Translation:Shulchan Aruch/Choshen Mishpat/45

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Paragraph 1- Witnesses sign on the bottom of the document and not from the sides or on top.

Paragraph 2- If the head of the court knew the substance of the document and had his scribe read it to him, he may sign the document even though he did not read it himself since the judge believes his scribe and intimidates his scribe. No other person or other head of court or scribe is permitted to do this. The witness much read the document word for word. There are those that say that two may read in front of the witnesses and the witnesses will sign. If the witnesses do not understand the language of the document, those reading it should translate the document and the witness can sign. This seems to me to be the primary ruling. There are those that say we can read in front of the public and have the witnesses sign because people are afraid of lying in public so it has the status of the head of court with his scribe. Paragraph 3- If a confession was given in a party’s handwriting but the document was a gentile form, it is clear that the party cannot read it and there are witnesses that he did not read it, the party still obligates himself to whatever is written in it.

Paragraph 4- If witness do not know how to sign and they carved out a space on empty paper and the witnesses signed via impression, we would give mardus lashses and the document would be invalid. There are those that say the document is valid.

Paragraph 5- In a place where they have the custom to have the scribe sign based on the word of the witnesses by writing, “so and so the son of so and so signed with the handing over of the pen” or the document states “so and so the son of so and so commanded to sign” and the people of the city accepted that this form of testimony qualifies as the testimony of a witness, the document is valid. If the people of the city did not accept this form of testimony, it is of no effect. Any document that is produced in front of us where the witnesses testify on their signature would be verified because there is a chazaka that witnesses do not sign on a document unless they read the document and know how to sign. If the witnesses are in front of us and we know that they cannot read, but they said one who knows how to read read it to them, we would rely on their testimony. If the witnesses do not say this, we would investigate their testimony orally. If it conforms to what is written in the document, we would verify the document.

Paragraph 6- The witnesses should be careful not leave a two-line space from the text. If they left a two-line space, the document would be invalid even if it said “affirmed and verified, ” it was known that nothing was added or forged and the space was filled with dots of ink, so that they don’t say the witnesses signed on the dots and not on the text.

Paragraph 7-This that we said that if the witnesses leave a two-line space the document is invalid is only with respect to collecting from encumbered properties or non-encumbered properties where the borrower claims he paid back. A party, cannot, however, claim the incident never occurred.

Paragraph 8- The aforementioned two lines refers to the size of the witnesses’ handwriting, which is large, but not the scribe’s handwriting because anyone who forges does not go to the scribe.

Paragraph 9- These two lines include the lines and their airspace, such as the lamed on the top line and the chof on the bottom line, which comes out to two lines and three airspaces.

Paragraph 10- There are those that say that if the document finished in middle of a line and they left that line and another line and then began signing on the third line, the document is invalid because a party can write what he wants on that half line and then recap the substance of the document on the last line. Similarly, if they finished the document at the end of a line and the witnesses distanced a full line and then began in the middle of the second line, the document is invalid if they signed one after the other on that half-line because a party can write “so and so borrowed a maneh from so and so” on the empty half-line before the signature and the document would be one which has the text and witnesses on the one line which is valid, and the party will cut off the entire top of the document. See 44:3. If the document concluded in the middle of a line, the witnesses can sign, one next to the other, on the remaining half of the line and we would then deduce from the half line before their signature and the line on top because there is nothing at all to be suspicious of.

Paragraph 11- If there is a blank space before the witnesses’ signatures, they must be careful to sign one after the other on the same line because a party may write what he wants on the blank space before their signatures and cut off the top, and the document will be one in which the text and witnesses are on the same line. What should the witnesses do? They should fill the blank space with ink. We would not say that the witnesses have signed on the filled space unless the filled space was between the document and the witnesses. If the witnesses began signing in the middle of a line and they cut off the space before the signature, the document would be invalid because perhaps something that hurt a party or a condition was written there and the party cut it off. If, however, the document said “affirmed and verified” above at the end of the line, the document would be valid so long as the witnesses sign one under the other. If, however, they signed one following the other, the document would be invalid because perhaps the document was one where the text and witnesses were on one line, the party cut it, it was blank on top and the party wrote what he wanted to.

Paragraph 12- If a document had many witnesses and one of them was a relative or otherwise disqualified or two of the witnesses were related to each other and the witnesses are not around and they have a clear testimony that they all sat down to sign with the intention of testifying, the document is void. If they do not have such testimony, the testimony can be verified with the remaining witnesses because it is possible the valid witnesses signed and they left room for the elder to sign and a relative or someone otherwise disqualified signed without their knowledge, even if the disqualified witness was the first to sign. No relative or disqualified witness should sign on a document in the first instance,. There are those that say that a document with a disqualified witness is invalid unless the last two witnesses are valid.

Paragraph 13- If a document is disqualified due to the signatures of disqualified witnesses and the valid witnesses remember the testimony by viewing the document, the valid witnesses may testify and the court will write as what was written in the document, and it will be considered like the first document.

Paragraph 14- If the witnesses were more than two-lines removed from the text and the space between the text and witnesses were filled with relatives or disqualified witnesses, the document is valid because it cannot be forged. If the court saw the document before it was filled with relatives or disqualified witnesses, there is nothing that can be done to validate the document. If, however, it was filled with relatives before it came to court, the document would be valid, even if the lender filled it on his own without the knowledge of the borrower. There are those that say this only applies where they filled it with the knowledge of the borrower. If, however, they filled the document without the borrower’s knowledge, it would be invalid.

Paragraph 15- This that we validate document without a kinyan where it was filled with relatives or disqualified witnesses is only if it was filled in on the day it was written. If, however, it was filled in the next day or later, the document would be invalid, even if filled in with the knowledge of the borrower.

Paragraph 16- If after a document was paid back, the party claimed the document was invalid because the scribe distanced the signature more than one line from the text, his claim is of no effect.

Paragraph 17- One who obtains a claim via a gentile has the status of the gentile with respect to collecting from a document where the witnesses are more than two lines from the text if the gentiles have the custom to collect with such a document.

Paragraph 18- If a document is produced where the entire document is on one line and the witnesses are on another line, it is invalid because perhaps the witnesses distanced one line from the document, the party cut off the entire document and wrote this document on that line, thereby having the witnesses be signed on that line. Similarly, if the document was on two lines but the first line does not begin at the beginning of the parchment, we are concerned that they perhaps finished the document in middle of the line and left the remainder blank as well as the line below it, the witnesses signed, the party cut the entire document and forged what he wanted on the line and a half, thereby having the witnesses be signed on it.

Paragraph 19-If the entire document with the witnesses was on one line, the document is valid because there is nothing to be concerned about. If, however, the document and the witnesses were on one line and there were two witnesses on another line, we are concerned that perhaps a party cut the entire document above which the lower witnesses had signed on, in the line between the document and witnesses he wrote a document with its witnesses and with the witnesses on the second line he’ll say his intention was to increase the amount of witnesses. Therefore, when a document like this comes in front of us, we would not verify it from the witnesses on the second line but from the witnesses on the first line.

Paragraph 20- If a document is produced with the text and witnesses on erasure, the document is valid, so long as there is no distinction between the document and the place where the witnesses have signed. If there was some kind of distinction, we are concerned that perhaps a party erased and wrote what he wanted to and the fact that it was erased twice explains the distinction. Therefore, witnesses should not sign on an erased document unless it was erased in their presence because otherwise we are concerned that the place to sign was erased twice and the place of the document was only erased once, and when the party erases the document a second time and writes what he wants, it will come out that the document and place of signature have both been erased the same two times. They must be careful to have everything erased on the same day, because a one-day old erasure is not comparable to a two-day old erasure. If there is a space between the signature of one witness and the other the size of “We the witnesses signed on erasure while the document was on paper,” the document is disqualified because perhaps the document was on paper, the witnesses were on erasure and between the witnesses it stated “we the witnesses, etc.” and the party erased it, erased the document and subsequently wrote what he wanted. If, however, there is no erasure at all, the document is valid, even if there is a large space between the signatures.

Paragraph 21- If a document is on paper and its witnesses are on erasure, the document is disqualified because the party might erase the document and forge it, resulting in the text and witnesses both on erasure. If the witnesses write, “we the witnesses signed on erasure while the document was on paper,” the document is valid, so long as they wrote it between the signatures of the first and second witnesses. If, however, they wrote it before or after their signatures, the declaration would be of no effect.

Paragraph 22- If a document is on erasure and its witnesses are on paper, the document is disqualified, even if the witnesses wrote “we the witnesses wrote on paper and the document is on erasure” because ultimately the party can erase the document and write what he wants. Although it will have been erased twice, it would not be evident because a one-time erased document, which would allow us to see the distinction, is not adjacent to it.

Paragraph 23- In a locale where they have the custom to document repayment between the lines, one must be careful that there should be no scrape between the lines because if there were, we would be concerned the party paid back and it was erased. All the more so are we concerned in a case where the repayment was between the lines on erasure because perhaps the repayment was more than documented and the party erased it and wrote what he wanted. If there are witnesses that the repayment is the borrower’s handwriting, the document is valid because there is nothing to be concerned about.