Seizing An Opportunity?
‘More Than 100 Witnesses’
The Sages in our mishnah maintain that a person is not compelled to bring a korban chattas unless he admits that he sinned. Even if two witnesses testify that he sinned – that he, for example, ate chelev (prohibited fats) – he is not compelled to bring a korban if he denies having sinned.
In explaining the Sages’ view, the Gemara says that a person is believed regarding his own deeds even if more than 100 witnesses offer testimony that contradicts his. Rashi (12a, sv “adam ne’eman al atzmo”) explains that a person will not pass up the opportunity to atone himself before his Creator.
The Rambam (in his commentary to Kerisos) offers a different reason for the Sages’ ruling. He explains that they interpret the words “oh hodah elav chataso asher chatah bah – if the sin he committed became known to him” in Vayikra 4:23 to mean that a person must admit his sin as opposed to his sin becoming known through witnesses.
Testifying Against Himself: Two Views
Based on the Gemara’s statement that a person is believed regarding himself even if more than 100 witnesses offer testimony that contradicts his, Tosafos (Bava Metzia 3b, sv “mah l’pive…”) asserts that a person must bring a korban if he ate chelev even if witnesses say he actually ate shuman (permissible fats).
The Ramban (novella to Yevamos 87) disagrees with Tosafos. He maintains that a person does not bring a korban by his own admission if witnesses give testimony that contradicts his because an individual’s own account is never more credible than the testimony of witnesses. And, in general if a person consecrates an animal as a korban chattas when he didn’t sin, the consecration is ineffective. Such an animal remains chullin and may not be offered.