The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 6 March 2010 / 19 Adar I 5770

Sanhedrin 23 - 29

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Why Gamblers Can't be Trusted

Dice gamblers and racing bettors are disqualified by rabbinic law from being either judges or witnesses. Two opinions are offered for this disqualification.

The Sage Rami bar Chama views the income from gambling as a form of robbery because the losing party expected to win and did not willingly relinquish ownership. Rabbi Shaishes challenges this approach and rules that the gambler is disqualified only if he has no other occupation because then he "is not involved in something constructive for the world."

Two interpretations of this reason are offered by the commentaries:

  • It is improper for a man to be involved in anything but Torah study, acts of kindness, business, craft or labor which are constructive for the world.

Rav Ovadia of Bartenura
  • One who is not involved in the normal ways of earning a living is not aware of how hard another person works to earn his money and finds no great difficulty in testifying falsely to cause him a loss.

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, the Tur

  • Sanhedrin 24b

Relative Objectivity

The Rule: Relatives are ineligible to testify in any case, criminal or civil, either on behalf of their relative or against him.
The Problem: Disqualifying a witness to testify on behalf of his relative is easily understandable because he is suspected of subjectivity. But if he testifies against a relative whom he should favor is this not an indication that he is objectively telling the truth?
The Resolution: The Sefer Hachinuch offers two possible explanations.
  1. In order to eliminate the possibility of a relative's subjective testimony on behalf of his kin ever being accepted the Torah made his disqualification absolute.
  2. The close relationship of relatives inevitably leads to disputes and in a moment of anger one of them may seek to harm the other by falsely testifying against him, a move he will woefully regret once he has calmed down. A relative's testimony is therefore always suspected of being subjective whether he is testifying for or against his kin.

  • Sanhedrin 27b

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