- Question: Why can a single Jewish witness absolve himself from paying for what he forced his fellow Jew to pay in non-Jewish court by claiming he was just telling the truth but if a person forcefully takes away something from one person in front of two witnesses which supposedly belongs to his friend and his friend skips town, he must pay back the guy he “stole” from because he is only one witness that says it belongs to his friend even if he claims he is telling the truth?
A. The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 28:3) presents a case where a non-Jew brings a Jew to non-Jewish court claiming he is owed money and a single Jewish witness testifies against his fellow Jew. The Shulchan Aruch says that the witness is excommunicated for testifying by himself against a fellow Jew and it is in fact forbidden to do. However the Rema adds that he would not have to pay for the loss of money he caused his fellow Jew to receive because he can claim “I was just telling the truth,” and in fact the Rema says in si’if 4 that if it were two witnesses that testified against the Jew in non-Jewish court that would be fine because they can do the same in Jewish court. Of course if the witness was lying he’d have to pay.
B. The Ketzos in footnote 4 adds that if the one witness was a relative of the Jew or invalid to testify in Jewish court then he feels he should have to pay for the loss he caused to his fellow Jew even if he claims he was telling the truth because he is an invalid witness whereas the single kosher witness is still a witness he just can’t testify without someone else in Jewish court.
Answer: . The person who grabbed from his fellow for his friend has no proof that he is telling the truth and he lost his credentials of being honest by looking like he is stealing from the person he grabbed from, whereas the single witness in non-Jewish wasn’t acting the way things should be done in Jewish court but there is no reason to think he lost his credentials of being a trustworthy honest Jew.