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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Kethuboth

Folio 19a

It is a presumption that the witnesses do not sign a document unless [everything] was done by adults.1  But what is the reason with regard to 'FORCED?'2  — R. Hisda said: R. Meir holds that if one said to witnesses, 'sign a falsehood and you will not be killed,' they should rather be killed and not sign a falsehood.3  Raba said to him: Now. if they would come to us to ask [our] advice, we would say unto them: Go [and] sign and do not be killed, for a Master said: 'There is nothing that comes before the saving of life except idolatry, incest and bloodshed only.'4  Now that they have signed, can we say to them: why have you signed?5  But the reason of R. Meir is in accordance with what R. Huna [said in the name of] Rab: for R. Huna said [that] Rab said: If he6  admits that he has written the bond,7  there is no need8  to confirm it.9

[To revert to] the main text:10  R. Huna said [that] Rab said: If he11  admits that he has written the bond, there is no need to confirm it. R. Nahman said to him: Why do you go round about?12  If you hold with R. Meir, say: the halachah is according to R. Meir.13  He14  [then] said to him:15  And how do you Sir, hold?16  He17  said to him:18  When they come19  before us in court,20  we say to them: go [and] confirm your documents21  and [then] come to court.22

Rab Judah said [that] Rab said: If one said: This is a [loan-] deed of trust,23  he is not believed. Who said [it]? If the debtor said it, it is plain; why should he be believed? If the creditor said [it], may a blessing come upon him!24  And if the witnesses said [it], — [then] if their handwriting comes out from another place, it is plain that they are not believed,25  and if their handwriting does not come out from another place, why should they not be believed?26  (Mnemonic: BASH)27  Raba said: Indeed, the debtor said [it], and [it is] according to R. Huna, for R. Huna said [that] Rab said: If he28  admits that he has written the document, there is no need to confirm it.29  Abaye said: Indeed, the creditor said [it], and it is a case where he would injure others.30  And [this is] according to R. Nathan, for it has been taught:31  R. Nathan says: Whence [do we learn that], if one has a claim of a maneh against his fellow and that fellow against another fellow,32  we33  take out [the sun, of a maneh] from this one and give it to that one?34  The Writ says35  And he shall give [it] to whom he owes [it].36  R. Ashi said: Indeed, the witnesses said [it], and [it is in a case] where their handwriting does not come out from another place; and as to your question,37  Why should they not be believed, [the answer is] as stated by R. Kahana, for R. Kahana said: It is forbidden for a man to keep38  a [loan-] deed of trust in his house, because it is said: Let39  not unrighteousness dwell in thy tents.40

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. That is, all the parties, including the witnesses, must have been grown-up persons and not minors. Therefore. R. Meir holds that the witnesses are not allowed to say now that they were minors when they signed the document.
  2. Why does R. Meir hold that, if the witnesses said 'we were forced to sign the document. they are not believed?
  3. So that even if they say that they were forced us sign a falsehood by threats with regard to their life, they make themselves out to be wicked, and this no one can do; v. p. 102, n. 12.
  4. This means: everything, every religious law must yield to the preservation of life. If one is told: Transgress this or that law, otherwise you will be killed, he should transgress the law and not be killed. Only in respect of idolatry, incest and bloodshed this rule does does not apply. One should rather lose one's life than commit these transgressions; v. Sanh. 74a.
  5. In the case of signing a document, one should sign a falsehood and not lose one's life. The witnesses should, therefore, be believed if they said. 'we were forced to sign a falsehood by threats to our life'.
  6. The debtor.
  7. And that the witnesses signed it by his direction.
  8. For the creditor.
  9. By the witnesses; and the debtor cannot plead that he has discharged the debt as long as the creditor holds the bond. The statement of the witnesses is not necessary now. Therefore, they cannot disqualify the bond, according to R. Meir.
  10. From which the above quotation has been taken.
  11. The debtor.
  12. Lit., 'O thou cunning man, what is the use of thy going round about?' (Jast.).
  13. [Instead of making it an independent statement, thus conveying the impression that it is a ruling on which there is no disagreement among Tannaim.]
  14. R. Huna.
  15. R. Nahman.
  16. I.e.. what is your opinion?
  17. R. Nahman.
  18. R. Huna.
  19. Creditors.
  20. Lit., 'to law'.
  21. Rashi: 'Go and seek (and bring) your witnesses and confirm it (the document)'. [As a precaution. In case the debtor, though admitting that he wrote the bond, will plead that he had discharged the debt.
  22. Lit., 'and go down to law'.
  23. I.e., a bill of indebtedness signed on trust, in expectation that the loan, which is stated in the bill as having been advanced, will be advanced at some future date. The debtor trusts the creditor. The document is therefore called vbnt rya, a document, or deed of trust'.
  24. For being so honest.
  25. V. our Mishnah.
  26. It is their testimony upon which the validity of the document depends.
  27. A stands for Raba, A for Abaye, and SH for R. Ashi, the names of the three Amoraim who follow now.
  28. The debtor.
  29. [And the debtor cannot now invalidate the document by saying that it is a deed of trust even in the absence of attesting witnesses.]
  30. If the creditor is believed that the document is a deed of trust, be will injure others, who are his creditors, if he has no other assets. Therefore, he is not believed.
  31. In a Baraitha.
  32. I.e., A owes a maneh to B, and B owes a maneh to C.
  33. The court.
  34. The court takes a maneh from A and gives it to C. since B who is the creditor of A is the debtor of C.
  35. [H], lit., 'There is a teaching in the Scriptural text to intimate (this)', v. Jast. p. 1672.
  36. Num. V, 7. E. V. 'and give it unto him to whom he is 'guilty'. The teaching derived from these scriptural words by R. Nathan is: restitution has to be made to him to whom restitution is due. If A owes a maneh to B and B owes a maneh to C, the debt of A to B is paid, or may be paid. to C.
  37. Lit., 'what you say'.
  38. Lit., 'to cause to stay'.
  39. M.T. 'And let not'.
  40. Job XI, 14.

Kethuboth 19b

And R. Shesheth, the son of R. Idi, said: From [the words of] R. Kahana can be inferred1  [that] if witnesses said, 'Our words were [regarding a matter of] trust,'2  they are not believed, for this reason:3  Since it is 'unrighteousness' [we say that] they must not sign on [what is] unrighteousness.4

R. Joshua b. Levi. said: It is forbidden for a man to keep a paid bill of indebtedness in his house, because it is said: 'Let not unrighteousness dwell in thy tents'.5  In the West6  they said in the name of Rab: [It is said]: If iniquity be in thy hand, put it far away.7  This is a [loan-] deed of trust and a deed of good-will;8  [and it is said]: 'And let not unrighteousness dwell in thy tents'. This is a paid bill of indebtedness. He who says [that it9  applies to] a paid bill of indebtedness, how much more [does it apply to] a [loan-] deed of trust.10  [And] he, who says [that it applies to] a [loan-] deed of trust, [would hold that it does not apply to] a paid bill of indebtedness,11  because sometimes they keep it on account of the scribe's fees.12

It has been stated: A book13  that is not corrected14  — R. Ami said: Until thirty days one is allowed to keep it, from then and further on, it is forbidden to keep it, because it is said: 'Let not unrighteousness dwell in thy tents.15

R. Nahman said: If witnesses said, 'Our words were [regarding a matter of] trust.'16  they are not believed; [if they said]. 'Our words were [attended by] declaration,'17  they are [also] not believed.18  Mar. the son of R. Ashi. said: [if witnesses said]. 'Our words were [regarding a matter of] trust,' they are not believed; [but if they said], 'Our words were [attended by] declaration,' they are believed, for this reason:19  this one20  was allowed to be written21  and that one22  was not allowed to be written.23

Raba asked of R. Nahman: How is it [if witnesses say], 'Our words were [subject to] a condition'?24  [Are they not believed in the case of] 'declaration' and 'trust' because25  they invalidate26  the document, and [in] this [case of 'condition'] they also invalidate the document? Or is perhaps 'condition' a different thing?27  — He28  said to him:29  When they30  come before us in court, we say to them: go [and] fulfil your conditions and [then] come to court.

If one witness says [that there was] a condition,31  and one witness says [that there was] no condition R. Papa said: they both testify to a valid document and only one says [that there was] a condition, and the words of one [witness] have no value where there are two witnesses.32  R. Huna the son of R. Joshua demurred to this: If so,33  even if they both say [that there was a condition] [their words should] also [have no value]!34  But we say [that] they come to uproot their testimony,35  and this one also comes to uproot his testimony.36  And the law is according to R. Huna, the son of R. Joshua.

Our Rabbis taught: If two [witnesses] were signed on a document and died, and two [witnesses] came from the street and said, 'We know that it is their handwriting, but they were forced, they were minors, they were disqualified witnesses, they37  are believed. But if there are [other] witnesses that this is their handwriting. or their handwriting comes out from another place, [namely] from a document, the validity of which was challenged,38  and which was confirmed39  in Court,40  they are not believed. — And we collect41  with it as with a valid document? Why? They are two and two!42  — Said R. Shesheth: This teaches [that] contradiction43  is the beginning of rebuttal,44

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'understand from this'.
  2. I.e.. they say that the document they signed as witnesses was a loan-deed of trust.
  3. Lit., 'what is the reason?'
  4. And as they had signed, they are not believed when they say that it was a deed of trust, because they cannot make out themselves to be wicked; as supra p. 102, n. 12.
  5. Job XI, 14.
  6. Palestine.
  7. Job XI. 14.
  8. [H] Jast.: 'a deed of sale for accommodation' [Rashb. B.B. 154b explains it as a deed of feigned sale arranged for the purpose of making people believe that the person in whose favour it is made out is wealthy. 'Aruch takes it as a variant of [H], [G], 'trust'. (v. J. Keth. II, 3) and simply the Greek equivalent of [H]].
  9. The prohibition to keep the document.
  10. There was fraud even in its origin.
  11. Lit., 'but a paid bill of indebtedness, no.'
  12. Lit., 'the small coins of the scribe' — the creditor paid the scribe's fee, which the debtor has to pay. The creditor, therefore, keeps back the paid bill of indebtedness until he has collected from the debtor the scribe's fee. There is a lawful ground for keeping back the documents.
  13. Of the Bible.
  14. I.e., the mistakes in the manuscript had not been corrected.
  15. And it is 'unrighteousness' to keep a book of the Bible with mistakes uncorrected.
  16. I.e., they say that the document they signed as witnesses was a loan-deed of trust.
  17. Of protest. The witnesses say that the seller protested that be was forced to sell and did not recognize the sale, and that they signed the deed in cognizance of the protest.
  18. They cannot invalidate a written document.
  19. Lit., 'what is the reason'.
  20. The latter.
  21. In order to get out the seller from his predicament.
  22. The former.
  23. On account of 'unrighteousness'.
  24. The witnesses say. 'we signed the deed of sale, but the sale was made dependent upon a condition, which has not been fulfilled'.
  25. Lit., 'this is the reason'.
  26. Lit., 'uproot'.
  27. [The condition in itself does not affect the validity of the document, only the non-fulfilment thereof.]
  28. R. Nahman.
  29. Raba.
  30. The purchasers in a transaction, the witnesses to which declare. that it was subject to a condition.
  31. Attached to the transaction.
  32. Lit., 'in the place of two'.
  33. [Since the confirmation of the signature by the witness to the transaction is treated as a formal attestation of the document, which bats the admission of any qualifying declaration subsequent thereto.]
  34. [Having once testified to the validity of the document, they cannot subsequently retract by saying that it was subject to a condition. Why then did R. Nahman, in the case of two witnesses, insist on the purchasers fulfilling the condition?]
  35. [The mere confirmation of their signatures by the witnesses does not complete their attestation of the document. This is completed in their subsequent statement that it was subject to a condition. This latter statement, however, taken in itself, is but a qualification of their former statement confirming their signatures without any direct bearing as to the validity of the document, which really depends upon the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of this condition. In this it is different from the case where the subsequent statement declares the document to have been written under protest, attacking the validity of the document itself.]
  36. So that there is only one witness on the document.
  37. The two witnesses from the street.
  38. Lit., 'against which one called a protest'.
  39. Lit., 'strengthened'.
  40. As valid.
  41. Lit., 'we cause to be collected (the debt)'.
  42. The two witnesses who are signed on the document and who are now dead, and the two witnesses from the street, who testify to the unfitness of the witnesses who bad signed on the document. Even if their handwriting is otherwise confirmed, their testimony is counterbalanced by the testimony of the two witnesses from the street.
  43. [H] is a denial of the subject-matter of the evidence, for which however, no retaliatory punishment is imposed, as Deut. XIX, 19 does not refer to witnesses who were contradicted so the subject-matter of their evidence, but against whom the accusation (in a sense) of an 'alibi' was proved. [The term 'alibi' is used bete for convenience sake, as it deals there with the presence or absence of the witnesses of the alleged crime at the time when it was committed, rather than with the presence or the absence of the accused, as the term is generally understood.]
  44. [H]. I.e., the proving of an 'alibi', a rebuttal of evidence, whereby the witnesses are proved to be Zomemim, (v. Glos.). The proving of the subject-matter of the evidence to be false is a first step in a subsequent proof of an 'alibi', both being but one continued process of law, v. B K. 73b.