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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 28a

We have thus found that 'fathers'1  [cannot testify] for the sons [of each other], and vice versa; and all the more, 'fathers' [cannot testify] in respect of each other.2  But whence is derived [the inadmissibility of] 'sons' [to give evidence] in respect of 'sons'?3  — If so [sc. that such evidence is admissible], the text should have read, The fathers shall not be put to death on account of [the evidence of] a son.4  Why 'sons'?5  [To teach] that they too [are ineligible] in respect of each other. Thus we have found that 'sons' [are inadmissible] for each other. Whence do we know their inadmissibility [as joint witnesses] concerning others?6  — Said Rami b. Hama: It is deduced by logic. For it has been taught: Witnesses cannot be declared Zomemim7  until both are proved Zomemim.8  Now, should you think that kinsmen9  are eligible [to testify in cases] concerning strangers, a witness declared a Zomem10  might suffer death because of his brother's evidence [which supported his own].11  Raba demurred: But according to your argument, what of that which we learnt: If three brothers are [separately] supported by another witness,12  they count as three separate sets of witnesses. But they count as one set in respect of being proved Zomemim.13  It thus results that the perjured witness must pay money on account of the evidence given by his brother?14  Hence [it must be assumed that the penalty for] false testimony is brought about through outsiders;15  so here too, [the penalty for] false testimony comes about through strangers!16  — But if so,17  the text should have read: and a son on account of fathers, or, and they on account of the fathers. Why and sons? — To show that 'sons'18  [are not eligible] in respect of strangers.

We have thus deduced [the exclusion of] paternal relations. Whence do we know [the same] of maternal relations? — Scripture says, 'fathers' twice.19  Since [the repetition] is unnecessary in respect to paternal relations, we may refer it to maternal relations.20  Now, we have thus learnt [the exclusion of relatives' evidence] for condemnation.21  Whence do we know [the same] of acquittal? — Scripture states, they shall be put to death, twice. Since that [the repetition] is unnecessary in respect of condemnation, refer it to acquittal. Again, we have learnt [the exclusion of relatives] in capital cases. Whence is the same known of civil suits? — Scripture says, Ye shall have one manner of law,22  meaning that the law must be administered similarly in all cases.

Rab said:23  My paternal uncle, his son and his son-in-law may not bear testimony for me;24  nor may I, my son nor my son-in-law testify for him. But why so? Does not this involve relationships of the third and the first degrees?25  whereas we learnt that a relative of the second degree26  [may not testify] for a relative of the second degree; and also that one of the second degree cannot testify for one of the first;27  but not that a relative of the third degree may not bear testimony for one of the first? — What is meant by HIS SON-IN-LAW, stated in the Mishnah, is the son-in-law of his [the uncle's] son.28  But should he not include [instead] his [the uncle's] grandson?29  — He [the Tanna] teaches us incidentally that the husband bears the same relationships as his wife.30  But what of that which R. Hiyya taught: [The Mishnah enumerates] eight chief relations31  who make up the number of twenty-four.32  But these [on the assumption that a son-in-law of the uncle's son ranks as a relative of the third degree] amount to thirty-two!33  — But in fact, SON-IN-LAW is literally meant.34  Why then does he [Rab] designate him the son-in-law of his [the uncle's] son?35  — Because since his relationship comes from without,36  he is regarded as one degree further removed.37  If so, it is a case of the third degree vis a vis the second38  [which is forbidden], whereas Rab allowed [the testimony of] the second degree to the third!39  — But Rab agrees with R. Eleazar.40  For it has been taught: R. Eleazar said: Just as my paternal uncle, his son and son-in-law may not testify for me so the son of my paternal uncle, his son and son-in-law may not testify for me. But still, that includes relatives of the third and the second degrees,41  whereas Rab permitted the testimony of such relatives!42  — Rab agrees with R. Eleazar in one point,43  but differs from him in another.44

What is Rab's reason? — Scripture states, Fathers shall not be put to death for sons ['al banim]; and sons … :45  this [the 'and'] teaches the inclusion of another generation [as ineligible to testify]. And R. Eleazar?46  — Scripture states, 'al banim,47  implying that the fathers' disqualification is carried over to the sons.48

R. Nahman said: My mother-in-law's brother, his son, and my mother-in-law's sister's son, may not testify for me. The Tanna [of the Mishnah] supports this: A SISTER'S HUSBAND; THE HUSBAND OF ONE'S PATERNAL OR MATERNAL AUNT, … ALL THESE WITH THEIR SONS AND SONS-IN-LAW [ARE INELIGIBLE AS WITNESSES].49

R. Ashi said: While we were with 'Ulla,50  the question was raised by us: What of one's father-in-law's brother, the father-in-law's brother's son, and the father-in-law's sister's son? — He answered us: We learnt this: A BROTHER, FATHER'S BROTHER, AND MOTHER'S BROTHER … ALL THESE WITH THEIR SONS AND SONS-IN-LAW [ARE INELIGIBLE].51

It once happened that Rab went to buy

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., who are brothers.
  2. As the exclusion of 'sons' is due only to the kinship of their fathers.
  3. I.e., first cousins. Cf. Mishnah, PATERNAL UNCLE'S SON.
  4. I.e., on the evidence of any brother's son.
  5. In the plural.
  6. I.e., that witnesses who are related to each other may not join in giving evidence in a case concerning strangers.
  7. In the sense that they are punished with the penalty they sought to impose, v. Deut. XIX, 19.
  8. Mak. 5b, cf. Tosef. VI. But otherwise, though their evidence may be dismissed, no penalty is imposed upon the false witness.
  9. Lit., 'sons'.
  10. In a murder case.
  11. For had no one else supported him, he could not, according to the above ruling, have been declared a Zomem. Consequently he would incur the death penalty through his kinsman's testimony.
  12. E.g., in support of a claim to the title of land; v. next note.
  13. V. B.B. 56b. Proof of three years' undisturbed possession of land is sufficient to establish a claim to it (cf. B.B. 28a). The case under consideration is one where each of three brothers testified to one year only, while the other witness who joined them attested possession for the three consecutive years. Thus the evidence of the three sets taken together was adequate proof for establishing the possessor's claim. When, however, collusion is discovered, the three pairs of witnesses are considered as one set, since the evidence of all was necessary before the claim could be established. Therefore no penalty is imposed unless they are all proved Zomemim.
  14. Who would have helped to establish the claim had it not been refuted.
  15. So that it is not the brothers who cause the infliction of punishment.
  16. Hence the difficulty remains; — whence do we know that two kinsmen are inadmissible as witnesses in cases of other persons?
  17. That such evidence is admissible.
  18. I.e., relatives.
  19. The verse might have been written, Fathers shall not be put to death for sons nor they for them.
  20. V. p. 368, n. 7, on this mode of exegesis.
  21. Of which the text explicitly speaks.
  22. Lev. XXIV, 22.
  23. To understand Rab's statement and the others that follow it is necessary to give some explanation of affinity and consanguinity in Talmudic law. Relationships between persons are divided into two categories: (a) relationships between persons governed by the ties of consanguinity, i.e., persons of the same blood either lineally or collaterally; (b) relationships through marriage, i.e., affinity. And on the principle that man and wife are considered as one, the relatives of the one are related to those of the other by affinity. Again, the rules by which kinsfolk are excluded from bearing testimony for or against each other affect only certain degrees of relationship, e.g., relatives in the first degree, such as father and son, or brothers may not testify for or against each other; relatives in the second degree may not testify for or against those of the first degree. e.g., a nephew for his uncle; relatives in the second degree may not testify for or against each other, e.g., first cousins. On the other hand, relatives in the third degree may testify for or against relatives in the first, e.g., a grand-nephew in respect of an uncle (according to Raba in B.B. 128a, in opposition to Rab's opinion here); and relatives in the third degree may testify for or against relatives in the second degree, e.g., first cousins for second cousins (Rab agrees with this opinion, but not R. Eleazar.) It should be noted that the ineligibility is mutual.
  24. Cf Mishnah. In all these passages, 'for someone' means in a case where that person is a litigant, whether the evidence be in his favour or not.
  25. Rab's son is a grand-nephew' of Rab's uncle; hence, Rab's son is a relative of the third degree to Rab's uncle, who is of the first degree in relation to Rab's father. (N.B. 'First,' 'Second', and 'Third' almost correspond to generations, but not quite, since a father vis a vis his son ranks as first to first.)
  26. I.e., a first cousin.
  27. E. g., his uncle.
  28. The Mishnah is therefore to be explained thus: ALL THESE (which includes an uncle) WITH THEIR SONS AND THEIR (sc. THE SONS') SONS-IN-LAW. Hence this teaches the inadmissibility of relatives of the third degree.
  29. 'Which is a more direct way of stating a third degree of relationship.
  30. Just as the daughter of his uncle's son is a relation of the third degree, so is her husband.
  31. There are actually nine chiefs enumerated, apart from the step-son who is counted by himself. This point will be raised later on; v. infra 28b.
  32. Since each is counted together with his son and son-in-law.
  33. Eight fathers, eight sons, eight grandsons, and eight sons-in-law of the sons.
  34. The uncle's, not the uncle's son's.
  35. [Thus Rashi, in accordance with the reading in our texts which seems to assume that the answer given above, 'What is meant by HIS SON-IN-LAW is the son-in-law of his son still stands as representing the view of Rab. This assumption is however hardly justified. Yad Ramah's text did not seem to contain the words, 'Why then … of his son', which certainly makes the reading smoother.]
  36. I.e., through marriage.
  37. Hence, he ranks as a third degree relation, and thus justifies Rab's ruling.
  38. A man and his uncle's son-in-law are in the relationship of the second to the third degree. Thus: If A and B are brothers, then C, A's son, and B are second and first degrees; C and D, B's sons, are two seconds; therefore C and E, B's sons-in-law, rank as second and third (since a son-in-law, according to the last answer, is one degree further removed than a son).
  39. In that he said: I, my son and my son-in-law (a relative of the third degree) may not bear testimony against my uncle; from which it may be inferred that Rab's son (third degree) may bear testimony against the uncle's son (second degree).
  40. In truth, he does not regard the son-in-law as a relative of the third degree, and so the Mishnah does, in fact, contradict him, as explained above. His view, however, is based on R. Eleazar.
  41. C and F (B's grandson) are second and third degrees.
  42. As stated above, v. n. 1.
  43. In that he disqualifies the evidence of a relative of the third degree for a relative of the first.
  44. That of disqualifying a relative of the third degree for one of the second degree.
  45. [H] Deut. XXIV, 16.
  46. Why does he rule that even second and third degrees are inadmissible?
  47. [H], 'upon', or 'for sons'. [H] means upon or for.
  48. I.e., all who are disqualified in respect of the fathers, are likewise disqualified is respect of the sons. Therefore, just as the first and third are ineligible (for R. Eleazar accepts Rab's exegesis of 'and'), so are the second (i.e., the son of the first) and the third disqualified.
  49. To his sister's son-in-law he is his mother-in-law's brother, to his paternal aunt's son-in-law he is his mother-in-law's brother's son, and to his maternal aunt's son-in-law he is his mother-in-law's sister's son.
  50. [Read with Ms.M. Rab 'Ulla.]
  51. To his brother's son-in-law he is his father-in-law's brother; to his father's brother's son-in-law he is his father-in-law's brother's son; and to his maternal uncle's son-in-law he is his father-in-law's sister's son.
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Sanhedrin 28b

parchment,1  and they2  asked him3  whether a man may testify for his step-son's wife.4  [Rab answered:] In Sura they say that a husband is as his wife;5  in Pumbeditha, that the wife is as her husband,6  For R. Huna said in Rab [Nahman]'s7  name: Whence do we know that a woman is as her husband? — From the verse: The nakedness of thy father's brother thou shalt not uncover; thou shalt not approach to his wife, she is thine aunt.8  But is she not actually thy uncle's wife?9  Hence we infer that a woman is as her husband.10

AND A STEP-FATHER, HE, HIS SON AND SON-IN-LAW. HIS SON! But that is his brother!11  — R. Jeremiah said: This is only added to indicate [the exclusion of] a brother's brother.12  R. Hisda declared a brother's brother eligible. Said the Rabbis to him: Are you unaware of R. Jeremiah's dictum? — 'I have not heard it,'he answered, that is to say, 'I do not accept it.'13  If so, [the difficulty remains,] he [i.e., his step-father's son] is HIS BROTHER! — He [the Tanna] enumerates both a paternal and a maternal brother.

R. Hisda said: The fathers of the bride and bridegroom may testify for each other; their inter-relationship is no more than that of a lid to a barrel.14

Rabbah b. Bar Hana said: One may testify for his betrothed wife.15  Rabina remarked: That is only where his evidence is to her disadvantage;16  but if it is to her advantage, he is not to be believed.17  But [in reality] that is not so: it makes no difference whether his evidence is to her advantage or disadvantage; in neither case is he to be believed. [For] on what [do you base] your opinion [that you do not regard him as a relative]? On R. Hiyya b. Ammi's dictum stated on the authority of 'Ulla, viz.: When the betrothed wife [of a Priest dies], he is not obliged to mourn as an Onen18  nor may he defile himself.19  Similarly, she is not bound to mourn as an Oneneth20  [if he dies] nor to defile herself.21  If she dies, he does not inherit from her;22  but if he dies, she receives her Kethubah!23  But there, the Divine law has made it all24  depend on the fact that she is 'she'ero' [his wife],25  a designation which cannot be applied to a betrothed wife.26 Whereas here [the evidence of a relative is inadmissible] because of mental affinity; and such mental affinity does exist here [in the case of a betrothed woman and her groom].27

ONE'S STEP-SON HIMSELF. Our Rabbis taught: A step-son himself. R. Jose said: A brother-in-law.28  Another [Baraitha] has been taught: A brother-in-law himself. R. Judah said: A step-son. What does this mean? Shall we assume it to mean as follows: A step-son himself, and the same applies to a brother-in-law; whereas R. Jose reversed this: A brother-in-law himself, and the same applies to a step-son?29  If so, when our Mishnah states: A BROTHER-IN-LAW, HIS SON AND SON-IN-LAW, whose view is this? It is neither R. Judah's nor R. Jose's!30  But [again] if this is its meaning: A step-son himself; while as for a brother-in-law, [the exclusion extends to] his son and son-in-law; whereas R. Jose reversed this: A brother-in-law himself; while as for a step-son, [the exclusion extends to] his son and son-in-law too: in that case, what R. Hiyya taught, viz., that the Mishnah enumerates eight chief relations which [together with the sons and sons-in-law] involve twenty-four in all,31  is neither the opinion of R. Judah nor that of R. Jose! — 32 Hence this must be the meaning: A step-son himself; but as for a brother-in-law, his son and son-in-law too [are included]; whereas R. Jose ruled: A brother-in-law himself, and a fortiori his step-son. The Mishnah33  therefore agrees with R. Judah; while [the view expressed in] the Baraitha34  is R. Jose's.35

Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel; The halachah rests with R. Jose.36

A certain deed of gift had been attested by two brothers-in-law. Now, R. Joseph thought to declare it valid, since Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: The halachah rests with R. Jose. But Abaye said to him: How do we know that [he referred to] the ruling of R. Jose as stated in the Mishnah which permits the evidence of a brother-in-law: perhaps he meant the ruling of R. Jose in the Baraitha, which disqualifies a brother-in-law? — One cannot think so, for Samuel said:37  'E.g., I and Phinehas, who are brothers and brothers-in-law (are inadmissible);'38  hence others who are only brothers-in-law are admissible.39  But [Abaye retorted] may it not be that Samuel, in saying, 'e.g., I and Phinehas,' meant only to illustrate the term 'brothers-in-law'?40  Thereupon [R. Joseph] said to him:41  Go and establish your title through those who witnessed the delivery,42  in accordance with R. Eleazar.43  But did not R. Abba say: Even R. Eleazar agrees that a deed bearing its own disqualification44  is invalid? — Thereupon R. Joseph said to him: Go your way; they do not permit me to give you possession.

R. JUDAH SAID etc. R. Tanhum said in the name of R. Tabla in the name of R. Beruna in Rab's name: The halachah rests with R. Judah. Raba said in R. Nahman's name: The halachah is not in agreement with R. Judah. Rabbah b. Bar Hana said likewise in R. Johanan's name: The halachah does not rest with R. Judah. Some refer this dictum of Rabbah b. Bar Hana to the following: R. Jose the Galilean gave the following exposition: And thou shalt come unto the Priests, the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days.45  Is it then conceivable that, one could go to a judge who does not exist in his lifetime? But the text refers to a judge who was formerly a relative but who subsequently ceased to be one.46  [Whereon] Rabba b. Bar Hana said: The halachah rests with R. Jose the Galilean.

The sons of Mar 'Ukba's father-in-law who

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Cf. J. Sanh. 17a, where it is related that Rab went to buy skins for R. Hiyya the Great, his uncle (cf. supra 5a) who needed them for parchment on which to write scrolls of the Torah. V. also Keth. 103b, how far R. Hiyya distinguished himself in the promotion of learning.
  2. Some scholars.
  3. In J. loc. cit. Rab heard R. Johanan raise the question.
  4. In a case where her personal estate is involved.
  5. This answer is here irrelevant; probably it was given in answer to the question whether one may testify for or against his step-daughter's husband. Cf. J. Sanh. ibid.
  6. Hence the evidence is inadmissible.
  7. Some versions rightly omit the word in brackets.
  8. Lev. XVIII, 14.
  9. The term aunt is usually applied to a father's sister.
  10. Which justifies her being referred to as an avuncular relative, dodah (the word translated 'aunt') being the feminine of dod (uncle).
  11. Who has already been mentioned.
  12. I.e., the son of his step-father by another wife; though he is not related to him at all, but only through his brother.
  13. I.e., he holds that one who is related neither by blood nor by marriage, but merely through an intermediary brother, is not excluded.
  14. Which is not fastened thereto, but merely lies upon it. I.e., they have a neighbourly but not an intimate relationship.
  15. V. p. 34 n. 3.
  16. Lit., 'to draw away from her.'
  17. Though he is not a relation yet, nevertheless, he is not believed, since what is to her advantage will be to his too, when the marriage is completed.
  18. ibut. One deeply grieved. Designation given to a mourner during the time between death and burial, when he is not permitted to eat consecrated things. Cf. Deut. XXVI, 14.
  19. According to the exegesis of Lev. XXI, 2, a Priest is obliged to defile himself for his wife. Yeb. 22b. Here, however, there is no obligation, and hence he is forbidden too.
  20. [H] fem. of [H].
  21. This latter law is only incidentally stated since even a wife by marriage, or even the daughter of a Priest, has no restriction imposed upon her as regards contact with the dead. Cf. Sot. 23b.
  22. Whilst a husband inherits from the wife. Cf. B.B. 111b.
  23. Provided he has written her one. Hence, since he may not defile himself for her, it proves that there is no real relationship between them.
  24. The compulsory defilement and inheritance.
  25. [H]. E.V., 'his kin that is near unto him,' Lev. XXI, 2.
  26. The root meaning of [H] is 'flesh relationship,' and hence excludes a betrothed wife. Cf. Mek. on Ex. XXI, 10: [H] means marital duty.
  27. Therefore his evidence might be biassed.'
  28. The husband of the wife's sister.
  29. Thus differing, not in the application of the law, but in expression. On this hypothesis, the difference lies in which is to be regarded as fundamental and which as derivative.
  30. Both agreeing that only a brother-in-law himself is excluded.
  31. V. supra 28a.
  32. For according to both of them there will be nine chief relations. According to R. Judah, the brother-in-law is included in the list; according to R. Jose there is to be added, the step-son.
  33. That the exclusion of one's brother-in-law is extended to his son and son-in-law.
  34. That there are eight chief relations, involving twenty-four in all.
  35. Who does not extend the exclusion of a brother-in-law to his son and son-in-law too. However, it must not be taken that R. Jose differs from the Mishnah to the extent of admitting a brother-in-law's son, since he has already been excluded by the ruling: 'The husband of his mother's sister,' which, in other words, means that one may not give evidence for or against his sister-in-law's son, with which ruling he is in agreement, since he supports the view in the Baraitha, that there are twenty-four relations in all, and the above-named is included in that number. He differs however from the Mishnah in that he admits the evidence of one's brother or sister-in-law's son-in-law, since the ruling in the Mishnah, 'one's mother's sister's husband', is not irreconcilable with this opinion. The Mishnah excludes only a mother's sister's husband, not a mother-in-law's sister's husband. V. Rashi and Tosaf. a.l.
  36. Here the reference is assumed to be to R. Jose, in the Mishnah, who excludes only such relations as are eligible to be heirs, which brothers-in-law are not.
  37. In illustration of a brother-in-law who is disqualified.
  38. They must have married two sisters.
  39. In accordance with R. Jose in the Mishnah.
  40. And so the fact that they were also brothers was immaterial. Hence brothers-in-law are ineligible as witnesses, so that the deed was invalid.
  41. The man who had produced the contract.
  42. Of the deed of gift to you,
  43. That it is the witnesses who saw the delivery of the document who establish its validity. In fact, according to R. Eleazar, a document unsigned by witnesses is also valid. Cf. Git. 3b.
  44. I.e., which is signed by incompetent witnesses.
  45. Deut. XVII, 9.
  46. I.e., at the time the litigation is brought before him. Such a judge is eligible.
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