Blackmailing Father – Sanhedrin 9


By: Rabbi Avrohom Adler

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And Rav Yosef said: If a man says, “So-and-so committed sodomy with me against my will,” he himself with another witness can combine to testify against the perpetrator. If, however, he said, “So-and-so committed sodomy with me with my consent,” he is a wicked man and the Torah states: Do not use a sinner as a witness.

Raba said: Every man is considered a relative to himself, and he cannot incriminate himself (as a sinner).

The following question was raised to the poskim years ago: A man testified in Beis Din that he married off his minor daughter, but he refused to state the identity of this man. His intention was to put pressure on his wife for her to accept a divorce without receiving any alimony payments and to have equal visitation rights for the children. Do we accept his testimony and consider the girl as a married woman?

Rav Eliyahu Pesach Ramnik, Rosh Yeshiva of Ohavei torah in Far Rockaway applied the principle of ‘a person is not believed to establish himself as an evil person’ as the basis for his ruling. He explained: The father, who is testifying that he married off his minor daughter, is establishing himself as a wicked person for several different reasons. Firstly, if in truth, he has married her off in order to extort money from his wife, using a mechanism of the Torah in this manner causes a tremendous desecration of Hashem’s Name, and if the wife does not concede to his demands, the child will remain an agunah her entire life. This will result in an even bigger chilul Hashem. Secondly, he is transgressing the prohibition of paining another fellow Jew. The pain and the embarrassment that he is causing his wife and daughter to endure is indescribable. Thirdly, the Gemora in Sanhedrin (76a) states that one who marries his daughter to an elderly man transgresses a Biblical prohibition of causing his daughter to sin, since she will not be satisfied in that marriage; certainly in this case, the father will be violating this prohibition, for the daughter does not even know the identity of her true husband. Based on these above reasons, it emerges that by accepting the father’s testimony, he would be rendered a rasha, and therefore, his testimony should not be accepted and his daughter would not be regarded as a married woman.

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, in his sefer Chashukei Chemed questions the above conclusion. He cites several Acharonim who rule that when a man has already been established as a rasha regarding other matters, his testimony can still be valid (provided that he is not disqualified from offering testimony) even though it also renders him a rasha. The Chacham Tzvi (responsa 3) rules that if someone has violated a light transgression in our presence, he would still be believed that he has violated an even stricter prohibition. This is because his testimony is not rendering him a rasha; he already has established himself a rasha. It is for this reason that we will be compelled to accept the father’s testimony that he married off his daughter, for this man has already been established as a rasha. He is desecrating the name of Hashem by using the Torah’s mechanisms for evil purposes and by causing pain and grief to his wife and to his daughter.


Eidim P’sulim

The Gemora learns that even if there are a hundred witnesses that witnessed an event, but included in those witnesses were relatives or otherwise disqualified witnesses, then the all the witnesses may not testify. Rebbe clarifies that this is only true when the relatives or otherwise disqualified witnesses also gave the warning, but if they merely witnessed an event along with others, they can’t nullify the testimony of the other witnesses. Rashi explains that by giving the warning, they show that they too want to be considered witnesses, therefore they negate the other witnesses’ testimony, since part of the witnesses are disqualified.

Who is considered disqualified for testimony?

1) Relatives – Relatives: There are many different scenarios; we will only touch on a few.

We learn that relatives cannot be considered witnesses from the verse: Fathers shall not die through their sons. The Chachamim derived from this verse that the father cannot die due to testimony from his son, and vice versa. Aside from a son there are other relatives that cannot testify; a) brothers, b) grandson, c) first cousins, d) second cousins. All these cases apply to females as well, meaning a sister cannot testify on a brother and vice versa etc. (Choshen Mishpat 33:2)

If one cannot testify regarding a woman (for example a sister), he is similarly prohibited from testifying for her husband, and conversely, if one cannot testify for a certain man, he also may not testify for his wife (ibid 33:3). However, he may testify for that spouse’s relative (ibid 33:5).

Mechutanim may testify for each other (ibid 33:6).

2) Oivrei Aveirah – One Who Committed a Sin: If one transgressed any prohibition that is punishable by either death or lashes, he is disqualified for testimony until he repents. It makes no difference if he sinned due to desire, or if he sinned as an act of rebellion (ibid 34:2).

If one transgressed a Rabbinic prohibition, he is disqualified only on a Rabbinic level (there are halachic differences between them).

3) Other P’sulei Eidus: A minor is disqualified for testimony, even if he is very bright. One leaves the status of a minor once he shows signs of physical maturity, usually when he turns thirteen years old.

One who is incoherent in a certain issue is also disqualified (ibid 35:8). If he is mentally deranged, he is also disqualified (ibid 35:10).