סקר
לקראת סיום מסכת עירובין






 

Steinsaltz

And in order not to exhibit insolence, this person wants to admit to the creditor with regard to all of the debt, and this fact that he denies owing him in part is because he reasons: If I admit to him with regard to all of the debt, he will lodge a claim against me with regard to all of it, and right now I do not have the money to pay. He was evading his creditor, and thought: I will continue doing so until I have money, and then I will pay him all of it. This rationalization enables one to falsely deny part of a claim. And therefore, the Merciful One states: Impose an oath on him, in order to ensure that he will admit to him with regard to all of the debt.

But in a case where the testimony of witnesses renders him liable to pay part of the debt, as one cannot say this explanation since this logic applies only when it is the debtor admitting to part of the claim, say that he has no intention to repay the debt at all, and he is completely dishonest and therefore his oath is worthless. Therefore, the baraita teaches us that the defendant’s obligation to take an oath is derived by means of an a fortiori inference.

The Gemara explains: And what is the explanation of this a fortiori inference? It should be explained as follows: If admitting to part of a claim by his own mouth, which does not render him liable to pay the money he admitted to owing, nevertheless obligates him to take an oath, with regard to the testimony of witnesses, which does render him liable to pay money, is it not logical that it should obligate him to take an oath with regard to the remaining sum?

The Gemara asks: But does the admission of his own mouth not render him liable to pay money? But isn’t the legal status of the admission of a litigant similar to that of one hundred witnesses?

The Gemara answers: What is the money that one is not liable to pay based on his own admission? It is referring to the payment of a fine [kenas]. In all cases where the Torah imposes a fine, if the defendant admits his liability voluntarily he is not required to pay it. Therefore, the a fortiori inference is as follows: If the admission of one’s own mouth, which does not render him liable to pay a fine, nevertheless renders him liable to take an oath with regard to the part of the claim to which he did not admit, with regard to the testimony of witnesses, which does render him liable to pay a fine, is it not logical that it should render him liable to take an oath with regard to the remaining sum?

The Gemara attempts to refute the inference: What is notable about the admission of one’s mouth? It is notable in that it renders him liable to bring an offering. One who admits that he transgressed a prohibition unwittingly is obligated to bring an offering for atonement. Would you say that the halakhot of admission apply with regard to the testimony of witnesses, which, in a case where they testify that one transgressed a prohibition, does not obligate him to bring an offering if he denies it?

The Gemara answers: This is not difficult. Rabbi Ḥiyya holds in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Meir, who says that the testimony of witnesses renders him liable to bring an offering, based on an a fortiori inference.

As we learned in a mishna (Karetot 11b): If two witnesses say to a person: You ate forbidden fat, and he says: I did not eat it, Rabbi Meir deems him liable to bring an offering and the Rabbis deem him exempt from bringing an offering.

Rabbi Meir said to the Rabbis: If two witnesses can cause a person to receive the death penalty, which is a severe penalty, can they not also cause one to receive the light penalty of having to bring an offering? The Rabbis said to him: What if he would want to say: I sinned intentionally? Wouldn’t he be exempt? Since one does not bring an offering for an intentional sin, the testimony of witnesses has no bearing in this matter, as they cannot prove that his transgression was unwitting. Therefore, even if he claims that he did not sin at all, the testimony does not obligate him to bring an offering.

The Gemara suggests another refutation: Rather, what is notable about the admission of one’s mouth? It is notable in that it renders a robber liable to bring a guilt-offering. One who admits that he robbed another is required to bring a guilt-offering for atonement, whereas if witnesses testify that he robbed another he is not obligated to bring a guilt-offering. The Gemara answers: A guilt-offering is the same as any other offering, about which there is a dispute between Rabbi Meir and the Rabbis as to whether the testimony of witnesses renders one liable to bring an offering.

The Gemara suggests another refutation: Rather, what is notable about the admission of one’s mouth? It is notable in that it renders one who unlawfully possessed the money of another liable to pay an additional one-fifth of the value of that money when he returns it of his own accord (see Leviticus 5:20–26). By contrast, if witnesses testify that he unlawfully possessed the money of another, he is not obligated to add one-fifth to his payment. The Gemara answers: This is not difficult; Rabbi Ḥiyya holds in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Meir. Just as Rabbi Meir holds that the testimony of witnesses renders one liable to bring an offering due to an a fortiori inference, he also holds that the testimony of witnesses renders one liable to add one-fifth, via an a fortiori inference.

The Gemara suggests another refutation: Rather, what is notable about the admission of one’s mouth? It is notable in that it is not subject to contradiction or to refutation as applies to the testimony of conspiring witnesses, as the testimony of witnesses cannot negate the admission of a litigant. Would you say the same halakhot with regard to witnesses, who are subject to contradiction and to refutation as conspiring witnesses? Evidently, the testimony of witnesses is weaker, in some aspects, than the admission of a litigant.

Rather, Rabbi Ḥiyya’s a fortiori inference is apparently derived from the halakha of the testimony of one witness. If the testimony of one witness, which does not render the defendant liable to pay money, obligates him to take an oath to contradict the testimony, is it not logical that the testimony of two witnesses, which render one liable to pay money, also obligates him to take an oath?

The Gemara rejects this inference: What is notable about the testimony of one witness? It is notable in that the defendant takes an oath with regard to the matter concerning which he testifies, not with regard to other claims raised by the claimant.

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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