Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:1

סִימָן קפא – הִלְכוֹת הִלְכוֹת טוֹעֵן וְנִטְעָן וְעֵדוּת

181: Laws of Claimants, Defendants and Testimony

א: כְּשֶׁנָפַל בֵּין ֹשְנֵי בְנֵי אָדָם אֵיזֶה סִכְסוּךְ, רָאוּי לָהֶם לְהִתְפַּשֵּׁר בְּטוֹב וְשֶׁיְוַתֵּר כָּל אֶחָד נֶגֶד חֲבֵרוֹ, כְּדֵי לְהִתְרַחֵק מִזִּילוּתָא דְבֵי דִינָא בָּכָל מַה דְּאֶפְשָׁר

When a disagreement arises between two people, it is better for them to compromise for good, and each give in something against their friend, in order to avoid the lowering of the courts as much as possible.


This relates to the middah of maavir al midosav. Insisting on strict justice rather than seeking more of a win-win resolution lowers the court. It’s a shift from covenantal thinking to contractual justice.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:2

ב: אִם אִי אֶפְשָׁר לָהֶם לְהִתְפַּשֵׁר בְּטוֹב, וּמֻכְרָחִים לָבוֹא בַּמִּשְׁפָּט, יָבוֹאוּ לִפְנֵי בֵית-דִּין יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְאָסוּר לִדּוֹן בִּפְנֵי דַיָנֵי גוֹיִם וּבְעַרְכָּאוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶם, אֲפִלּוּ בְּדִין שֶׁדָּנִים כְּדִינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וַאֲפִלּוּ נִתְרַצּוּ שְׁנֵי בַעֲלֵי דִינִים לִדּוֹן בִּפְנֵיהֶם, אָסוּר. וַאֲפִלּוּ נִתְקַשְׁרוּ בְּקִנְיָן עַל זֶה אוֹ ֹשֶכָּתְבוּ כֵן בִּשְׁטָר, אֵינוֹ כְלוּם. וְכָל הַבָּא לִדּוֹן בִּפְנֵיהֶם, הֲרֵי זֶה רָשָׁע, וּכְאִלּוּ חֵרֵף וְגִדֵּף וְהֵרִים יָד בְּתוֹרַת מֹֹשֶה רַבֵּנוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם. וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּדָבָר הַמֻּתָּר לְמֶעְבָּד דִּינָא לְנַפְשֵׁהּ, כַּאֲשֶׁר יִתְבָּאֵר אִם יִרְצֶה הַשֵׁם בְּסָעִיף ט, מִכָּל מָקוֹם אָסוּר לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ עַל יְדֵי גּוֹיִם. וַאֲפִלּוּ אֵינוֹ דָן לִפְנֵי הַגּוֹיִם, אֶלָּא שֶׁכּוֹפֵהוּ עַל יְדֵי גוֹי שֶׁיַעֲמֹד עִמּוֹ לְדִין יִשְֹרָאֵל, רָאוּי לְמָתְחוֹ עַל הָעַמּוּד

If it is impossible to reach a good compromise, and they are forced to come in justice, they should go before a Jewish court [of halakhah]. It is prohibited to stand judgment before non-Jewish judges and their adjudication even in laws that they just the same as Jewish law. Even if both litigants want to stand judgment before them, it is prohibited. Even if the purchase was tied to this condition or they wrote it in a contract [that they would go to non-Jews for any adjudication], it is nothing. Whomever comes to judgement fefore them, he is an evil person, and it’s as though he got angry and rebelled and lifted a hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu a”h. Even something which he is permitted to serve justice on his own, as I will explain — if G-d desires — in se’if 9, in any case one may not do so through the aegis of non-Jews. Even if he is not judged by non-Jews but he was compelled by non-Jews to stands with him for Jewish justice, it would be appropriate to stretch him against the pillar [for lashes].


The notion of law is central to Judaism. It is therefore tantamount to denying Judaism for someone to imply that Jewish law is insufficient and they need to go elsewhere.

In practice, though, the above is only true where Jewish law is actually sufficient. In cases where our current exile makes it impossible for a beis din to enforce the law (e.g. charging someone with child molestation ), or the people are noted in the community and it would be difficult to find a court that both parties agree is unbiased, it may be permissible. Consult your rabbi if this ch”v were to arise.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:3-4

ג: הָיְתָה יָדָם תַּקִּיפָה וּבַעַל דִּינוֹ גֶבֶר אַלָּם, יִתְבָּעֶנוּ לְדַיָּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תְּחִלָּה. אִם לֹא רָצָה לָבוֹא, נוֹטֵל רְשׁוּת מִבֵּית -דִּין וּמַצִּיל בְּדִינֵהֶם

If they are trying to seize [the disputed amount] and his other litigant is a difficult person, he should drag him to a Jewish court first. If he doesn’t want to come, he should obtain permission from the [Jewish] court, and may avail himself of their [ie non-Jewish] law.

ד: מִי שֶׁתּוֹבְעִים אוֹתוֹ מָמוֹן שֶׁהוּא מֻחְזָק בּוֹ, אָסוּר לוֹ לְבַקֵּשׁ צְדָדִים לְהִשָּׁמֵט,כְּדֵי שֶׁיִתְרַצֶה הַלָּה לַעֲשוּת עִמּוֹ פְשָׁרָה וְיִמְחוֹל לוֹ עַל הַשְּׁאָר. וְאִם עָבַר וְעָשָׂה כֵן, אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא יְדֵי שָׁמַיִם, עַד שֶׁיִתֵּן לוֹ אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ

If they are trying to seize money that the person has in hand, he may not avoid settlement [to get the claimant] to retire [his claim], so that the other would more readily come to a compromise and forgive the rest. If he [the defendant] violates [halakhah] and does this, he does not leave Divine [Justice] until he gives him [the one who is owed] what is his.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:5-6

ה: אָסוּר לְבַעַל-דִּין לְסַפֵּר עִנְיַן הַמִּשְׁפָּט לִפְנֵי הַדַּיָן שֶׁלֹּא בִּפְנֵי בַעַל-הַדִּין חֲבֵרוֹ. וְלֹא יַקְדִּים אֶת עַצְמוֹ לָבוֹא לִפְנֵי הַדַּיָן קֹדֶם לַחֲבֵרוֹ, שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא נֶחְשָׁד שֶׁמַּקְדִּים כְּדֵי לְסַדֵּר טַעֲנוֹתָיו שֶׁלֹּא בִפְנֵי חֲבֵרוֹ – ספר מאירת עינים

It is prohibited for a litigant to tell some matter of the case before a judge when it is not in front of his fellow litigant. And he should not make him self early to come before the judge before his fellow, so that it shouldn’t lead to suspicion that he came early to lay out his case when not before his fellow.

ו: כְֹּשֵם שֶׁהַדַּיָן הַלּוֹקֵחַ שֹׁחַד אֲפִלוּ לְזַכּוֹת אֶת הַזַכַּאי עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַעֲשֶׂה, כָּךְ הַנּוֹתֵן אֶת הַשֹּׁחַד עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַעֲשֶׂה דְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשֹׁל

Just as a judge who accepts a bribe — even to exonerate the innocent [so the ruling isn’t altered] violated a prohibition, so to the person who gives the bribe violates [that] prohibition and [the one of] “before a blind person, do not place a stumbling block.”

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:7

ז: אָסוּר לִטְעֹן שֶׁקֶר בְּכָל עִנְיָן. וַאֲפִלוּ אִם יוֹדֵעַ בְּעַצְמוֹ שֶׁהוּא זַכַּאי, וְאִם יִטְעַן הָאֱמֶת יִתְחַיֵב בַּדִּין, מִכָּל מָקוֹם לֹא יִטְעַן שֶׁקֶר. הָכִי אִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא, תָּנוּ רַבָּנָן, מִנַּיִן לְנוֹשֶׁה בַּחֲבֵרוֹ – פֵּרוּשׁ שֶׁהִלְוָה לַחֲבֵרוֹ מָנָה, שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמַר אֶטְעֲנֶנּוּ בְּמָאתַיִם כְּדֵי שֶׁיּוֹדֶה לִי בְּמָנֶה וְיִתְחַיֵב לִי שְׁבוּעָה וַאֲגַלְגֵּל עָלָיו שְׁבוּעָה מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר–תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר, מִדְּבַר שֶׁקֶר תִּרְחָק. מִנַיִן לְנוֹשֶׁה בַּחֲבֵרוֹ מָנֶה וּטְעָנוֹ מָאתַיִם. שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמַר הַלֹּוֶה, אֶכְפְּרֶנּוּ בְּבֵית-דִּין וְאוֹדֶה לוֹ חוּץ לְבֵית-הַדִּין כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא אֶתְחַיֵב לוֹ שְׁבוּעָה וְלֹא יְגַלְגֵּל עָלַי שְׁבוּעָה מִמְּקוֹם אַחֵר–תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר, מִדְּבַר שֶׁקֶר תִּרְחָק. מִנַּיִן לִשְׁלשָׁה שֶׁנּוֹשִׁין מָנֶה בְּאֶחָד, שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא אֶחָד בַּעַל-דִּין וּשְׁנַיִם עֵדִים כְּדֵי שֶׁיּוֹצִיאוּ הַמָּנֶה וְיַחֲלֹקוּ–תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר, מִדְּבַר שֶׁקֶר תִּרְחָק

It is prohibited to make a false claim in any subject. Even if he knows to himself that he is correct and if he makes an honest claim he would be found obligated, in any case he should not claim a lie. This is what it says in the gemara:

The rabbis repeated [in a beraisa]: From where do we know that someone who has a lein on his friend — meaning, he lent his friend a maneh [100 zuz] — that he should not say “I will caim against him 200 [zuz] so that he would agree with me about one maneh and he will be obligated to make an oath for me and thereby I will make him promise via another purpose and thus a binding obligation for the amount he really owes]”? We are taught to say “distance yourself from falsehood.” [Shemos 23:7]

Where do we know that someone who has a lein on his friend for a maneh and he claims against him 200 [zuz], that the borrower should not say “I will bring him to court, but will [first] agree with him outside of court so that I won’t be obligated to take an oat and the oath won’t be via another purpose [and thus binding to limit the debt to the real amount]”? We are taught to say “distance yourself from falsehood.”

Where do we know that three people who have a lein [in partnership] for a maneh against one person, that one should not appear as litigant and the other two as witnesses so that they should extract the maneh and divide it amongst themselves? We are taught to say “distance yourself from falsehood.”

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:8

ח: לִפְעָמִים בַּעֲלֵי-הַדִּין בּוֹרְרִים לָהֶם אֲנָשִׁים שֶׁיַעֲשׂוּ פְשָׁרָה בֵּינֵיהֶם, אִם בְּצֵרוּף בֵּית-הַדִין אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְבֵית-דִּין. וְדָבָר זֶה, הָגוּן הוּא, שֶׁכָּל אֶחָד הוּא מְצַדֵּד בִּזְכוּתוֹ שֶׁל זֶה אֲשֶׁר בְּחָרוֹ וְיֵצֵא הַפֶּשֶׁר כָּרָאוּי. וְדַוְקָא לְצַדֵּד בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַיָשָׁר. אֲבָל חָלִילָה-לּוֹ לְעַוֵּת אֶת הַפֶּשֶׁר. שֶׁכְּשֵׁם שֶׁמֻּזְהָרִין שֶׁלֹּא לְהַטּוֹת אֶת הַדִּין, כָּךְ מֻזְהָרִין שֶׁלֹּא לְהַטּוֹת אֶת הַפֶּשֶׁר

Sometimes litigants identify for themselves people who would arrange a compromise between them, whether adjunct to beis din or not in beis din. This thing is proper, because each side will move to the credit of the one who chose him, and the compromise will be appropriate. But specifically to move in an honest direction; however far be it from him to cheat on the compromise! Just as they are careful not to pervert the judgment, so too they are careful not to pervert the compromise.


We saw something similar in se’if 1, where the halakhah was given that a court must first try to find a settlement, and only (se’if 2) if that fails, does the court engage in adjudicating the case.

I would conclude from this that we are placing peace ahead of justice; better a resolution that leaves both parties on more amicable terms than to give the property to its real possessor.



Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:9

ט: יָכוֹל אָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת דִּין לְעַצְמוֹ. אִם רוֹאֶה חֵפֶץ שֶׁלּוֹ בְּיַד אַחֵר שֶׁגְּזָלוֹ, יָכוֹל לְקַחְתּוֹ מִיָדוֹ. וְאִם הָאַחֵר עוֹמֵד כְּנֶגְדּוֹ, יָכוֹל לְהַכּוֹתוֹ עַד שֶׁיַנִּיחֶנוּ, אִם לֹא יוּכַל לְהַצִיל בְעִנְיָן אַחֵר, אֲפִלּוּ הוּא דָבָר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ הֶפְסֵד, אִם יַמְתִּין עַד שֶׁיַעֲמִידֶנּו בַּדִין. וְאִם יֵשׁ עֵדִים הָרוֹאִים שֶׁהוּא תופֵס אֶת הַחֵפֶץ מִיַד הָאַחֵר, אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְתָפְסוֹ עַל יְדֵי הַכָּאָה, אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יָכוֹל לְבָרֵר אַחַר כָּךְ שֶׁנָּטַל אֶת ֹשֶלּוֹ. כִּי אִם לֹֹא יְבָרֵר, לֹא מַהֲנֵי לֵהּ תְּפִיסָתוֹ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהָיוּ עֵדִים בַּדָבָר. אֲבָל אִם אֵין עֵדִים, דְּאָז מַהֲנֵי תְפִיסָתוֹ, יָכוֹל לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן, אַף-עַל-פִּי שֶׁלֹּא יוּכַל לְבָרֵר

A person may obtain justice for themselves. If he wants his item, which is in the possession of someone else who stole it, he can take it from his possession. And if the other stands in his way, he can beat him until he puts the item down. [But this is only] if he can not save it another way, even if it’s an item that is not perishable, if he were to wait until he can stand him in court.

If there are witnesses who see him taking the item from the possession of the other, he can not grab it via hitting unless he can prove afterward that he took his own [property]. Because if he can’t prove it, the grabbing [of his item] won’t help him, since there are witnesses for the matter [who could be brought to court to force him to return it]. But if there are no witnesses, he may do so, even where he does not have the ability to prove [that the item is really his].

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:10

י: בְּנֵי הָעִיר שֶׁמַּעֲמִידִין לָהֶם בֵּית-דִּין, צְרִיכִין לֵידַע שֶׁיֵשׁ בְּכָל אֶחָד מֵהֶם שִׁבְעָה דְבָרִים אֵלּוּ, חָכְמָה בַתּוֹרָה, עֲנָוָה, יִרְאָה, שִׂנְאַת מָמוֹן אֲפִלּוּ שֶׁלָּהֶם, אַהֲבַת הָאֶמֶת, אַהֲבַת הַבְּרִיּוֹת לָהֶם, בַּעֲלֵי שֵׁם טוֹב בְּמַעֲשֵׂיהֶם. וְכָל הַמַּעֲמִיד דַּיָן שֶׁאֵינוֹ הָגוּן, עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַעֲשֶׂה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, לֹא תַכִּירו פָנִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט, כְּלוֹמַר, לֹא תַכִּירוּ פְנֵי הָאִישׁ לוֹמַר, פְּלוֹנִי עָשִׁיר הוּא, קְרוֹבִי הוּא, אוֹשִׁיבֶנּוּ בַדִין. וְכָל דַּיָן שֶׁנִּתְמַנָּה בִּשְׁבִיל כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב, אָסוּר לַעֲמֹד לְפָנָיו אוֹ לְכַבְּדוֹ בִּשְׁאָר כִּבּוּד, וְעָלָיו דָּרְשׁוּ רַבּוֹתֵינו זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה, אֱלֹהֵי כֶסֶף וֵאלֹהֵי זָהָב לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם

A city wish establishes for themselves a court, they must know that each one of them [the judges] have these seven qualities:

  1. wisdom in Torah,
  2. modesty,
  3. fear/awe [of G-d],
  4. a hatred of money [as an ends], even their own,
  5. love of truth,
  6. the love of all creatures [i.e. people] is for them, and
  7. they have a good reputation in their deeds.

Whoever establishes a judge who isn’t upright, violates a prohibition, as it says “do not recognize faces [an idiom: show favoritism] in judgement”, as if to say, “do not recognize the face of the person, to say ‘so-and-so is wealthy”, or “… is my relative”, I will settle the judgement for him.

Any judge who accepts an appointment for silver/money and gold, it is prohibited to stand before him [for judgment] or honor him in any honor. About him our rabbis whose memory is a blessing expounded, “Gods of silver and gods of gold, do not make for yourselves.


For a mussar shmuess: Reread this se’if keeping in mind that each one of us assesses those around us in a “courtroom of our mind”. What qualities do we need to cultivate in our relationships to others?

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:11

יא: עֲיָרוֹת שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶם חֲכָמִים הָרְאוּיִים לִהְיוֹת דַּיָּנִים, מְמַנִּים הַטּוֹבִים וְהַחֲכָמִים שֶׁבָּהֶם לְדַעַת אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר, וְהֵם יָדוּנוּ אַף-עַל-פִּי שֶׁאֵינָם רְאוּיִים לְדַיָנִים, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֵלְכוּ לִפְנֵי עַרְכָּאוֹת ֹשֶל גּוֹיִם. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁקִבְּלוּם עֲלֵיהֶם בְּנֵי הָעִיר, אֵין אַחֵר יָכוֹל לְפָסְלָן. וְכָל מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם יִהְיוּ לְשֵׁם-שָׁמָיִם

Cities that do not have within them sages worthy of being judges should chood the best and wisest from among them according to the knowledge of the people of the city, and they should judge even though they aren’t worthy of being judges, so that they shouldn’t go before the adjudication of the non-Jews. Since the people of the city accepted them upon themselves [as arbitrators], no one else may disqualify them. And all their actions should be for the sake of [the One in] heaven.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:12

יב: כָּל מִי שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ עֵדוּת לַחֲבֵרוֹ וְרָאוּי לְהָעִידוֹ וְיֵשׁ לַחֲבֵרוֹ תּוֹעֶלֶת בְעֵדוּתוֹ וְהוּא תוֹבְעוֹ שֶׁיָעִיד לוֹ בִּפְנֵי בֵּית-דִּין–חַיָב לְהָעִיד לוֹ, בֵּין שֶׁיֵשׁ עוֹד עֵד אַחֵר עִמּוֹ, בֵּין שֶׁהוּא לְבַדּוֹ. וְאִם כָּבַשׁ עֵדוּתוֹ, חַיָב בְּדִינֵי שָׁמָיִם. וְאָסוּר לְאָדָם לְהָעִיד בְּדָבָר שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ, אַף-עַל-פִּי שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ אָדָם שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ בּוֹ ֹשֶאֵינוֹ מְשַׁקֵּר. וַאֲפִלּו אָמַר לוֹ בַּעַל-הַדִּין, בּוֹא וַעֲמֹד עִם עֵד אֶחָד שֶׁיֵשׁ לִי, וְלֹא תָעִיד, רַק שֶׁיִפְחַד בַּעַל חוֹבִי וְיִסְבּוֹר שֶׁיֵשׁ לִי שְׁנֵי עֵדִים, וְיוֹדֶה לִי–לֹא יִשְׁמַע לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, מִדְּבַר שֶׁקֶר תִּרְחָק

Anyone who knows testimony for his friend and is capable of giving that testimony, and his friend has a purpose in his testimony and calls upon him that he testify for him before the court, is obligated to testify. Whether there is another witness with him, whether he is alone. And if he suppresses his testimony, he is accountable by the laws [ie penal system] of heaven.

It is prohibited for a person to testify about something that he doesn’t know even if he was told it by someone who he knows that he never lies. Even if the claimant tells him, come and stand with this one witness that I have and don’t testify, just that my debtor shall worry and figure that I have two witnesses and therefore agree to me [ie my claim], don’t listen to him, for it says “stay distant from things of falsehood.”

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:13

יג: הָא דְּעֵד אֶחָד מֵעִיד, זֶהוּ דַוְקָא בְּדָבָר שֶׁבְּמָמוֹן, דְּמַהַנֵי גַם עֵד אֶחָד לְעִנְיַן שְׁבוּעָה. וְכֵן בִּדְבַר אִסוּר, אִם עֲדַיִן לֹא נַעֲשָׂה הָאִסּוּר, יָעִיד כְּדֵי לְאַפְרוּשֵׁי מֵאִסּוּרָא. אֲבָל אִם כְּבָר נַעֲשֶׂה הָאִסּוּר, לֹא יָעִיד עֵד אֶחָד. דְּכֵיוָן דְּעֵד אֶחָד אֵינוֹ נֶאֱמָן, אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא כְּמוֹצִיא ֹשֵם רָע עַל חֲבֵרוֹ

That where one witness testifies, that is specifically in a financial matter, since one witness is also of help with respect to requiring the defendant to take an oath [that he doesn’t owe the money, whereas two would require him to pay]. Similarly in a matter of a prohibition, it the prohibition wasn’t done yet, he should testify in order to separate people from [possible] violation. But if the prohibition was already done, a single witness should not testify, since a single witness is not believed, it is as though he did nothing but slander his friend.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:14

יד: הַנּוֹטֵל שָׂכָר לְהָעִיד, עֵדוּתוֹ בְּטֵלָה. וְדַוְקָא כְּשֶׁכְּבָר רָאָה הַמַּעֲשֶׂה, דִּמְחֻיָּב לְהָעִיד בְּחִנָּם. אֲבָל לֵילֵךְ לִרְאוֹת אֶת הָעִנְיָן שֶׁיִהְיֶה אַחַר כָּךְ עֵד בַּדָבָר, מֻתָּר לוֹ לִקַּח שָׂכָר, אֲבָל רַק שָׂכָר הָרָאוּי לְפִי הַטִּרְחָא שֶׁלּוֹ וְלֹא יוֹתֵר. וְכֵן אִם יֶשׁ לוֹ טִרְחָא לָלֶכֶת לִפְנֵי בֵית-הַדִּין, יָכוֹל לִטּוֹל שְׂכַר טִרְחָא כְּפִי הָרָאוּי בְּעַד טִרְחָא זוֹ, וְלֹא יוֹתֵר

Someone who accepts pay to testify, his testimony is nullified. But that is specifically if he already saw the event, for then he is obligated to testify for free. However, to go to see the matter so that afterward he could be a witness in it, it is permitted for him to receive pay — but only pay that is appropriate according to his effort, and no more. Similarly if he has [significant] effort to go before the court, he may accept pay according to what if appropriate for his effort, and no more.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 181:15-16

טו: כָּל עֵדוּת שֶׁיֵשׁ לְאָדָם הֲנָאָה בָהּ, וְאֵיזֶה צַד נְגִיעָה אֲפִלּוּ בְּדֶרֶךְ רְחוֹקָה, פָּסוּל לְהָעִיד

[Continuing on the theme of getting paid for testimony, we now look at a conflict of interest.] Any testimony that a person would get benefit from, or has some aspect of involvement even if distant, he is disqualified from testifying.

טז: כְּתִיב, וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא-טוֹב עָשָׂה בְּתוֹךְ עַמָּיו, וְדָרְשֵׁינָן, זֶה הַבָּא בְּהַרְשָׁאָה וּמִתְעַבֵּר עַל-רִיב לֹא-לוֹ. וְדַוְקָא כְּשֶׁשְּׁנֵי בַּעֲלֵי-הַדִּין הֵמָּה בָעִיר, אֶלָּא כְּגוֹן שֶׁהַלֹּוֶה הוּא אַלָּם וּבַעַל טְעָנוֹת, וְיָרֵא הַמַּלְוֶה לִטְעֹן עִמּוֹ וּמַרְשֶׁה לְאַחֵר, זֶהוּ מִתְעַבֵּר עַל רִיב לֹא לוֹ. אַבָל אִם הַנִּתְבָּע הוּא בְּעִיר אַחֶרֶת, וְהַתּוֹבֵעַ אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהַטְרִיחַ אֶת עַצְמוֹ וּמַרְשֶׁה לְאַחֵר, זֶה הַמֻּרְשֶׁה–מִצְוָה קָעֲבֵיד לְהַצִּיל עָשׁוּק מִיַד עוֹשְׁקוֹ. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים, דְּהַבָּא בְהַרְשָׁאָה כְּדֵי לֵהָנוֹת מִן הַשָּׂכָר וְלֹא בִּשְׁבִיל אַלָּמוּת, מֻתָּר

It is written (Yechezqeil 18:18), “he did that which is not good among his people”, and they expound [this verse] (Shevuos 31a), “this is someone accepts authorization” to plead for another. This is specifically when the two litigants are in the city but, for example, the borrower is powerful and a person [who could create] difficulties and the borrower is afraid to complain against him and authorizes to another — [in that case, the person who accepts authorization is] someone who enters a fight which isn’t his. However, if the defendant is in another city, and the claimant is unable to bring himself and [therefore] authorizes another — this one who accepts authorization is doing a mitzvah, for he is returning a taken item from the person who took it. And some say, someone who comes with authorization in order to gain from the reward, and not because of [the other’s] prominence, it is permitted.


Being someone else’s representation in court is permitted, but in general is looked upon unfavorably. Who wants to harm the other litigant?

That said, the Arukh haShulchan lists these cases in which harsha’ah, authorizing legal representation is commended:

  1. where the parties are so angry each other that they can not speak productively in each other’s presence (Ritva). The AhS adds that some only recommend representation for the defendant in this case.
  2. where one party lives far away and can not get  to the court (Raavad). We saw this case in the Qitzur.
  3. where the representative doesn’t find entertainment in being unyielding (Tosafos, as understood by the Rama).
  4. where the defendant is not known as being particularly unyielding. Because if someone goes up against an unyielding litigant, the representative is bound to get personally involved in the dispute (Tosados, as understood by the Shakh).

The Arukh haShulchan holds: 5. All of the above.

The Qitzur also appears to raise the Shakh’s case of the unyielding or difficult litigant who is bound to get into a major fight and excludes it as laudable grounds for agreeing to be representation. Although he does raise a “some say”, and excepts the case where it is a professional lawyer just accepting the job for a commission. Presumably because that eliminates the person who is doing it just because they enjoy a fight getting sucked in.

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].

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 – 181:20

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 – 181:21

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 – 181:22

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.