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Seizing An Opportunity?
‘More Than 100 Witnesses’
(Kerisos 11b-12a)

 

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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.

 

Caught Unaware

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).

 

Ineffective Consecration

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.

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.