Pisqa’ 189

Pisqa’ 1891


“If a malicious witness offers testimony against a man, charging him arbitrarily” (Dt.19:16).

Actually, malicious implies that he has stolen

[the defendant’s reputation by]

“charging him arbitrarily2 (Dt.19:16).

Actually, arbitrarily implies commission of a transgression,

as it is said [of the lying prophet]:

“For he spoke arbitrarily” (Dt.13:6).

And He says:

“This year shall you die, for you have spoken arbitrarily (sarah) of HASHEM” (Jer.28:17).


“Charging him” (Dt.19:16)—

this explains that a malicious witness

is liable only if he contradicts himself.3

On this basis they taught:

Witnesses are deemed to be refuted4

[and thus liable to punishment]

when their own testimony

[as reported by a second pair of witnesses]

refutes them.


How so?

If [the first pair said]:

We5 testify regarding So-and-so that he murdered someone.

{If6 others replied:

How can you testify?

The victim or the murderer was with us that very day,

in some other place—

this is not a case of refuted witnesses,

[for only the first witnesses’ testimony is questioned, not their character].


But if others replied:

How can you testify?

For, indeed, you both were with us that very day,

in some other place—

this is a case of refuted witnesses,

[for the second witnesses’ testimony impugns the character of the first].7

And in capital cases, they are executed

on the basis of their own statements.}

  1. H:209; JN2:73.
  2. Heb: sarah. Cf. the usage of sarah (“rebellious”) at Dt.13:6/Pisqa’ 86.1.
  3. Translation follows H:460. Pisqa;189, n. 2
  4. Heb: zomemin, “refuted” “discredited,” also “malicious”, depending upon context.
  5. The received text of the Mishnah prefers the first-person plural throughout.
  6. =M. Mak.1:4. The bracketed material contains the remainder of M. Mak.1:4, which has been abbreviated in many versions of Sifre, including F:229.
  7. If the second witnesses testify that the first could not have witnessed what they claim to have seen, not only accuracty of the first witnesses, but also their motives are called into question.