Rabbi Meir Orlean
Mr. Schorr, director of Torah Institute, was litigating with Mr. Gold before Rabbi Dayan.
“I granted the institution a 10-year loan,” said Mr. Gold. “Time is up, but they refuse to repay the loan.”
“What do you have to say?” Rabbi Dayan asked Mr. Schorr. “Is there any reason that you should not have to pay?”
“We borrowed the money,” replied Mr. Schorr. “However, two years later we had a meeting with Mr. Gold, and he agreed to forgo the loan. Therefore, we do not have to pay it.”
“Do you have any evidence of this?” asked Rabbi Dayan.
“We have a document signed by witnesses attesting to the fact that Mr. Gold canceled the loan,” said Mr. Schorr. “We asked them to come today to testify again.”
“Who are the witnesses?” asked Rabbi Dayan.
“One is Rabbi Weiss; he was a member of the kollel then,” replied Mr. Schorr. “The other is Mr. Green; he used to work for the institution as an accountant, but has since moved on.”
“I object to their testimony,” said Mr. Gold. “Both Rabbi Weiss and Mr. Green were associated with the institution and are liable to be partial toward it.”
“Do they have any remaining connection?” asked Rabbi Dayan.
“None at all,” replied Mr. Schorr. “Rabbi Weiss became a teacher elsewhere five years ago, and Mr. Green left three years ago and has a new job.”
“Still, at the time of the loan and the subsequent meeting, both were associated with the institution,” objected Mr. Gold. “Rabbi Weiss received a monthly stipend and Mr. Green was a salaried employee. They had a vested interest in exempting the institution. How can their testimony be valid?”
“Indeed, a witness who has a monetary interest cannot testify,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “This is known as nogei’a badavar” (C.M. 37:1).
“Is he like any other disqualified witness?” asked Mr. Gold.
“According to some authorities, a nogei’a badavar is inherently disqualified from testifying, like a relative,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “However, according to most authorities he is disqualified out of concern that he will lie due to his vested interest. Therefore, unlike a relative, a nogei’a badavar is disqualified only in regard to testifying to his benefit, but can testify for his detriment, since then there is no concern that he would lie” (Sma and Shach 37:1).
“Furthermore, witnesses generally must be qualified both at the time that the event occurred and at the time that they testify,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, Shulchan Aruch rules that someone who was a nogei’a badavar at the time of the event but no longer has a vested interest can testify, since now there is no concern that he would lie” (C.M. 33:15).
“Shach, however, cites many other authorities who rule that one who was a nogei’a badavar at the time of the event remains disqualified even after he no longer has a vested interest,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “He leaves the issue inconclusive, but even according to him, if the witness testifies on behalf of the defendant who is in possession of the money, his testimony would now be accepted” (Shach 37:32).
“Is the document also valid?” asked Mr. Schorr. “If so, perhaps there is no need for them to testify now.”
“When a witness signs on a document, his testimony is considered focused at that time,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Therefore, since Rabbi Weiss and Mr. Green had a vested interest when they signed on the document, the document is void, even though now they no longer have a vested interest” (Pischei Teshuvah 33:9).
“Can they testify now?” asked Mr. Schorr.
“The document is disqualified,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, they can testify verbally, since they no longer have a vested interest and there is no concern now that they will lie on behalf of the institution” (Pischei Choshen, Eidus 2:34,37).