Shevuat Edut Be’Shogeg

Shevuot (4:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

During our study this week we have covered many different categories of shevuot (oaths). The most recent is the shevuat edut. This is where one falsely swears that they have knowledge of incidents surrounding a case and can therefore not act as a witness. One of the things that set this shevuah apart from others is when one is punishment.

If one deliberately violates his shevuat bitui (a regular oath) then he would be liable to lashes. If the transgression is inadvertent (be’shogeg) then he would be required to bring a korban oleh ve’yored (see last weeks issue). We have also learnt that if one deliberately make a shevuat shav (an empty/meaningless oath) then he too would be liable to lashes; be’shogeg he would be exempt. We find however by shevuat edut it is a deliberate violation that obligates one to bring a korban oleh ve’yored. The Mishnah (4:2) teaches that this is the case if they intentionally lied, whether or not they knew that the violation would be obligated one to bring a korban. The Mishnah continues that in a case of shogeg however they would be exempt. What exactly constitutes a case of shogeg as stated in the Mishnah with respect to shevuat edut is the subject of debate.

First however, we shall look at the Gemara (31b). The Gemara asks that this Mishnah appears to be the source of a ruling discussed in an earlier Gemara (26a), yet it is not cited as being so. Rav Kahana and Rav Assi debated regarding the opinion of Rav. Each of them made a shevuah asserting their position. When they eventually met Rav and one of them was proven wrong, they asked whether he violated a shevuat bitui. Rav responded in the negative since he was “forced” by his heart because he sincerely thought he was right – it is a case of ones. The Gemara responds that this Mishnah could not have been used to resolve the question regarding the shevuat bitui. Since the term “ne’elam” is not used in the Torah with shevuat edut the shogeg that obligates one for a korban must be similar to the meizid; as the Mishnah states, they lied but did not know that they are obligated to bring a korban. Since however the term “ne’elam” is used with respect to a shevuat bitui, one might have thought that even the smallest amount of shogeg would have obligated him. Rav’s separate ruling was therefore required.

What then is the shogeg that exempts in our case? Rashi understands that they honestly thought they had no knowledge of the case - only later however they remembered. The Tosfot however ask that if that was the case, then that is obvious that they are exempt - they were not lying when they made the shevuah! It cannot be defined as shogeg since it does not even qualify as a violation of a shevuat edut. They suggest that perhaps Rashi meant that they swore “we did not know” or “we did not see” which would indeed be false.

The Tosfot however suggest that that the shogeg here is that the witnesses did not know that there was a prohibition to swear falsely. The Ramban who brings a Yerushalmi that explains in a similar manner adds that thinking that a prohibition is permitted, is normally considered shogeg and would not exempt one for a korban. With respect to a shevuat edut however, since the prohibition is violated by speech alone it is not enough to obligate one to bring a korban if he believed it was permitted.

The difficulty the Tosfot Yom Tov has with this explanation is that that law could have already been derived from the first two cases. Recall that the Mishnah first taught that if one deliberately swore falsely or the lied and knew it was prohibited to do so but did not know they would be obligated to bring a korban, then in both cases they would be required to bring a korban. Since those two cases are specifically mentioned, it implies that if one did not know it was prohibited they would be exempt. The last statement of the Mishnah therefore must be teaching us something new.

The Ran however suggests that Rashi means that when they swore, they indeed did know. Had they given it a moment’s thought they would have realised, so they were not telling the truth. Yet since they were flustered and believed they were telling the truth, they are shogegim and exempt. This then aligns more closely with the case of Rav Kahana and Rav Ashi where their heart compelled them to make a shevuah.


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