False Testimony about a Chazaka

Bava Batra (3:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

In the third perek we learnt about the law of chazaka. After a person has occupied a property for longer than three years and claims that he purchased it or it was given to him as a gift, he need not bring any evidence supporting his claim despite the previous owners objections. The Mishnah (3:4) deals with cases of people that have testified that a person has occupied a particular property for a number of year, yet these witness are found to be false – eidim zommemin.

Normally, the punishment given to eidim zommemin is the loss they wished to cause, i.e. a reciprocal punishment. If for example two witnesses testified about the entire three-year period, they would be required to pay the real owner the value of the field. If there are two different witnesses for each of the three years then the Mishnah explains that they divide the full fine between them since they were all required to establish the chazaka.

The Tosfot (56b) however raise a question on this ruling. We have learnt that if an ox causes damage to another ox, the compensation depends on whether the ox is a repeat offender. To simplify, the first two times only half the damages are required in payment; it is defined as a tam. The third time it is defined as a mu’ad and full compensation is demanded. The Gemara (24b) discusses a case where three sets of witnesses, each testify to separate incidents involving a particular ox and are all found to be false. The first two pairs would be obligated to pay the half damages as they claimed. The last set would be required to pay the full amount on their own. Even though the first two sets of witness would have effectively contributed to the full amount being paid, they could claim that that was never their intention; their only want to wrongly extract the half damages from the falsely accused. The Gemara does add that if the three sets arrived together and motioned to each other, then they would all be require to share the second half of the damages that were referred to in the final testimony.

The Tosfot continues that in this case as well, the first two sets of false witnesses could claim that they only intended to obligate the person (they said was occupying the property) to recompense the real owner for unlawful enjoying from the produce of the field. They were playing for the other team! So why are they required to contribute to the full compensation?

The Tosfot answers that since the person claiming to have the chazaka brought the three sets to Beit Din, they can no longer claim that they had other motives. The Rashba however answers that – much like the above Gemara explains – they would only be required to share in the full cost if they were gesturing to each other.

Considering the full payment, what is included? The Rashbam explains that they would be required to pay the value of the land alone – this is what they intended the real owner to lose. The Rashbaexplains that the false witnesses would not be required to pay from the produce that they said the supposed machzik consumed (to that person) since the ba’al denied the machzik consumed anything in that three-year period. Had he admitted that machzik consumed produce for the three years, it would mean that he admitted that the machzik had a chazaka and would thereby lose his field.


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