Rabbi Meir Orlean
Mr. Bender and Mr. Miller were adjudicating before Rabbi Dayan.
“Mr. Bender owes me $2,000,” claimed Mr. Miller. “I lent him $1,000 in Adar and another $1,000 in Sivan.”
Rabbi Dayan turned to Mr. Bender. “What do you respond to these claims?” he asked.
“I deny everything,” Mr. Bender replied. “I never borrowed from Mr. Miller, not in Adar and not in Sivan.”
“Do you have any evidence?” Rabbi Dayan asked Mr. Miller.
“I trusted Mr. Bender and didn’t draft any documents,” Mr. Miller answered. “However, I was able to find a single witness about the loan in Adar. He is present.”
Rabbi Dayan called the witness in. “What did you see?” he asked.
“I testify that I saw Mr. Miller lend Mr. Bender $1,000 in Adar,” replied the witness.
Rabbi Dayan turned again to Mr. Bender. “What do you say now?” he asked.
“I say that the witness is lying,” replied Mr. Bender. “I never borrowed money from Mr. Miller. A single witness is not enough to obligate money; you need two witnesses!”
“A single witness does not suffice to obligate money,” said Rabbi Dayan, “but requires the defendant to swear to contradict him” (C.M. 87:1).
“Do you have any further evidence?” Rabbi Dayan asked Mr. Miller.
“Not at the moment. I am still verifying,” replied Mr. Miller. “Can I have some time to seek further evidence?”
“We will give you 30 days,” said Rabbi Dayan. “If you find further evidence, fine. If not, we will deal with the single witness.”
Three weeks later, Mr. Miller notified the beis din that he found another witness.
Rabbi Dayan summoned the parties and the witness. “What did you see?” he asked the second witness.
“I saw Mr. Miller lend Mr. Bender $1,000 in Sivan,” the witness testified.
“What good is the additional witness?!” exclaimed Mr. Bender. “Just as I can contradict the first witness with an oath, I can contradict the second witness with an oath. I vehemently deny borrowing, neither in Adar nor in Sivan.”
“You’re a liar!” responded Mr. Miller. “Two witnesses testify that you owe me money!”
“But each one stands by himself,” argued Mr. Bender.
The two looked at Rabbi Dayan for a ruling.
“Although the two witnesses testify about different events and came at different times,” ruled Rabbi Dayan, “both testify that Mr. Bender owes $1,000, so they obligate him definitively in that sum as two witnesses.”
“How can you combine witnesses?” asked Mr. Bender.
“The Gemara (Sanhedrin 30a) teaches that individual testimonies cannot be combined in capital cases, but they can be combined in monetary cases,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “This applies to testimony given at different times and also to testimony about different events. Ultimately, there are two witnesses that Mr. Bender owes Mr. Miller $1,000” (C.M. 30:6).
“This applies provided that both witnesses can be telling the truth, as in our case,” added Rabbi Dayan. “However, had Mr. Miller admitted that he lent only once, clearly one of the witnesses is lying and is void. Thus, Mr. Bender could swear that he did not borrow, to contradict the remaining witness. Nowadays we generally avoid administering oaths and seek a compromise instead” (C.M. 30:7, 12:2).
“What if I had sworn already in the first session to contradict the first witness?” asked Mr. Bender. “Would he still be able to combine with the second witnesses?”
“Pischei Teshuvah (C.M. 30:9) cites a dispute regarding this,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Responsa Zichron Yosef maintains that the first witness is already neutralized; the defendant can now swear again to neutralize the second witness. However, Shaar Mishpat maintains that the two witnesses still combine and together obligate the defendant in the common sum.”
“In our case, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “since Miller claims that he lent twice and Mr. Bender did not swear yet, Mr. Bender must certainly pay $1,000 on the basis of the combined testimony.”