כ״ב באב ה׳תשע״ז (August 14, 2017)

Sanhedrin 29a-b: Love or Hate Disqualifies

As we have learned, the Mishna (27b) offers a list of relatives who cannot testify about one another. The Mishna concludes with the teaching of Rabbi Yehuda that someone who has a very close friend or an enemy cannot testify about that person. of the Mishna reject Rabbi Yehuda’s teaching, arguing that we do not suspect that members of the Jewish community will lie about someone simply because they like or dislike him.

The example that Rabbi Yehuda offered for someone who is a very close friend, or, in the language of the Mishna, who loves him, is shushbino – his “best man.” Shushbinin referred to in this case are the closest friend that a man has. In Talmudic times the custom was that when a man was to get married, his closest friend would accompany him throughout the days of the celebration. He also bought generous gifts for him and arranged a celebratory meal. This relationship obligated the groom – both morally and legally – to return the favor of shushbinut when his friend or his friend’s son invited him to their wedding. In modern Hebrew the word shushbinin still refers to the close friends of the groom who attend his wedding, but the relationship is not the same as what the Talmud is describing.

The example that Rabbi Yehuda offers for someone who is an enemy is a person who has not talked to his friend for three days out of hatred. The source for this ruling that appears in the baraita is based on the pasuk in Sefer Bamidbar (35:23) that states that someone who kills another person by accident will be sent to an ir miklat – a City of Refuge – rather than be punished, since we know that he was not his enemy and did not wish that anything bad would happen to him. Rabbi Yehuda concludes from here that someone who hates – or loves – another cannot be expected to offer an objective statement about him.

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