Bais Din Quandary: Is Admission Over Telephone Valid?


rav-yitzchok-tuvia-weissOne of the most universally respected botei din is that of the Eidah Hacharedis of Yerushalayim, popularly known as the Badatz. Always led by greatly honored Torah giants, the bais din was originally established and led by RavShmuel Salant zt”l; succeeded by Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l; succeeded by Rav Yosef Zvi Dushinsky zt”l; succeeded by Rav Zelig Reuven Bengis zt”l; succeeded by Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l; succeeded by Rav Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss zt”l; succeeded by Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund zt”l (1904‑1996); succeeded by Rav Yisroel Moshe Dushinsky zt”l; and succeeded by and presently led by Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss.

A case recently came before the Badatz bais din wherein two Jews were part of a four-way telephone discussion between two businessmen. During the conversation, Businessman A casually admitted that he owed Businessman B a specific large sum of money. Shortly thereafter, Businessman A summoned Businessman B to the Badatz bais din demanding payment of the money owed and presenting the two other participants to that telephone conversation as witnesses establishing proof of the debt.

Ordinarily, admission by a litigant is considered absolute proof, as the Gemara in Kiddushin 65b states: “The admission of a litigant is the equivalent of 100 witnesses.” Seemingly, this would have been an open and shut case requiring Businessman A to pay the full amount demanded by Businessman B. However, the bais din is now deliberating whether an admission heard by witness over telephone wires is a valid admission.

This principle of this question has actually been asked ever since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone on March 10, 1876. Is hearing over the telephone the recital of Havdalah, the reading of Megillas Esther, etc., a fulfillment of the corresponding obligation? May one answer Amein to a bracha heard over the phone?

The dayanim of the Badatz of the Eidah Hacharedis are presently devoted to making a clear determination as to the halachic validity of sounds over the phone. Regardless of their possible findings, the Torah community is riveted in anticipation of their conclusions.

{Rabbi G. Tannenbaum-Machberes/ Newscenter}


  1. Unfortunately, this article represents a misunderstanding of the halahic issues on hand, and was probably not explained to the author by the Beis Din.

    “Telephone voices”, which are technically electronic pulses, have been already been discussed at length by the gedolei poskim, R’ S.Z. Aurebach, R’ Moshe etc.

    However, that is only relevant when an actual voice must be heard, (i.e. for a bracha or “leining”), or the listening from a klaf reading etc. must be accomplished.

    On the other hand, although true eidus may require an actual voice, here is a list of other issues are that are probably the one’s at hand to the Beis Din. That is mainly;

    A: The concept of “Anan Sehadi” exists despite the lack of actual eidus. See R’ Elchonon in B”B 590 who maintains that despite that Moshe and Ahron are posul eidus, they are still believed as “anan sehadi”.

    B: Many halachos exist regarding a “hoodah chutz l’beis din”, which was not in official B. D. capacity. As such, issues such as “meshateh ani” or other issues may be relevant, depending on the exact dialogue and situation, see choshen mishpat siman 81 at length.

    C: See C. M. 81:13 with Ktzos Nesivus and P.T. at length regarding a “hoodah” voice that was not clearly visually identifiable as to whom was speaking.

    D: Does the “admitter” agree that he was indeed on the phone?

    These, amongst other issues, are probably the true issues at hand. Not whether or not an “electronic” voice is considered a voice as to be motzei megilah, or to answer amen to a bracha.

  2. I think Pikeach had some very valid points. There is a fundamental difference between mitzvos like megilah, shofar, etc.. and gviyas edus. Edus is , above all, ascertainment of the truth, birur ha’emes. This may possibly be done through many avenues, and not necessarily in person by voice. The obvious example is that edus bichtav is acceptable, this is what a shtar is. Hearing the megilah bichtav is absurd. So pikeach is correct, the issue here is not whether an electronic voice is a halachic voice.

  3. i find it hilarious to read complex halachic issues discussed by people who quite obviously have no clue as to what the issues are. please leave these inyonim for the experts and dont even try to report on them.


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