- Question: In terms of invalidating oneself for testimony as a witness what is the difference between saying “I made a mistake” verses saying “I did it by accident” or “I forgot”?
- The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 34:12) says: “If witnesses testify on a man who is assumed to be kosher (and honest) that he leant money with interest, he is not invalidated to be a witness because we assume it was leant in a fashion which would not be prohibitive or he can claim he was mistaken and thought there was no prohibition in charging interest in this manner.”
- The Rema earlier (34:5) says “If witnesses come and say he broke his oath, he cannot say it was an accident or I was forced to break it in order to make himself kosher to testify.”
- The prohibition of transgressing an oath is known to everyone.
- The Be’er Heitiv (14) says he wouldn’t invalidate himself to testify even if he broke Shabbos, for example if a person claimed “I did not know it is an av melacha to tie and untie a permanent knot on Shabbos.” Or he says he forgot it is even Shabbos, even though he was warned from Heaven (when we all received the Torah) about this prohibition.
Answer: Since the sin is well known then he should be more careful once he makes an oath and is not believed to say he forgot about the oath or he mistakenly made it, therefore he is invalid to be a witness about what he saw in order to testify. Whereas if one says he thought it wasn’t forbidden why would he think to be more careful, it came out of the blue, it wasn’t an issue on his radar screen so there is no reason to assume he is a dishonest and therefore invalid witness (see Be’er Heitiv 14 there).