Translation:Shulchan Aruch/Choshen Mishpat/68
Paragraph 1- If a document was written in any language with any text and was done as was instituted for Jewish documents so that they cannot be forged nor have anything added or subtracted and the witnesses were Jewish and know how to read the document, the document is valid and one may collect from third party buyers with the document. However, all documents that are signed by gentiles are invalid with the exception of transaction documents and loan documents, so long as the money was given in front of them and they wrote in the document that so and so counted for so and so such and such amount of money for the sale or loan. This would only work if the document was made in their courts. If it was made in a mere gathering place of theirs without any judge, however, the document would be of no effect. Even if the courts already judged on the basis of this document and affirmed the buyer’s purchase, the document would be of no effect. Similarly, we would require Jewish witnesses to testify on these gentiles that are witnesses on the document and that their Judge who verified the testimony is not known to accept bribes, and they can then collect from properties that have not been sold to third parties. If a gentile document was lacking in any of the foregoing, the document has the status of pottery. A book written by secular courts has the status as their documents. There are those that say that the standard secular court does not accept bribes and therefore a document made in front of them can even be used to collect from third parties, even without Jewish witnesses that saw the document handed over and even if the judge did not sign a verification of the witnesses. Rather, where a document was made in secular courts the court would not ruin their reputation to lie. Even if a rumor existed that they accepted bribes to twist the law, they still would not ruin their reputation by accepting false testimony. It is not necessary for them to write that they saw the money be handed over. Rather, we assume they certainly saw it. It is immaterial whether it was one or two gentiles that signed on the document if it was made in front of the judge. If, however, the court-appointed scribe wrote the document outside the presence of the judge, the document is of no effect. However, in a place where the government regulation is to validate a document made by the king’s scribe, the document would be valid. With respect to gift documents, however, such as “my field shall be given to you” where the primary kinyan is done via the document and the gentiles sign the document, with respect to confession documents where so and so admits to so and so that he owes him money or with respect to compromises that are done with gentile witnesses or with respect to waiver documents, gentile documents have the status of pottery, even if they contained all the aforementioned elements and even if they were handed over in front of Jewish witnesses. There are those that say that confession documents have the status of loan documents. Similarly, waiver documents are valid in secular courts. Similarly, a gift given via kinyan or chazaka that was confessed to in secular courts, would be valid, because the document is merely a proof as to what occurred in front of them. Therefore, if a dying person gives a will in front of secular courts, we would comply with everything he instructed, as will be explained later in 253:32. In any place where the king’s rule is to write all maters in secular courts, any document that is done in front of them would be valid, even gift documents, because of “dina dimalchusa.” All the more so would it be valid in a place where they already have the custom to validate it. See later in Siman 369 for the laws of dina dimalchusa. If the document was not written properly based on their laws, it would be invalid, even it is valid under our laws because we cannot validate more than they do. The same applies in the reverse for something that is invalid based on our laws but valid based on their laws. There are those that disagree with this.
Paragraph 2- If Jewish judges did not know how to read this document that was created in secular courts, we would give it to two gentiles, outside the presence of each other, and they would read it, resulting in each one relating the contents incidentally, and they can then collect from unsold properties. If gentiles testified on a document that the borrower gave it to the lender or the seller to the buyer in front of two Jewish witnesses, they can collect from unsold properties, even if it was not created in secular court and does not contain all of the aforementioned elements, so long as the witnesses who witnessed the handing over know how to read the document and read it when it was handed over in front of them. It must have been created with the requirements of Jewish document in that it cannot be forged, added to or subtracted to. There are those that say that this only applies where the names of the gentile witnesses that signed on the document are those that are established as gentile names in that that is not the Jewish practice to call people by that name or in a place where Jews do not sign documents at all. If a document was created in secular court and the borrower denies it, the scribe is believed to testify. If a document was created in front of gentiles and the borrower himself signed it, he is obligated to pay whatever is written in it even if he does not know how to read it, because he made up his mind to obligate himself, which is why he signed it personally and they certainly read it to him and he trusted the reader. See above 45:3.