Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel Pekudei| 5763
Kiddushin – What Invalidates Witnesses? – IV
We have seen that violating Torah laws whose punishment is malkot (flogging) causes a p’sul (invalidation) from the Torah. What happens if violation of the Torah laws does not stem from wickedness?
The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 34:24) rules that if one does an aveirah which he likely does not know is forbidden, then he is disqualified only if warned. Regarding the rabbinic p’sul of gambling, he states that he must be warned that his actions will pasul him. R. Akiva Eiger (Shut 96) says that those who shaved with razors in his time were not pasul as witnesses since they did not believe it was forbidden. The Rivash (14th -15th century) paskened that forced apostates were kosher witnesses if they violated the Torah only when they were forced to do so out of fear of death (Shut, 11).
These and similar, classical sources deal with individual violations under mitigating circumstances. One who rejects the Torah on a wide-scale basis, even if classified as a tinok shenishba (one without the background to keep the Torah), is still pasul to testify. R. Moshe Feinstein explains that if one doesn’t accept the Torah, then he doesn’t accept the Torah prohibition on testifying falsely. Practically, we can explain that even if the person is honest, there are still doubts about his testimony’s reliability before beit din. For example, if such a person feels that beit din will do what he considers improper based on his testimony, he may change his testimony to get the “proper results.”
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