Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:22

כב: שְׁנֵי עֵדִים, שֶׁאֶחָד יוֹדֵעַ בַּחֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁהוּא רָשָׁע וּפָסוּל לְעֵדוּת מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְאֵין הַדַּיָנִים מַכִּירִים בְּרִשְׁעוֹ, אָסור לוֹ לְהָעִיד עִמּוֹ, אַף-עַל-פִּי שֶׁהִיא עֵדוּת אֱמֶת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, אַל תָֹּשֶת יָדְךָ עִם רָשָׁע לִהְיוֹת עֵד חָמָס. וּגְזֵרַת הַכָּתוּב הִיא, שֶׁכָּל הָעֵדוּת בְּטֵלָה, אֲפִלּוּ הֵם רַבִּים, אִם אֶחָד בֵּינֵיהֶם פָּסוּל. וְאֵיזֶהוּ רָשָׁע שֶׁפָּסוּל לְעֵדוּת מִן הַתּוֹרָה. כֹּל שֶׁעָבַר עַל דָּבָר שֶׁפָּשַט בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהוּא עֲבֵרָה, וְהוּא דָבָר שֶׁבְּלֹא-תַעֲשֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה, וְעָבַר בְּזָדוֹן וְלֹא עָשָׂה תְשׁוּבָה. אֲבָל אִם יֵשׁ לִתְלוֹת שֶׁעָשָֹה בִשְׁגָגָה אוֹ בְטָעוּת, שֶׁלֹּא יָדַע אֶת הָאִסּוּר, לֹא נִפְסָל לְעֵדוּת

Two witness where one knows about his fellow that he is evil and Torahitically disqualified from testifying but the judges do not know his evil, it is prohibited for him [the witness who knows this of the other] to testify with him — even if the testimony is true. For it says “Do not stretch out your hand with someone wicked to be a duplicitous witness”. And it is a decree of scripture that the entire testimony is void even if they are many, if [only] one of them is invalid.

Who is an evil person who is Torahitically disqualified from testifying? Anyone who violates something that [the knowledge] is spread across the Jewish People that it is a sin, and it is something that is a “thou shalt not” of the Torah, and he did it intentionally and didn’t [since] repent. However, if one can ascertain that he did it forgetfully or in error, that he didn’t know it was prohibited, he is not disqualified from testimony.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:21

כא: עֵד שֶׁהוּא קָרוֹב לְאֶחָד מִבַּעֲלֵי הַדִּין, אוֹ לְאֶחָד מֵהַדַּיָנִים, אוֹ שֶׁהָעֵדִים קְרוֹבִים זֶה לָזֶה, וַאֲפִלּוּ קֻרְבָה עַל יְדֵי נְשׁוֹתֵיהֶם–לִפְעָמִים פְּסוּלִים לְהָעִיד. וַאֲפִלּוּ קְרוֹבִים רַק לֶעָרֵב וְלֹא לַלֹּוֶה, גַּם כֵּן פְּסוּלִים לְהָעִיד לַלֹּוֶה. וְזֶה שֶׁפָּסְלָה הַתּוֹרָה עֵדוּת הַקְּרוֹבִים, לֹא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁחֶזְקָתָם אוֹהֲבִים זֶה אֶת זֶה, שֶׁהֲרֵי פסוּלִים לְהָעִיד, בֵּין לִזְכוּתוֹ בֵּין לְחוֹבָתוֹ, אֶלָּא גְּזֵרַת הַכָּתוּב הִיא. וַאֲפִלּוּ מֹשֶה וְאַהֲרֹן, לֹא הָיוּ כְשֵׁרִים לְהָעִיד זֶה לָזֶה. לָכֵן כָּל עֵד שֶׁיֵשׁ לוֹ אֵיזֶה קֻרְבָה לְאֶחָד מִן הַנִּזְכָּרִים אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה קָרוֹב וְנִתְרַחֵק וְהַדַּיָנִים אֵינָם יוֹדְעִים, צָרִיךְ לְהוֹדִיעַ לָהֶם, וְהֵם יַגִּידוּ לוֹ עַל פִּי הַתּוֹרָה אִם יֵשׁ בְּקֻרְבָה זוֹ כְּדֵי לְפָסְלוֹ אוֹ לֹא

A witness who is related to one of the litigants or of the judges, or the witnesses are related to each other, even if the relationship is via their wives [ie only related by both marriages], there are times when they are disqualified from testifying. Even if they are related only to the cosigner and now the borrower, they are also disqualified from testifying for the borrower.

This is because the Torah disqualified the testimony of relatives not because there is a presumption that they love each other, for they are disqualified from testifying whether on his behalf or to his obligation. Rather, it is a decree of scripture. Even Moses and Aaron would not be kosher for testifying one for the other. Therefore, any witness who has any relationship to one of those mentioned, or was related and is now distant [e.g. after a divorce that used to connect them] and the judges don’t know [of the relationship], he is obligated to inform them, and they will tell him whether according to the Torah there is sufficient reason in this relationship to invalidate him [as a witness in this case] or not.


The Qitzur is clear that this law is not due to the logic of the situation, but is simply followed because the Torah said so. And this is why the judges can’t decide the witness is reliable despite any family connection. Still, I am inclined to find a lesson we can take from this verse. Keeping in mind that even if it were known for certain that I were correct, it would not influence the law. Like in science, theory about the meaning of a halakhah is subject to fitting to the evidence of the halakhah itself, and not the other way around.

The invalidity testimony of relatives is different than the rule that a person can not incriminate themselves — ein adam meisim atzmo rasha. This doesn’t mean, as in US law, that he has the right to remain silent. But more than that — even if he didn’t, and said something self-incriminating, the testimony is stricken. More so, sometimes it is split: If someone says that they stole livestock, we accept his testimony with respect to his owing the money, but not with respect to any extra penalties related to theft. However, here the relative can not even testify that the money is owed due to an honest transaction.

It would appear, though, that this difference is due to another factor. “Shavei alei chatikhah de’issurah” — he placed upon himself a portion of prohibition, or if it’s a fiscal case, a person can voluntarily assume a debt. However, this is perhaps as a personal commitment, not via the usual concept of credibility. It makes no difference if the person is lying, since a pledge is binding anyway. So, perhaps in terms of credibility, a person isn’t believed as an aspect of this law. Adam qarov eitzel atzmo — a person is their own relative.

This would imply that the reason for not believing someone who incriminates himself is not similar to America’s Miranda Rights, which are designed to remove the motivation for the legal system to extract confessions in immoral ways. Because in terms of credibility, the halachic rule goes beyond criminal law.

I would like to suggest a more general theory, one that includes the case of a relative, the litigant, as well as why women can not testify in cases of money or where one is determining whether a punishable sin was committed. They are believed with respect to defining the status of an object or situation before anyone may have sinned because of it. And if subsequent to the court determining that a given food was prohibited based on a woman’s testimony, someone did eat it, he would be punished. (As at the time of her testimony, it was not an issue of sin, but of abstract prohibition.)

So, it would seem that the testimony of a woman is not problematic from a credibility perspective. Then what is it?

Perhaps, the problem is that a judge can’t assess the testimony of someone whose relationship to the case is too different than his own. And thus, one of the litigant’s testimony may well be true, but the judges are ill equipped to make that determination. Similarly, that of the person himself are not believed, as we see from the guilt implication of those words — barring the issue that his words could be taken as accepting personal obligation even if he were lying, and therefore they are binding anyway. Last, a woman can not serve as judge, therefore there is an inevitable gender gap when cross examining her testimony. And so, in any case where cross-examination is obligatory (or may later become obligatory, such as the witness to a wedding where the marriage might later become a matter of doubt), her testimony is not accepted.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:20

כ: כָּל זְמַן ֹשֶהָאָדָם זוֹכֵר, יָכוֹל לְהָעִיד לְעוֹלָם, וְאֵינוֹ חוֹשֵׁשׁ שֶׁמָא מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁנִתְיַשֵׁן הַדָּבָר הַרְבֵּה אֵינוֹ זוֹכְרוֹ עַל בֻּרְיוֹ. וַאֲפִלּוּ אֵינוֹ נִזְכָּר לָעֵדוּת אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ הַכְּתָב, שֶׁכְּשֶמְּסָרוּהוּ לוֹ, כְּתָבוּ בְּפִנְקָסוֹ לְזִכְרוֹן דְּבָרִים וְשָׁכַח אֶת הַדָּבָר וְאֵינוֹ נִזְכָּר אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ הַכְּתָב–יָכוֹל לְהָעִיד. וְדַוְקָא שֶׁכַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָה אֶת הַכְּתָב נִזְכַּר בַּדָּבָר. וְכֵן אִם נִזְכַּר בַּדָּבָר עַל יְדֵי אַחֵר שֶׁהִזְכִּרוֹ לוֹ, יָכוֹל לְהָעִיד, וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הַמַּזְכִּיר הָעֵד הַשֵּׁנִי. אֲבָל אִם בַּעַל הַדִּין בְּעַצְמוֹ מַזְכִּירוֹ וְנִזְכַּר, לֹא יָעִיד. אַךְ יָכוֹל בַּעַל הַדִּין לִמְסֹר אֶת הַדְּבָרִים לְאַחֵר וְהוּא יַזְכִּירוֹ, דַּהֲוֵי לֵהּ נִזְכָּר עַל יְדֵי אַחֵר

As long as a person remembers, he is able to testify forever, and we do not worry that because the matter became very old, he doesn’t remember it clearly. Even if he only remembers the testimony through writing, that when they appointed him he wrote in his notebook to remember things, and he forgot the matter and only remembers from the writing, he is allowed to testify — but only if when he sees the writing he remembers the event. Similarly, if he remembers the matter by the aegis of someone else reminding him, he may testify, even if the one who reminded him was the second witness. But if the litigant himself reminded him and then he remembers, he should not testify, although the litigant could retell the matter to another part and that party remind him, for then he would have been reminded by someone else.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:19

יט: יִשְׂרָאֵל הַיּוֹדֵעַ עֵדוּת לַגּוֹי לוֹ דִין עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעַרְכָּאוֹתֵיהֶם, אִם יִגְרֹם בְּעֵדוּתוֹ לְחַיֵב אֶת הַיִשְׂרָאֵל יוֹתֵר מִמַּה ֹשֶּהָיָה חַיָב בְּדִינֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל, אָסוּר לְהָעִיד לוֹ. וְאִם לָאו, מֻתָּר לְהָעִיד לוֹ. וְאִם מִתְּחִלָּה יִחֲדוֹ הַגּוֹי לְהַיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיִהְיֶה לוֹ עֵד, הוֹאִיל וְיִהְיֶה חִלוּל הַשֵׁם אִם לֹא יָעִיד לוֹ, יָעִיד לוֹ בְּכָל עִנְיָן

A Jew who knows testimony for a non-Jew in a case which [the non-Jew] has against a Jew in their courts, if he would cause the Jew to lose more than he would be obligated in Jewish law, it is prohibited to testify for him. And if not, it is permitted to testify for him. If in the beginning the non-Jew singled out the Jew in order to be his witness, and it would be a desecration of [G-d’s] reputation if he would not testify for him, he should testify for him on any topic.


The issue here isn’t the aiding of a non-Jew at the expense of a Jew, but doing so in a court that doesn’t follow Jewish Law. If the ruling were that the Jew would pay the non-Jew what we believe he truly owes, there is no problem testifying.

As we saw earlier (181:2), there is a chillul Hashem in two Jews going to a civil court rather than a halachic beis din and the Qitzur wrote that such a person really deserves lashes. Here, Rabbi Ganzfried is suggesting a case where a countervailing chillul Hashem would make it permissible to aid the use of civil law even where it hurts a Jew compared to halakhah.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:17-18

יז: לְעוֹלָם יַרְחִיק אָדָם אֶת עַצְמוֹ אֲפִלּוּ מִשְּׁבוּעַת אֱמֶת בְּכָל מַה דְּאֶפְשָׁר

A person should always distance himself however he can even from swearing the truth.

יח: מִי שֶׁחֲבֵרוֹ נִתְחַיֵב לוֹ שְׁבוּעָה, וְרוֹאֶה בוֹ שֶׁהוּא רוֹצֶה לִשָׁבַע לַשֶּׁקֶר, חַס-וְשָׁלוֹם–יִתְפַּשֵּׁר עִמוֹ כְּפִי הָאֶפְשָׁרִי וְלִא יַנִּיחֶנּוּ לִשָּׁבַע לַשֶּׁקֶר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, שְׁבוּעַת ה’ תִּהְיֶה בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם, וְדָרְשֵׁינָן, מְלַמֵּד שֶהַשְׁבוּעָה חָלָה עַל שְׁנֵיהֶם

Someone whose friends owes him an oath [to reinforce his claim in court], and [the claimant] sees that [the defendant] wants to swear to a lie, heaven forbid, [the claimant] should find a compromise with him in whatever way possible and not leave him to a false oath. As it says (Shemos 22:10), “the oath of Hashem should be between the two”, and we expound (Shevuos 47b), “it teaches that the oath falls to both of him” [even the other party shares some responsibility for it].