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The Purpose of Hasra’ah
By: Rabbi Avi Lebowitz
The Gemora cites various verses as the source for the requirement of hasra’ah (warning).
The Maharatz Chayus points out that there are two sources for hasra’ah. The first is a sevara, – this serves to make sure that the person is aware of the severity and consequences of his actions. Included in the hasra’ah is both the education of the halachah, and the awareness of the action that he is about to do. The second source is the verses that the Gemora quotes which serve as a gezeiras hakasuv, whether they apply or not, that no punishment can be carried out unless there is a warning.
The Maharatz Chayus deduces this from Tosfos who is bothered why the Gemora has to find a source for hasra’ah, to which they answer that it is needed for a non-chaver (someone who isn’t educated in the laws). It is obvious from logic that he requires hasra’ah, because otherwise, he would have no idea whether the action that he is doing is prohibited by the Torah, but, a chaver, who is well educated, knows very well what he is doing and understands the consequences. He shouldn’t require hasra’ah if not for the fact that the Torah would demand it as a gezeiras hakasuv. The verses are the rationale for requiring the details of hasra’ah, such as killing him within the time of an utterance (and perhaps having to accept the hasra’ah).
Based on this, he points out that Tosfos, who asks regarding the source for hasra’ah by an ir hanidachas (subverted town), is difficult. Who says that ir hanidachas has the gezeiras hakasuv requirement of hasra’ah that would involve the details? Perhaps it would only have the sevara aspect of hasra’ah to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate, so that no source is necessary. Clearly, Tosfos assumes that the type of hasra’ah necessary by ir hanidachas is the gezeiras hakasuv type – with all the details, and not just the determination that he was aware of the consequences of his actions.
The Rambam, however, doesn’t seem to follow this same approach. The Gemora 8b and 41a quote Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah, who says that a Torah scholar doesn’t require hasra’ah, since the sole purpose of hasra’ah is to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate. This would imply that the Rabbis, who hold that even a Torah scholar requires hasra’ah, would hold that hasra’ah is a gezeiras hakasuv, and NOT just to distinguish between unintentional and deliberate. However, the Rambam (Sanhederin 12:2) writes: A torah scholar and an unlearned man require hasra’ah, for the sole purpose of hasra’ah is to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate. This seems to be very strange. The Rambam cites the rationale of Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah, yet requires hasra’ah even for a chaver! Why?
The Kesef Mishneh and Lechem Mishneh explain that according to the Rambam, the Rabbis don’t disagree with Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah in principal; rather, they hold that because of his concern, we require hasra’ah even by a chaver who knows the law, since he may not be aware of the action he is about to do. The Rambam clearly learns that the concept of hasra’ah is only meant to make him aware of his actions, and educate him about the halachah, not just a gezeiras hakasuv. Nevertheless, the Rambam requires hasra’ah within the time of an utterance of the action, implying that this concept isn’t merely a gezeiras hakasuv, but an actual concern that he may have a very short term memory. It seems that the Rambam doesn’t buy into the two sources for hasra’ah approach; rather, he understands that the rationale for the sources of hasra’ah cited in the Gemora is to differentiate between unintentional and deliberate – to educate and inform.
HALACHAH ON THE DAF
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).