Mar Zutra says that one between thirteen and twenty may testify on matters related to movable property, but not on real estate. Rashbam says that someone that age does not have a clear understanding of transactions involving real estate.
Tosfos (155b Lo amru) disagrees, and says that a lack of business sense should not prevent one from testifying. Instead, Tosfos says that he is only unsuited for a formal appraisal of real estate. Tosfos notes that the Gemora says that one at this age is overly impressed by money, and will therefore underestimate the value of the field.
The Shulchan Aruch (HM 35:3) rules that one who is below twenty, and does not exhibit any business sense, may not testify on real estate cases, seemingly like the Rashbam.
The Shach (3) says that the Shulchan Aruch only is referring to cases of real estate appraisal, in line with Tosfos.
The Gemora says that one under eighteen or twenty may not sell his father’s property.
Rashbam and the Rif say that this is limited to his father’s property, since he will decrease the equity inherent in that property by selling at such a young age. However, if he purchased property himself, he may sell it.
Rabbeinu Tam (155a Mochair) says that this applies equally to his own property, since he will sell it as well for a severely discounted price.
The Shulchan Aruch (HM 235:1) rules like Rabbeinu Tam.
How Old and how Sharp?
Rava rules that if someone understands business, he may sell real estate even before the minimum age. The Shulchan Aruch (HM 235:8) therefore rules that one above the age of thirteen who understands business may sell real estate.
For selling movable property, the Gemora cites the age of pe’utos, at which a child’s transactions are valid. The Gemora (Gittin 59a) defines this as ranging from 6-10, based on the sharpness of the child.
The Shulchan Aruch (HM 235:1) rules that as young as six, if a child understands business, he may conduct transactions.
The Rosh learns that the Gemora in Gittin is stating that until the age of ten we must investigate to see if the child understands enough, but from the age of ten and older, we assume a child understands enough, unless he acts irrationally.
The Rambam does not include the distinction at the age of ten, but simply says that a young child’s transactions are valid, if he understands.
The Gr”a (2) explains that the Rosh learns that the Gemora in Gittin was only requiring a level of sharpness until the age of ten, but not beyond.
The Rambam learns that the Gemora in Gittin is to be read as a continuing list of ages, depending on the sharpness of the child. Although the Gemora stopped at the age of ten, the intent was that at any age between six and thirteen, a child’s transactions may be valid, based on the sharpness of the child.
The Shulchan Aruch rules like the Rambam, while the Rama quotes the Rosh’s distinction.
The Shulchan Aruch (OH 199:10) rules that a boy at the age of pe’utos may be counted as the last one for a zimun.
The Magain Avraham (6) defines this as nine or ten, possibly based on the Rif’s formulation.
The Yechave Da’as (4:13) rules that this can be as young as six, as long as the child understands whom he is blessing.
HALACHOS FROM THE DAF
By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi
The Testimony of a Minor that could make him Bar Mitzvah
Our sugya explains that a minor cannot serve as a winess, as the Torah says: “And the two men will stand” – i.e., men who are qualified to testify but not minors (the verse could have just said “And the two will stand”).
In his Minchas Chinuch, HaGaon Rav Yosef Babad asks an interesting question: There is a halachic rule that a beis din must accept the testimony of any witnesses who comes to them. Now, as explained in tractate Rosh HaShanah, there is a mitzvah to determine the beginning of each month according to witnesses who testify that they have seen the new moon. The mitzvah was in practice till 4119, when Rabbi Hilel ben Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah – called Hillel II – convened a special beis din to fix our present calendar to overcome the worry that there would not be an expert beis din and other conditions necessary for determining Rosh Chodesh each month, due to the long galus.
The Minchas Chinuch raises the question of two young men who come to beis din at the end of Nisan, claiming they saw the new moon and that that day, then, should be announced as 1 Iyar. The beis din, however, discovers that the witnesses will celebrate their thirteenth birthday on 1st Iyar. As long as the beis din does not announce that day as 1 Iyar, they remain minors but if they accept their testimony, they are considered adults and that day may be announced as 1 Iyar. May or must the beis din accept their testimony?
Indeed, the Minchas Chinuch asserts that the matter is up to the beis din. They may accept the testimony, as once they announce that day as 1 Iyar, the witnesses are retroactively qualified. Still, they are not obligated to accept their testimony, as when they came to the beis din, they were minors (see Minchas Chinuch, ibid, that this solution is according to one answer of Tosfos in Makos 2).
Another question related to our sugya arises from Rashi’s commentary on Bava Kamma 88a (s.v. Pesulah l’edus). Rashi adds his own idea as to why the Torah disqualifies minors as witnesses. A minor, he explains, can’t be punished by beis din and if his testimony is revealed as false, he cannot be penalized. He therefore cannot testify, as the halachah is that a beis din may accept only such witnesses that can be refuted. Why, then, did Rashi feel the need to add to the above exclusion of a minor on the strength of the verse “And the two men will stand” and, on the other hand, since Rashi’s reasoning is so wonderfully valid, why must we learn the halachah from the verse at all?
The Acharonim offer several solutions: HaGaon Rav David Rapaport suggests a case that necessitates Rashi’s reasoning in addition to the halachic interpretation of the verse: If a beis din accepted the testimony of two witnesses and a doubt was later raised as to if they were adults or minors, we must behave as the halachah requires in any instance of a doubt – to act strictly in the case of a prohibition stemming from the Torah. According to Rashi, though, we have no need to behave strictly as the rule is that a beis din cannot punish anyone for a doubtful transgression. The witnesses could have been minors when they testified and, as such, can’t be punished if their testimony is revealed as false. A beis din may accept only such witnesses as can be refuted and their testimony is definitely invalid (Hagahos Tzemach Tzedek on Responsa Rabbi Akiva Eiger, 1st edition, 176).
HaGaon Rabbi Akiva Eiger approaches the question from the other direction. Why do we need the verse if we learn the same halachah from Rashi’s reasoning? Indeed, though, not all testimonies proven false are punishable. Someone who testified, for example, that he saw the new moon and was discovered to have lied did not mean to harm anyone physically or financially and goes unpunished. We need the verse, therefore, to exclude minors from testifying in any instance.