchman claims that he returned the article, he must affirm his statement with an oath taken while holding a sacred article. The rationale for this ruling is that since an unpaid watchman could claim that the article was stolen or lost, and a borrower could claim that it died because he was working with it, his word is accepted when he says he returned it. But just as if he claimed that it was destroyed by forces beyond his control, he would have been required to take a Scriptural oath while holding a sacred article; so, too, when he claims to have returned it, he is required to take an oath resembling a Scriptural oath. The rationale is that the plaintiff has a legal document recording that the article was entrusted.

When does the above apply? When the watchman could have claimed that the article was destroyed by forces beyond his control without having to bring proof of his claim. If, however, he would have to bring proof of his claim, as will be explained, his word is not accepted if he claims that he returned the article. Instead, the plaintiff in possession of the legal document should take an oath while holding a sacred article that the watchman did not return anything to him. The watchman is then required to make restitution.

There is no other instance where a defendant is obligated to take an oath while holding a sacred article because he could have used another argument, except a watchman against whom a legal document serves as evidence. Whenever any other defendant is obligated an opportunity to take an oath, because he could have used another argument, all that is involved is a sh'vuat hesset.


זֶה אוֹמֵר הִשְׁאַלְתִּיךָ אוֹ הִשְׂכַּרְתִּיךָ אוֹ הִפְקַדְתִּיךָ וְהַלָּה אוֹמֵר לֹא הָיוּ דְּבָרִים מֵעוֹלָם. אוֹ שֶׁאָמַר כֵּן הָיָה אֲבָל הְחֶזַרְתִּי לְךָ וְנִסְתַּלְּקָה הַשְּׁמִירָה וְלֹא נִשְׁאֲרָה בֵּינֵינוּ תְּבִיעָה. הֲרֵי הַנִּתְבָּע נִשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעַת הֶסֵּת וְנִפְטָר. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁלֹּא הָיָה שָׁם שְׁטָר. אֲבָל אִם הִפְקִיד אוֹ הִשְׂכִּיר אוֹ הִשְׁאִיל בִּשְׁטָר וְאָמַר לוֹ הֶחְזַרְתִּי לְךָ הֲרֵי הַשּׁוֹמֵר נִשְׁבָּע בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁיָּכוֹל לוֹמַר שׁוֹמֵר חִנָּם שֶׁנִּגְנַב אוֹ אָבַד וְהַשּׁוֹאֵל מֵתָה בִּשְׁעַת מְלָאכָה נֶאֱמָן לוֹמַר הֶחְזַרְתִּי. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁאִם טָעַן שֶׁנֶּאֱנַס נִשְׁבָּע מִן הַתּוֹרָה בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ כָּךְ אִם טָעַן הְחֶזַרְתִּי יִשָּׁבַע כְּעֵין שֶׁל תּוֹרָה הוֹאִיל וְיֵשׁ שָׁם שְׁטָר בְּיַד הַתּוֹבֵעַ. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיָה הַשּׁוֹמֵר יָכוֹל לִטְעֹן וְלוֹמַר נֶאֶנְסוּ וְלֹא נַצְרִיךְ אוֹתוֹ לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה עַל טַעֲנָתוֹ. אֲבָל אִם הָיָה חַיָּב לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה עַל טַעֲנָתוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר אֵינוֹ נֶאֱמָן לוֹמַר הֶחְזַרְתִּי אֶלָּא יִשָּׁבַע בַּעַל הַשְּׁטָר בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ שֶׁלֹּא הֶחְזִיר לוֹ וִישַׁלֵּם. אֵין לְךָ מִי שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּע מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁיָּכוֹל לוֹמַר כָּךְ וְכָךְ וְיִשָּׁבַע בִּנְקִיטַת חֵפֶץ אֶלָּא זֶה הַשּׁוֹמֵר בִּלְבַד שֶׁיֵּשׁ עָלָיו שְׁטָר אֲבָל שְׁאָר כָּל הַנִּשְׁבָּעִין בַּדִּין מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁיָּכוֹל לוֹמַר אֵינָן נִשְׁבָּעִין אֶלָּא הֶסֵּת: