Seizing An Opportunity?
‘A Person Is Believed Regarding Himself More Than 100 Witnesses’
The Sages in our mishnah maintain that a person is not compelled to bring a karban chattas unless he admits that he sinned. This is true even if two witnesses testify that he did, in fact, sin. If he denies it, he is not compelled to bring a karban.
In explanation of this ruling, the Gemara states that a person is believed regarding himself even if more than 100 witnesses offer testimony contradicting his account. Rashi (12a, sv “adam ne’eman al atzmo”) explains that a person will not pass up the opportunity to atone himself before his Creator. Since he has an opportunity to attain forgiveness by bringing a karban, we assume he wouldn’t lie and claim he is innocent.
The Rambam (in his commentary to Kerisos) offers a different explanation of the Sages’ ruling in the mishnah. He explains that they expound the pasuk “…oh hodah eilav chataso asher chata bah – …if the sin he committed became known to him” (Vayikra 4:23). Only “if the sin became known to him” does he bring a karban. If his sin only becomes known through witnesses, he doesn’t.
Testifying Against Himself: Two Views
Tosafos (Bava Metzia 3b, sv “mah l’pive…”) assert, based on the Gemara’s rule that a person is believed regarding himself over the testimony of 100 witnesses, that if someone comes forward and says he ate cheilev, he brings a karban even if 100 witnesses say that what he ate was not cheilev but shuman (permissible fats). This conforms with Rashi’s view cited above.
In general, if someone consecrates an animal as a karban chattas when in fact he did not sin, the consecration is ineffective. Such an animal remains chullin and may not be offered on the altar. The Ramban (novella to Yevamos 87) therefore disagrees with Tosafos and maintains that one does not bring a karban by his own admission if witnesses contradict him (and say he did not sin) because an individual’s personal account is never more credible than the testimony of witnesses.
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