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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 30a

and was entirely worded like a Court document,1  but did not include [the usual phrase], 'We were in a session of three judges one of whom [subsequently] absented himself.'2  Rabina thought to rule: This is covered by Resh Lakish's dictum;3  but R. Nathan b. Ammi observed: It has been said on the authority of Raba: In all such cases a mistaken Beth din is to be suspected.4  R. Nahman b. Isaac said: If 'Beth din' is mentioned anywhere in the document, no such [fear] is necessary.5  But suppose it was a presumptuous Beth din: for Samuel said: If two tried a case, their decision stands, but they are called, 'A presumptuous Beth din!'6 — No, for the document referred to7  stated: 'The Beth din of Rabbana Ashi.'8  But perhaps the Rabbis of Rabbana Ashi's academy agreed with Samuel?9  — There was written therein, 'Rabbana Ashi told us [to write the document].10  '

Our Rabbis taught: If a man says to them:11  'I saw your father hiding money, [say,] in a strong box, a chest, or a store-room, and he told me that it belonged to so and so, or that it was [for the redemption] of the second tithe:'12  if it [the hiding place] is in the house, his statement is valueless,13  if in a field, his words stand. This is the general rule of the matter: Wherever he has access [to the hiding place] his statement stands;14  but otherwise, it is of no value. If they [the heirs] saw their father hide money in a strong box, chest or store-room, saying, 'It belongs to so and so,' or 'It is for the payment of the second tithe': if it [his statement] was by way of giving directions, his words stand; but if it was in the nature of an evasion,15  his statement is of no value. If one felt distressed over some money which his father had left him,16  and the dispenser of dreams17  appeared to him and named the sum, indicated the place, and specified its purpose, saying that it was [for the redemption] of the second tithe — such an incident once occurred, and they [the Rabbis on that occasion] said: Dreams have no importance for good or ill.18

IF TWO DECLARE HIM NOT LIABLE etc. How is it [the judgment] worded?19  — R. Johanan said: [Thus; 'The defendant is] not liable.' Resh Lakish said: 'So and so [of the judges] acquit; so and so holds him liable.' R. Eleazar said: 'As a result of their [the judges'] discussion, [it is decided that] he is not liable.' Wherein do they [practically] differ? — As to whether he is to share in the payment of compensation, [in case of error,] together with the others.20  On the view [that the verdict is to be worded]: 'He [the defendant] is not liable,'21  he [the dissenting judge] must pay his share;22  while on the view [that the wording should be]: 'So and so acquit, and so and so holds him liable,' he makes no restitution.23  But even on the view [that the wording should be]: 'He is not liable,' he [the dissentient] might argue, 'Had you accepted my opinion, you too would not have to pay!24  — But the difference arises concerning their liability to pay his share in addition to their own. According to the view [that the verdict is framed thus]: 'He is not liable,' they bear [the whole] liability;25  but on the view [that it is worded]: 'So and so [of the judges] acquit, and so and so holds him liable,' they do not pay [the dissentient's share].26  But even according to the opinion [that the wording should be]: 'He [the defendant] is not liable,' why should they pay [the whole amount]? They might surely argue:27  Hadst thou not been with us, the trial would have had no result at all! — The difference must arise therefore with reference to, Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.28  R. Johanan says: [The verdict is to be framed thus:] He is not liable,' because of this injunction against talebearing.29  Resh Lakish holds [that the wording must be]: 'So and so acquit; so and so holds him liable,' since [otherwise] it [the verdict] would appear a falsehood,30  while R. Eleazar agrees with both; therefore it [the verdict] must be framed thus: 'After a decision by the judges, he was found not liable.'

WHEN THE VERDICT IS ARRIVED AT, etc. Whom [do they admit]? Shall we say, the litigants: but they are there already?31  But [if it refers to] the witnesses: whose view is this? Assuredly it does not agree with R. Nathan, for it has been taught: The evidence of witnesses cannot be combined,32  unless they simultaneously saw what they state in evidence. R. Joshua b. Korha said: Evidence is valid even if they witnessed it consecutively. Again, their evidence is not admissible by the court unless they both testify together. R. Nathan said; The court may hear the evidence of one witness one day, and when the other appears the next day, they may hear his evidence!33  No. In reality, the litigants are meant, and this represents the view of R. Nehemiah. For it has been taught: R. Nehemiah said: This was the custom of the fair-minded34  in Jerusalem; first the litigants were admitted and their statements heard; then the witnesses were admitted and their statements heard. Then they35  were ordered out, and the matter was discussed. [And when the verdict was arrived at etc.]36  But has it not been explicitly taught: When the deliberations come to an end, the witnesses are readmitted?37  That certainly does not agree with R. Nathan.

The above text [reads]: 'The evidence of witnesses cannot be combined unless they simultaneously saw what they state in evidence. R. Joshua b. Korha said: It is valid even if they saw it consecutively.' Wherein do they differ? — If you wish, I might say, in the interpretation of a Biblical verse; alternatively, in a matter of logic. On the latter assumption, [the first Tanna argues,] the [loan of the] maneh to which the one testifies, is not attested by the other, and vice versa.38  Whereas the other [Tanna]39 [argues that, after all,] both testify to a mina in general.40  Alternatively, they differ in respect to a Biblical verse. For it is written, And he is a witness whether he has seen or known of it.41  Now, it has been taught:42  From the implications of the verse, A witness shall not rise up etc.,43  do I not know that one is meant? Why then state 'one'.? — That it may establish the principle that wherever it says A witness, it implies two, unless one is specified by the verse.44  And the Divine Law expressed it in the singular to teach that they must witness [the act in question] both together as one man.45  And the other?46  — He is a witness whether he hath seen or known of it,47  teaches that in all circumstances [the evidence is admissible].48

'Again, their evidence is not admissible by the court unless they both testify together. R. Nathan said: The court may hear the evidence of one witness one day, and when the other witness appears the next day, they may hear his evidence.' Wherein do they differ? — Either in a matter of logic or in [the interpretation of] a Biblical text.

'Either in a matter of logic.' One Master argues: A single witness comes to impose an oath, but not to prove liability.49  The other50  argues: Even if they appear simultaneously, do they testify with one mouth?51  But [nevertheless], their evidence is combined. So here too [where they come separately] their evidence may be combined.

'Or [in interpretation of] a Biblical text.' [And he is a witness whether he has seen or known of it;] If he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.52

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Though it was signed only by two.
  2. Cf. Keth. 22a: If one of the three judges necessary for the authentication of a document died before signing it, the document should be so worded.
  3. V. supra, where Resh Lakish said that it may be taken for granted that an attested document has been legally drawn up. Hence the presence of three originally may be assumed.
  4. In this case where the phrase 'In a session of three judges' was omitted they might have thought that two judges sufficed for purposes of authentication.
  5. That two thought that they constitute a Beth din, for all know that the term 'Beth din' applies to three.
  6. V. supra 3a.
  7. By R. Nahman b. Isaac.
  8. The signatories belonged to his school, and they, no doubt, were aware that two cannot compose a Beth din. R. Ashi, the Babylonian Amora, is given here merely as an illustration because his was the principal court at the time when this passage was incorporated in the Gemara (cf. Rashi). 'Rabbana is a higher title than Rabbi, and is the Aramaic equivalent of Rabban', Chief Teacher (cf. Graetz, Geschichte, IV, 350ff). [According to Funk, Die Juden in Babylonien II, 103, however, the title Rabbana (the Great One) in Persia was reserved for Exilarchs, yet it was bestowed on R. Ashi owing to his unique position and the power he wielded, v. also I, 33.]
  9. That two could form a Beth din, though they did not care about Samuel's uncomplimentary designation.
  10. The court must therefore have been legally constituted, since he would not have asked two to form a Beth din.
  11. To heirs.
  12. V. p. 48, n. 4.
  13. Unless there is another witness to support his statement.
  14. Since he is then not under suspicion of having been prompted in his statement by some ulterior motive, e.g., the desire to serve someone's interests; for had he wished, he himself could have handed over the amount to whomever he wished.
  15. I.e., as though he purposely told them this, so that they might not use it, or that they might not realise his wealth and indulge in extravagance.
  16. And which he suspected to be tithe-money, but was unable to trace the amount.
  17. Or, 'The Master of Dreams', which merely represents the personification of the dream.
  18. Lit., 'neither raise nor lower'. Hence the money might be used for secular purposes. Cf. Tosef., M. Sh. V.
  19. I.e., in a case of disagreement.
  20. C. supra 6a; and infra 33a with reference to the liability of judges to compensate in cases of misjudgment.
  21. Irrespective of whether there has been disagreement or not.
  22. For without him, the remaining two could not have issued such a decree.
  23. Since his opinion is explicitly stated in the verdict.
  24. So that he himself should certainly bear no liability.
  25. Since their view is finally adopted.
  26. The opinion of the two judges was specified to show that the final decision was given by only two (Rashi).
  27. With the third judge.
  28. Lev. XIX, 16.
  29. And stating the names of the dissenting judges is tantamount to talebearing
  30. I.e., the protection of truth is more urgent than the avoidance of talebearing.
  31. Nowhere in the Mishnah is it mentioned that they had to withdraw.
  32. As is necessary for it to be valid.
  33. Cf. Tosef. Sanh. V; B.B. 32a. Hence if it is the witnesses who are admitted after a decision has been arrived at, which implies the necessity of their joint appearance this interpretation of the law is not in accord with the view of R. Nathan as given.
  34. [H] v. supra p. 131, n. 3. Ms.M. [H] 'men of Jerusalem' whom Klein, S., loc. cit., regards as synonymous with [H].
  35. This is understood to refer to the witnesses.
  36. [This seems to be quoted from the Mishnah and hence rightly omitted by Rashal. Ms.M. however, reads. 'when the verdict is arrived at they readmit the litigants' etc.]
  37. Hence the necessity of their conjoint appearance.
  38. E.g., if A claims a mina from B, and C testifies that he saw B receive a maneh from A on the first day of the month, while D testifies that he saw B receive a maneh on the second of the month, notwithstanding that both testify that A gave B a maneh, it is evident that they do not refer to the same transaction, and therefore there is only one witness for each alleged loan, and therefore the evidence is invalid.
  39. I.e., R. Joshua b. Korha.
  40. Hence the fact of the loan is proved, though one witness must have mistaken the date.
  41. Lev. V, 1, referring to witnesses who were adjured by parties in a case to testify before the court in their favour.
  42. Sot. 2b; 31b.
  43. Deut. XIX, 15.
  44. Therefore in the text above, And he is a witness, two are implied. Also, because the guilt-offering for the transgression of the oath imposed on the witnesses ([H]), referred to in the Biblical text, applies only to two witnesses and not to one. V. J. Sanh. III, 9; and Shebu. 31b.
  45. Otherwise their testimony is invalid.
  46. R. Joshua b. Korha: how does he interpret the verse?
  47. Which appears superfluous, for a witness is supposed to see and know of things.
  48. Whether the act was witnessed or the evidence given at the same time or not.
  49. If the claimant produces one witness in his favour, an oath is imposed on the defendant, but he is not ordered to repay. (V. Shebu. 40a.) Hence, when witnesses testify separately, the evidence of neither proves liability, and therefore the two testimonies cannot be combined.
  50. R. Nathan.
  51. Surely not!
  52. Lev. V, 1.
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Sanhedrin 30b

Now, both agree with the Rabbis who disagree with R. Joshua b. Korha:1  they differ as to whether the 'uttering' [of the testimony] is assimilated to the 'seeing' [of the fact attested]. One Master2  maintains that 'uttering' is assimilated to 'seeing';3  the other4  holds that they are not assimilated.

R. Simeon b. Eliakim was anxious for R. Jose son of R. Hanina to be ordained, but an opportunity did not present itself.5  One day, as he was sitting before R. Johanan, the latter asked them [the students]: 'Does anyone know whether the halachah rests with R. Joshua b. Korha or not?'6  R. Simeon b. Eliakim replied, 'This man here [R. Jose son of R. Hanina] knows.' 'Let him then answer,' said R. Johanan. Thereupon P. Simeon b. Eliakim said: 'Let the Master first ordain him.'7  So he ordained him and then asked: 'My son, what tradition in the matter have you heard?' — 'I heard,' replied R. Jose son of R. Hanina, 'that R. Joshua b. Korha agreed with R. Nathan [that the evidence need not be given simultaneously].'8  R. Johanan exclaimed: 'Is that what I wanted? If R. Joshua b. Korha maintained that the essential witnessing [of the act need not have been simultaneous, is it necessary [to state this] in reference to the giving of evidence [in court]! However, he concluded, since you have ascended,9  you need not descend.'10  R. Zera said: We may infer from this that once a great man is ordained, he remains so.11

R. Hiyya b. Abin said in Rab's name: The halachah rests with R. Joshua b. Korha in respect to both immovable and movable property.12  'Ulla said: The halachah rests with R. Joshua b. Korha only in respect to immovable,13  but not movable property.14  Said Abaye to him: [Your statement as to the] halachah, implies that they [the Rabbis] dispute [thereon]: but did not Raba say in R. Huna's name in Rab's name: The Sages agree with R. Joshua b. Korha in respect to testimony concerning real estate? Moreover, R. Idi b. Abin learned in Karna's compilation [of Halachoth] on Nezikin:15  'The Sages agree with R. Joshua b. Korha in respect to [evidence regarding] firstborns,16  real estate, Hazakah,17  and [the symptoms of puberty] in males and females likewise'?18 — Would you oppose man to man!19 One Master ['Ulla] holds that they differ: the other [R. Abba or R. Idi] holds that they do not.

What is meant by, 'And [the symptoms of puberty] in males and females likewise'? Does it mean that one [witness] testified to [the appearance of] one hair on the part below [the genitals] and another to one hair on the part above? But that is both half of the necessary fact, and also half of the requisite testimony!20  — But it means that one testified to two hairs on the part below, and the other to two hairs on the part above.

R. Joseph said: I state on the authority of 'Ulla that the halachah is as R. Joshua b. Korha says, in respect to both movable and immovable property. Whilst the Rabbis who came from Mehuza state that R. Zera said in Rab's name: [This ruling holds good only] in the case of movable, but not immovable property. Rab21  follows his own views. For he said: An admission after an admission,22  or an admission after a loan,23  may be combined.24  But a loan after a loan,25  or a loan after an admission cannot be combined.

R. Nahman b. Isaac, on meeting R. Huna the son of R. Joshua, asked him: Wherein does a loan after a loan differ, so that it [the testimony] is not [combined]: because the [loan of a] maneh witnessed by one is not the same as that witnessed by the other? Then the same applies to an admission after an admission: the [debt of a] maneh which he admitted in the presence of one witness may not be the same as that which he admitted before the other witness! — It means that he declared to the latter (witness): 'Regarding the maneh which I have admitted in your presence, I have also made an admission in the presence of so and so.' Yet even then, only the latter would know [this], but not the former? — He [subsequently] went again and said to the first witness: 'The maneh which I admitted receiving in your presence, I also admitted receiving in the presence of so and so.' Thereupon [R. Nahman] said to him [R. Huna the son of R. Joshua]: 'May your mind be at ease as you have made mine.' Said he, 'Why at ease?' Did not Raba — others say, R. Shesheth — hurl a hatchet at this [answer];26  viz., surely it is then identical with the case of an admission after a loan.27  Thereupon he [R. Nahman b. Isaac] said to him: 'This proves what I heard about you folk, that you tear down palm trees and set them up again.'28

The Nehardeans said: [In all cases,] whether of admission after admission, admission after loan, loan after loan, or loan after admission, the testimonies are combined. With whom does this agree? — With R. Joshua b. Korha.

Rab Judah said: Testimony that is contradicted29  under examination,30  is valid in civil suits. Raba said: Logically, Rab Judah's ruling refers to such a case as where one witness says: '[I saw it paid] out of a black bag,' and the other says, 'Out of a white bag.' But if one declares, 'The money was old,'31 and the other says, 'The money was new,'32 their testimonies cannot be combined. But in criminal cases, are not testimonies combined where there are differences such as over the colour of a bag? Did not R. Hisda say: 'If one testifies that it [sc. the murder] was with a sword, and the other maintains, it was with a dagger, it is not valid33  evidence; whereas if one affirms that the colour of his garments was black, and the other that it was white, their evidence is valid'?

- To Next Folio -

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., they hold that the act must be witnessed by both witnesses simultaneously.
  2. The first Tanna.
  3. I.e., just as the act must be seen by both simultaneously, so also must it be attested simultaneously. He deduces this from the juxtaposition of the witnessing of the act and the giving evidence of it.
  4. R. Nathan.
  5. V. p. 65, n. 3.
  6. V. supra. R. Joshua b. Korha holds that the two witnesses need not observe the deed attested simultaneously.
  7. For only traditions reported by ordained scholars can be relied upon. Cf. Rashal a.l.
  8. From this answer, which has no bearing on the question, one might be led to conclude that R. Simeon b. Eliakim, though aware that R. Jose b. R. Hanina was incapable of providing the information desired by R. Johanan, nevertheless stated that he could give the information, in order to have him ordained. This cannot but appear as an unworthy ruse. A similar incident, however, is recorded in the Jerushalmi, though the names of the Sages figuring in the story are slightly different in order. There, the question is asked whether the halachah rests with R. Nathan, and the answer given there is more pertinent. This would seem to indicate that our text is in some confusion. [Cf. Weiss, Dor III, 90, n. 15]
  9. I.e., seeing that the degree of Rabbi has been conferred upon you.
  10. It will not be withdrawn. 'Ascended' and 'descended' are probably meant quite literally, the ordained scholars sitting on a higher bench than the unordained.
  11. So the text as emended in the marginal note. Our reading is: once a great man confers ordination, it stands.
  12. I.e., whether the alleged transaction referred to, e.g., the sale of land, or the granting of a monetary loan.
  13. Be-cause they must both be referring to the same transaction.
  14. Where each may be testifying with respect to a different object.
  15. A collection of Baraithoth compiled by Karna and his Beth din, of which only quotations are found here and there in Talmud. V. Weiss, Dor, vol iii, p. 164.
  16. Even after the destruction of the Temple a firstborn animal might not be employed for secular purposes unless it suffered from some physical blemish. To inflict such blemishes was strictly forbidden. In the case of animals belonging to Priests, two witnesses had to testify that their injuries were not man-inflicted, since Priests were under suspicion of exposing their firstborn animals to such defects in order that they might put them to domestic use. The testimony of one witness to one defect and of another to another defect on the same animal could be combined to declare the animal permissible for work. According to Tosaf., their difference concerns the testimony that one is a firstborn and so entitled to a double share of the patrimony.
  17. To prove a three years' undisturbed possession of an estate, where one witness testifies to the possession of the land for the first three years of the Sabbatical cycle, and another for the latter three years, their evidence is combined for the establishment of the possessor's claim, since each separately testifies in reference to the same estate.
  18. Where it is necessary to establish the majority of a person, from which point he or she is to be regarded as an adult and responsible for his actions to the laws of the Community. His or her majority begins from the time when two hairs appear in the region of the pubes. V. Nid. 52a. Hence from the reference given above it may be seen that the Rabbis agree with the view of R. Joshua b. Korha regarding the case of immovable property.
  19. R. Abba and R. Idi on the one hand, and 'Ulla on the other. They enjoyed equal status, so that the teaching of one cannot authoritatively refute that of the other. Nor does the fact that there are two against one make any difference.
  20. I.e., each witness does not individually testify to the complete fact necessary to establish puberty, but to half a fact. Moreover, that half fact (i.e., a single hair in a particular place) is attested by only half the necessary testimony — one witness instead of two. Whereas in the other cases under discussion each witness testifies to a whole fact, e.g., that A lent money to B.
  21. Who holds that successive evidence cannot be combined in the case of movable property.
  22. I.e., where one witness testifies that A admitted indebtedness to B on the first day of the month, and another testifies likewise, but refers it to the second day of the month.
  23. I.e., where one witness testifies to the transaction of a loan between A and B on the first day of the week, and another to A's admission of indebtedness to B on the second day.
  24. Since it is quite possible that both refer to the same loan
  25. I.e., where one witness testifies to the transaction of a loan between A and B on one day, and another testifies to the same on another day.
  26. I.e., disproved the opinion.
  27. For since it is necessary, according to this answer, that each witness shall know what the other has seen, it follows that an admission after a loan must be explained likewise, viz., he must have said to the latter witness: The maneh I have admitted receiving in your presence, I borrowed in the presence of so and so; and then he must have gone and said to the former witness: The maneh which I borrowed in your presence, I have admitted receiving before so and so. Why then did Rab need to state both laws?
  28. I.e., you remove difficulties merely to resurrect them!
  29. I.e., if the testimony of one witness contradicts that of the other.
  30. As to attendant circumstances, e.g., regarding the colour of the clothes worn etc., in which cases the agreement or disagreement is immaterial in reference to the law of declaring them Zomemim. V infra 40a.
  31. Lit., 'black' (with use).
  32. Lit., 'white'.
  33. Lit., 'certain', cf. Deut. XIII, 15.

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