Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Murderer's Testimony

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 47b) states that an eglah arufah is only brought in a matter of uncertainty; however, if the murderer was discovered, we do not bring an eglah arufah.

The Minchas Chinuch (§ 530) writes that if a person comes and says, “I killed him,” if he said that he did it inadvertently, he would be believed and we would not bring an eglah arufah. However, if he said that he killed him intentionally, he is not believed, because there is a principle that a person is not believed to render himself into a wicked person. In that case, we would bring an eglah arufah.

Rav Shach in Avi Ezri disagrees because the reason why a person is not believed when his testimony will render him an evil person is because based upon his testimony, he is a rasha, and a rasha cannot offer testimony. However, with respect to eglah arufah, one who is disqualified from testifying is allowed to testify that he can identify the murderer. Even a thief is allowed to offer such testimony. Accordingly, a person should be able to say and be believed that he himself killed him!

Rav Shach explains that the reason a rasha is believed regarding an eglah arufah is because his testimony is not affecting the murderer whatsoever. He is merely stating that he can identify the murderer. Every other place where one witness or a woman is believed, and nevertheless, we do not believe a thief, that is only because he is accomplishing something. Through his testimony (that a woman’s husband died), we will be permitting a woman to get married, and if he is a rasha, he is not believed, for we suspect that he is lying. By eglah arufah, where there is nothing being accomplished (with respect to the murderer), there is no reason for the rasha to lie and he can therefore be believed.