Thursday, February 20, 2014

Who owns a human life?


[The following passage is meant to explain why self-incriminating testimony in a beit din (Jewish court) is accepted in financial matters, but not in matters which could lead to physical punishment by the beit din.]

"One might give some explanation thus: A person's life is not his property; it is the property of Gd, as Yechezkel 18:4 says, 'The souls are Mine.' Therefore, one's admission regarding something that is not his cannot be effective. [This is even true if the admission would lead not to death but only to lashes, for] lashes are a partial death.

"However, one's property is his own, and so we say that a litigant's admission is [valid] like the testimony of 100 witnesses."

ואפשר לתת קצת טעם לפי שאין נפשו של אדם קניינו אלא קנין הקב"ה שנאמר "הנפשות לי הנה" (יחזקאל י"ח) הילכך לא תועיל הודאתו בדבר שאינו שלו, ומלקות פלגא דמיתה הוא. אבל ממונו הוא שלו ומש"ה אמרינן הודאת בעל דין כמאה עדים דמי. 
(Radbaz to Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:6)

Have a great day,

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