testimony

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Scientists are Clarifying Witnesses

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth! (Deut. 32:1) In this Torah portion Haazinu, Moses appeals to heavens and earth as witnesses. However, a few verses later, he extorts the Jewish people: “Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you” (Deut. 32:7) as if to confirm the testimony of heavens and earth. Why wasn’t the testimony of heavens and earth enough? Why did their testimony need to be corroborated by “your father” and “your elders”? The Lubavitcher Rebbe The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in one of his talks (see R’ Schneerson, M.M. Likute Sihot (Brooklyn, NY: Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos, 1998) v. XIX, Devorim, pp. 188-196) discusses the Talmudic concept of two types of witnesses: [...]

Witnesses – See and be Seen

By the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall the one liable to death be put to death; he shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness. (Devarim-Deuteronomy 17:6) I wrote about witnesses in my earlier post imaginatively called Witnesses. As Deuteronomy, restates many mitzvoth (commandments) introduced earlier, which is why it is also called Mishneh Torah – the repetition of Torah – the portion Shoftim-Judges restates the law of witnesses first introduced in in the book of Bamidbar-Numbers, portion Massei. So we shall revisit this fascinating subject. The Judgment of the Sanhedrin: "He is Guilty!" (1892 painting by Nikolai Ge) I.     An accused criminal and a Schrödinger cat Most criminals are convicted in the US bases on circumstantial evidence. Rare is the case when a jury gets to hear [...]

Witnesses

Massei -- Bamidbar-Numbers 35 Whoever kills a person, based on the testimony of witnesses, he shall slay the murderer. A single witness may not testify against a person so that he should die. Bamidbar-Numbers 35:30 In this verse, the Torah states that a murderer can only be convicted based on testimony of live witnesses. Contrary to common law jurisprudence in the US and the UK, and civil law jurisprudence of most other western countries, circumstantial evidence cannot be used alone to convict according to the Torah law. (It may, however, be used to interrogate witnesses in order to ascertain their truthfulness or to acquit the accused.) The only basis for a Torah conviction is eye-witness testimony. This seems strange, though. Why, for example, may fingerprints or DNA evidence, which is, surely, incontrovertible, not be used to [...]

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