Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hasra'ah and Witnesses

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The Purpose of Hasra’ah

By: Rabbi Avi Lebowitz

The Gemora cites various verses as the source for the requirement of hasra’ah (warning).

The Maharatz Chayus points out that there are two sources for hasra’ah. The first is a sevara, - this serves to make sure that the person is aware of the severity and consequences of his actions. Included in the hasra’ah is both the education of the halachah, and the awareness of the action that he is about to do. The second source is the verses that the Gemora quotes which serve as a gezeiras hakasuv, whether they apply or not, that no punishment can be carried out unless there is a warning.

The Maharatz Chayus deduces this from Tosfos who is bothered why the Gemora has to find a source for hasra’ah, to which they answer that it is needed for a non-chaver (someone who isn’t educated in the laws). It is obvious from logic that he requires hasra’ah, because otherwise, he would have no idea whether the action that he is doing is prohibited by the Torah, but, a chaver, who is well educated, knows very well what he is doing and understands the consequences. He shouldn’t require hasra’ah if not for the fact that the Torah would demand it as a gezeiras hakasuv. The verses are the rationale for requiring the details of hasra’ah, such as killing him within the time of an utterance (and perhaps having to accept the hasra’ah).

Based on this, he points out that Tosfos, who asks regarding the source for hasra’ah by an ir hanidachas (subverted town), is difficult. Who says that ir hanidachas has the gezeiras hakasuv requirement of hasra’ah that would involve the details? Perhaps it would only have the sevara aspect of hasra’ah to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate, so that no source is necessary. Clearly, Tosfos assumes that the type of hasra’ah necessary by ir hanidachas is the gezeiras hakasuv type - with all the details, and not just the determination that he was aware of the consequences of his actions.

The Rambam, however, doesn’t seem to follow this same approach. The Gemora 8b and 41a quote Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah, who says that a Torah scholar doesn’t require hasra’ah, since the sole purpose of hasra’ah is to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate. This would imply that the Rabbis, who hold that even a Torah scholar requires hasra’ah, would hold that hasra’ah is a gezeiras hakasuv, and NOT just to distinguish between unintentional and deliberate. However, the Rambam (Sanhederin 12:2) writes: A torah scholar and an unlearned man require hasra’ah, for the sole purpose of hasra’ah is to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate. This seems to be very strange. The Rambam cites the rationale of Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah, yet requires hasra’ah even for a chaver! Why?

The Kesef Mishneh and Lechem Mishneh explain that according to the Rambam, the Rabbis don’t disagree with Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah in principal; rather, they hold that because of his concern, we require hasra’ah even by a chaver who knows the law, since he may not be aware of the action he is about to do. The Rambam clearly learns that the concept of hasra’ah is only meant to make him aware of his actions, and educate him about the halachah, not just a gezeiras hakasuv. Nevertheless, the Rambam requires hasra’ah within the time of an utterance of the action, implying that this concept isn’t merely a gezeiras hakasuv, but an actual concern that he may have a very short term memory. It seems that the Rambam doesn’t buy into the two sources for hasra’ah approach; rather, he understands that the rationale for the sources of hasra’ah cited in the Gemora is to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate - to educate and inform.


Eidim P’sulim

The Gemora learns that even if there are a hundred witnesses that witnessed an event, but included in those witnesses were relatives or otherwise disqualified witnesses, then the all the witnesses may not testify. Rebbe clarifies that this is only true when the relatives or otherwise disqualified witnesses also gave the warning, but if they merely witnessed an event along with others, they can’t nullify the testimony of the other witnesses. Rashi explains that by giving the warning, they show that they too want to be considered witnesses, therefore they negate the other witnesses’ testimony, since part of the witnesses are disqualified.

Who is considered disqualified for testimony?

1) Relatives - Relatives: There are many different scenarios; we will only touch on a few.

We learn that relatives cannot be considered witnesses from the verse: Fathers shall not die through their sons. The Chachamim derived from this verse that the father cannot die due to testimony from his son, and vice versa. Aside from a son there are other relatives that cannot testify; a) brothers, b) grandson, c) first cousins, d) second cousins. All these cases apply to females as well, meaning a sister cannot testify on a brother and vice versa etc. (Choshen Mishpat 33:2)

If one cannot testify regarding a woman (for example a sister), he is similarly prohibited from testifying for her husband, and conversely, if one cannot testify for a certain man, he also may not testify for his wife (ibid 33:3). However, he may testify for that spouse’s relative (ibid 33:5).

Mechutanim may testify for each other (ibid 33:6).

2) Oivrei Aveirah - One Who Committed a Sin: If one transgressed any prohibition that is punishable by either death or lashes, he is disqualified for testimony until he repents. It makes no difference if he sinned due to desire, or if he sinned as an act of rebellion (ibid 34:2).

If one transgressed a Rabbinic prohibition, he is disqualified only on a Rabbinic level (there are halachic differences between them).

3) Other P’sulei Eidus: A minor is disqualified for testimony, even if he is very bright. One leaves the status of a minor once he shows signs of physical maturity, usually when he turns thirteen years old.

One who is incoherent in a certain issue is also disqualified (ibid 35:8). If he is mentally deranged, he is also disqualified (ibid 35:10).

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As they Intended

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The Mishna teaches us that the zomemin witnesses are only punished if they attempted to have someone executed, but they were found to be zomemin before the defendant was executed (as long as it was after the verdict was handed down). However, if they were discredited through hazamah only after the defendant had been executed, they will not be punished. This is derived from the Scriptural verse: as they intended to do; but not as they actually accomplished.

The Kesef Mishnah explains this seemingly perplexing halachah in two manners:
1. When the zomemin witnesses actually carry out their plan and the accused is executed - such a sin is of such a magnitude that they cannot get punished in this world. The punishment for such a hideous sin can only take place in the next world- in Gehinnom.
2. Alternatively, he explains, if the accused was actually executed, we assume that he was indeed guilty and deserved to die. Hashem is present by every court case and it must be attributed to Divine Providence that the second set of witnesses did not arrive until after the defendant was executed.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Paying and Piercing

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The Mishna stated: “We testify that this particular person owes his fellow two hundred zuz,” and they are found to be zomemin, they receive lashes and must pay, for the Scriptural verse that makes him liable for the lashes is not the same as that which makes him liable for compensation; these are the words of Rabbi Meir. But the Chachamim say: Whoever is liable to pay does not receive lashes.

Based upon this, the Panim Yafos answers the following question: The Gemora in Kiddushin states: Why was an ear chosen (to be pierced - when a Jewish servant wishes to stay by his master even after the six years) more than other limbs of a person’s body? Hashem says that the ear that heard on Mount Sinai, “For to Me Bnei Yisroel are servants,” and not servants to servants, and he went anyway and chose a master for himself, his ear should be pierced. The question begs to be asked: If the piercing is because of his stealing, why don’t we pierce his ear immediately? Why do we wait until he wants to stay longer?

Our Gemora states that whoever is liable to pay does not receive lashes. If one is liable a punishment of lashes and money for one action, he does not receive lashes and pay, but rather, he pays and he does not incur the lashes.

Accordingly, we can say that the thief was deserving of getting his ear pierced immediately – except, since he is required to pay for that which he stole, and selling him as a servant is instead of his payment, he is therefore exempt from the piercing, for he cannot pay and receive “lashes.” However, after he served his six years, and he says, “I love my master, my wife and my children; I do not want to go free,” he is revealing to us that his serving as a servant was not a punishment for him. Retroactively, he reverts to the halachah that he should be punished for selling himself as a servant through piercing.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Lottery ticket from Maaser and Shemittas Kesafim

Lottery Ticket

By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi

Buying a lottery ticket for a charitable cause from ma’aser money

Many charitable institutions raise funds by promising prizes to be awarded in a lottery among the contributors. HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Responsa Igros Moshe, O.C., IV, 76) was asked if a person could purchase such a ticket from his ma’aser money or if the ticket should be considered as having a monetary value to its holder and thus forbidden to be purchased from ma’aser.

Two types of tickets: Rav Feinstein remarks that we should divide this question into two parts – i.e., two types of lottery tickets. Some institutions issue a fixed amount of tickets, promising that at a certain date or when all of them are sold, the raffle will be held. In such a lottery even the first purchaser knows his chances of winning.

Nonetheless, there is another sort of ticket: Some institutions do not limit the amount of tickets and fix no final date for the raffle. It is obvious, then, that such tickets have no monetary value. A person who purchases such a ticket has no investment, as he has been promised nothing. It is not an investment but a form of charity and may be purchased from ma’aser.

What is the nature, though, of the first type of ticket? First of all, we must examine if we can define the value of something whose worth is unknown. In other words, is a lottery ticket regarded as an item of monetary value although the vast majority of purchasers win nothing?

Estimating the worth of an item whose value is unknown: Rav Feinstein proves from our sugya that we can regard such an article as having value. Our sugya explains that we can estimate the worth of a kesuvah of a woman who has not been divorced by examining the amount merchants would be willing to invest to purchase the rights to the kesuvah once it can be realized. The merchants examine the state of the couple’s health, their relationship and the like. They then estimate the wife’s chances to survive her husband or get divorced and earn her kesuvah. We thus see that we can regard an item whose worth is unknown as an article of monetary value. One should therefore not purchase a ticket of the first sort from ma’aser as the purchaser immediately gets the worth of his investment.

The winner of a lottery: Rav Feinstein adds that if a purchaser of the second type of ticket wins a prize, he should better return the cost of the ticket to his ma’aser money (see Derech Emunah on Matenos ‘Aniyim, Ch. 7, in Beiur Halachah, s.v. V’echad).

Reasons for Shemittas Kesafim

By: Rabbi Moshe Donnebaum

As strange as the mitzvah of relinquishing one's loans may seem, there are important lessons in regard to this commandment. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the first useful benefit to be gained is the characteristic of generosity. There is none so generous as he who gives without hope of receiving anything in return. So too, relinquishing a loan with no benefit or gain in mind imbues a person with this noble character trait.

The second lesson mentioned in the Chinuch relates to the mitzvah of bitachon - trust in Hashem. Anyone who, upon command, relinquishes all outstanding debts, is continuously strengthening his level of trust in Hashem. The creditor displays trust that any losses incurred will be fully reimbursed to his allocated and pre-determined wealth. The knowledge of G-d as the source of all livelihood and provider of all one's needs is confirmed, and substantiated when releasing a debtor from his debts.

The Chinuch continues that the mitzvah of Shemittas kesafim is also a 'barrier' to keep away from robbery and any desire to own the possessions of one's neighbor, via a kal vachomer. If the Torah decrees that one should leave a loan in his neighbor's hand concerning money that is rightfully owed to him, then certainly he may not obtain his neighbor's belongings, in any way, without his neighbor's consent.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Makkos, Forty and Zomemin

Makkos and Forty

The Chidah writes that he heard from an elderly mekubal that it is advantageous to study Tractate Makkos, for it is the same numerical value as “hirhurim” – “thoughts,” and it will be an assistance to those who wish to rid themselves from any impure thoughts.

It is stated in the Medrash Tanchuma that one who transgresses a negative prohibition incurs forty lashes because a person is created in forty days, and he violated the Torah which was given to Moshe in forty days.

Warning not Necessary

By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi

We are now learning the sugya of eidim zomemim, false witnesses who testify that they saw an act performed by a certain person and are later contradicted by others who assert that the witnesses were with them elsewhere at the time of the supposed act and could not have seen it. The false witnesses are punished with the punishment they intended to mete on the person about whom they testified. At the beginning of Makkos we should cite the explanation of HaGaon Rav Shimon Shkop zt”l about this halachah.

False witnesses are punished without being warned: A Beis Din does not punish a person unless he was warned before his act that he is about to transgress a prohibition of the Torah and will be punished accordingly. Still, false witnesses are punished without such warning (Kesuvos 33a), as the Gemora (ibid) explains, since they wanted to punish someone whom they never warned. Rambam (Hilchos ‘Edus, 20:4) adds that even unwitting false witnesses (shogegim), who did not know about the prohibition of false testimony, are punished.

Two reasons for warning: There are two reasons why we can’t punish someone without warning him: (a) He should not be considered shogeg (Makkos, 6b), unaware that he is transgressing a Torah prohibition, and (b) He should know that by his act he decrees a punishment on himself (Sanhedrin 41a and Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin, 12:2; see ibid, that the transgressor must explicitly acknowledge his penalty). Apparently, the Gemora’s explanation, that we don’t have to warn false witnesses because they wanted to punish an unwarned person, means that we can punish the witnesses even though they didn’t know that they could be punished with death. Still, what is Rambam’s basis for saying that we don’t have to verify that the witnesses acted willfully (see Raavad, ibid)?

False witnesses are punished for their cruelty: Rav Shkop explains that Rambam assumes that false witnesses are not punished for transgressing but “because of their wickedness, acting against characteristic human decency. Even though they didn’t know of the prohibition by the Torah, since they knew that they were falsely incriminating a person…that is the main point of their evil…” (Chiddushei Rabbi Shim’on Yehudah HaKohen, Kesuvos, #39, and see Ketsos HaChoshen, 25, S.K. 8, and Sefer HaMafteiach as for other explanations for Rambam’s ruling).


By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

In a situation where two groups of witnesses contradict one another about an event; it is classified as contradictory witnesses, where we have no reason to believe one any more than the other. Under these circumstances the Gemora in Bava Basra has a discussion about what to do - it is an uncertainty, so follow the chazakah. One thing, however, is clear, that we do not believe the latter group any more than the first. However, where the second group doesn't testify about the event, rather about the validity of the first two as being valid witnesses, such as testifying that they are thieves, the second group is completely believed to overthrow the testimony of the first group. This is not considered a novelty, since everything that the first group is saying is true, just that by believing the second group that the first are thieves, we automatically do not accept their testimony.

Rava (in the first version) holds that a zomeim is a novelty and therefore only becomes disqualified from the time of the hazamah, and not retroactively from the time of the testimony. Abaye would presumably agree with Rava that zomemin is a novelty, just that it is not logical for them to be disqualified from the time of the hazamah; therefore we disqualify them retroactively from the time of their testimony.

It seems that the concept of “novelty” by zomemin is that rather than considering it to be a case of contradictory witnesses, where the second group are merely disagreeing about the event, we consider it as if the second group are actually testifying about the character of the first group, invalidating them as witnesses. (See Tosfos who explains that the novelty of zomemin more than contradictory testimony is either that the second group is entirely believed, or that the first group is definitely disqualified, not just out of uncertainty. Assuming like Tosfos’ second approach that the novelty of zomemin is to view the testimony to be on the character of the witnesses, not on the event, in which case it is not a novelty to directly disqualify the first or to validate the second, rather it is a novelty in classification).

Why are zomemin somewhere in between? In essence, the second group is not making a character judgment; they are only contradicting the facts – “these two witnesses could not have possibly witnessed what they claim to have witnessed since they were with us elsewhere.” Had it not been for the novelty of the Torah that we believe the second group, we would view it as if they just contradicting the first group about the events, where we would have a legitimate doubt as to who to believe. We would interpret their intent as simply being that the event was not witnesses by these two witnesses because they were with us elsewhere. But the Torah teaches us that we are not to regard the hazamah as just undermining the plausibility of the event, rather they are giving a character testimony similar to claiming that the first group were thieves. Why?

It would seem that the reason is because when testifying about an event, it is sometimes possible to misinterpret the event, or not have a clear picture as to what actually happened, so we give each group the benefit of the doubt. But, by zomemin, the second group is claiming that it was clearly premeditated lying that is taking place, not an innocent mistake. People who would fabricate a story when they were in an entirely different location have a fatal character flaw just as thieves do, and therefore they are not admissible as witnesses in any court.

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