מתני׳ היו בודקין אותן בשבע חקירות באיזו שבוע באיזו שנה באיזו חודש בכמה בחדש באיזה יום באיזה שעה באיזה מקום ר' יוסי אומר באיזה יום באיזה שעה באיזה מקום
MISHNA: The court would examine the witnesses in capital cases with seven interrogations, i.e., interrogatory questions, and they are: In which seven-year period, that is, in which cycle of seven years within a jubilee did the event occur; in which year of the Sabbatical cycle did the event occur; in which month did the event occur; on which day of the month did the event occur; on which day of the week did the event occur; at which hour did the event occur; and in what place did the event occur. Rabbi Yosei says: The court would examine the witnesses with only three interrogations: On which day did the event occur, at which hour, and in what place.
מכירין אתם אותו התרתם בו העובד ע"ז את מי עבד ובמה עבד
They would also ask: Do you recognize him as the man who committed the transgression? Did you warn him? They would then ask the witnesses about the particulars of the incident. For example, in the case of one who is an accused idol worshipper, they ask the witnesses: Whom, i.e., which idol, did he worship, and in what manner did he worship it, and so on.
כל המרבה בבדיקות הרי זה משובח מעשה ובדק בן זכאי בעוקצי תאנים
With regard to all judges who increase the number of examinations, i.e., who add questions about the details of the event, this is praiseworthy, as this may clarify that the witnesses are lying. An incident occurred and ben Zakkai examined the witnesses by questioning them about the color and shape of the stems of figs in order to unearth a contradiction between the witnesses.
מה בין חקירות לבדיקות חקירות אחד אומר איני יודע עדותן בטילה בדיקות אחד אומר איני יודע ואפילו שנים אומרים אין אנו יודעין עדותן קיימת אחד חקירות ואחד בדיקות בזמן שמכחישין זה את זה עדותן בטילה
The mishna explains: What is the difference between interrogations and examinations? With regard to interrogations, if one of the witnesses says: I do not know the answer, their testimony is void immediately. With regard to examinations, if one says: I do not know the answer, and even if two say: We do not know the answer, their testimony still stands. Both with regard to interrogations and examinations, at a time when the witnesses contradict one another, their testimony is void.
אחד אומר בשנים בחדש ואחד אומר בשלשה בחדש עדותן קיימת שזה יודע בעיבורו של חדש וזה אינו יודע בעיבורו של חדש
The mishna clarifies: If one witness says the event occurred on the second of the month, and one witness says that the event occurred on the third of the month, this is not regarded as a contradiction and their testimony stands, since it is possible to say that this witness knows of the addition of a day to the previous month, and according to his tally the event occurred on the second of the month, and that witness does not know of the addition of a day to the previous month, and according to his tally the event occurred on the third of the month. Their testimony is not considered incongruent.
זה אומר בשלשה ואחד אומר בחמשה עדותן בטילה
By contrast, if this witness says the event occurred on the third of the month and one witness says the event occurred on the fifth of the month, their testimony is void, as this disparity cannot be attributed to a mere error. Therefore, their testimony is not congruent.
אחד אומר בשתי שעות ואחד אומר בשלש שעות עדותן קיימת אחד אומר בשלש ואחד אומר בחמש עדותן בטילה
Similarly, if one witness says that the event occurred at two hours, i.e., the second hour of the day from sunrise, and one witness says that the event occurred at three hours, their testimony stands, as one could reasonably err this amount in estimating the hour of the day. By contrast, if one says that the event occurred at three hours, and one says that the event occurred at five hours, their testimony is void.
רבי יהודה אומר קיימת אחד אומר בחמש ואחד אומר בשבע עדותן בטילה שבחמש חמה במזרח ובשבע חמה במערב
Rabbi Yehuda says: Also in this case their testimony stands, as one could reasonably err concerning even this length of time. Rabbi Yehuda adds: But if one says that the event occurred at five hours, and one says that the event occurred at seven hours, their testimony is void. Here the difference is recognizable to all, since at five hours the sun is in the east and at seven the sun is in the west, and one could not err concerning this. Therefore, their testimony is not congruent.
ואח"כ מכניסין את השני ובודקין אותו אם נמצאו דבריהם מכוונים פותחין בזכות אמר אחד מן העדים יש לי ללמד עליו זכות או אחד מן התלמידים יש לי ללמד עליו חובה משתקין אותו אמר אחד מן התלמידים יש לי ללמד עליו זכות מעלין אותו ומושיבין אותו ביניהם ולא היה יורד משם כל היום כולו
The mishna continues: And afterward, after the court examines the first witness, they bring in the second witness and examine him. If the statements of the witnesses are found to be congruent, the court begins to deliberate the matter. They open the deliberations with an appeal to anyone who can find a reason to acquit the accused. If one of the witnesses said: I can teach a reason to acquit him, or if one of the students sitting before the judges said: I can teach a reason to deem him liable, the judges silence him, i.e., both the witness and the student. The reason is that these people are not allowed to offer information such as this. But if one of the students said: I can to teach a reason to acquit him, they raise him to the seat of the court and seat him among them, and he would not descend from there the entire day, but would sit and participate in their deliberations.
אם יש ממש בדבריו שומעין לו ואפילו הוא אומר יש לי ללמד על עצמי זכות שומעין לו ובלבד שיש ממש בדבריו
If the statement of that student has substance, the court listens to him. And if even the accused says: I can teach a reason to acquit me, the court listens to him and considers his statement, provided that his statement has substance.
ואם מצאו לו זכות פטרוהו ואם לאו מעבירין אותו למחר ומזדווגין זוגות זוגות היו ממעטין ממאכל ולא היו שותין יין כל היום ונושאין ונותנין כל הלילה ולמחרת משכימין ובאין לב"ד
And if the court found it fit to acquit him during the deliberations, as all or a majority of the judges agreed to acquit him, they excuse him. But if a majority does not find it fit to acquit him, they delay his verdict to the following day, and they then assign pairs of judges to discuss the matter with each other. They would minimize their food intake and they would not drink wine all day. And they would deliberate all night, and the following day they would arise early and come to court and then vote again and tally the votes of the judges.
המזכה אומר אני מזכה ומזכה אני במקומי והמחייב אומר אני מחייב ומחייב אני במקומי המלמד חובה מלמד זכות אבל המלמד זכות אינו יכול לחזור וללמד חובה טעו בדבר שני סופרי הדיינין מזכירין אותו אם מצאו לו זכות פטרוהו ואם לאו עומדים למנין שנים עשר מזכין ואחד עשר מחייבין זכאי
One who yesterday was of the opinion to acquit the defendant says: I said to acquit, and I acquit in my place, i.e., I stand by my statement to acquit. And one who yesterday was of the opinion to deem him liable says: I said to deem him liable, and I deem him liable in my place. One who yesterday taught a reason to deem him liable may then teach a reason to acquit, but one who yesterday taught a reason to acquit may not then teach a reason to deem him liable. If they erred in the matter, as one of the judges forgot what he had said the previous day, two judges’ scribes, who recorded the statements of the judges, remind him. If the court then found it fit to acquit him unanimously, they excuse him, and if not all of the judges determine to acquit, they stand to count the vote. If twelve judges vote to acquit him and eleven judges deem him liable, he is acquitted.
שנים עשר מחייבין ואחד עשר מזכין ואפילו אחד עשר מזכין ואחד עשר מחייבין ואחד אומר איני יודע ואפילו עשרים ושנים מזכין או מחייבין ואחד אומר איני יודע יוסיפו הדיינין וכמה מוסיפין שנים שנים עד שבעים ואחד
The mishna continues: In a case where twelve judges deem him liable and eleven judges acquit; or even if eleven judges acquit and eleven deem him liable and one judge says: I do not know; or even if twenty-two judges acquit or deem him liable and one judge says: I do not know, the judge who said he does not know is disregarded, and the judges add additional judges to the court until they reach a definitive ruling. And how many judges do they add? They add pairs of two judges each time they do not reach a ruling until there are seventy-one judges, but no more than that.
שלשים וששה מזכין ושלשים וחמשה מחייבין זכאי שלשים וששה מחייבין ושלשים וחמשה מזכין דנין אלו כנגד אלו עד שיראה אחד מן המחייבין דברי המזכין:
At that point, if thirty-six judges acquit and thirty-five judges deem him liable, he is acquitted. If thirty-six judges deem him liable and thirty-five judges acquit, they continue to deliberate the matter, these judges against those judges, until one of those who deems him liable sees the validity of the statements of those who acquit and changes his position, as the court does not condemn a defendant to death by a majority of one judge.
גמ׳ מנא הני מילי אמר רב יהודה דאמר קרא (דברים יג, טו) ודרשת וחקרת ושאלת היטב ואומר (דברים יז, ד) והוגד לך ושמעת ודרשת היטב ואומר (דברים יט, יח) ודרשו השופטים היטב
GEMARA: The Gemara asks: From where are these matters derived? What is the source for these seven interrogations? Rav Yehuda says: It is as the verse states with regard to an idolatrous city: “And you shall inquire, and investigate, and ask diligently” (Deuteronomy 13:15); and it states with regard to one who worships idols: “If it be told to you and you have heard it and inquired diligently” (Deuteronomy 17:4); and it states with regard to conspiring witnesses: “And the judges shall inquire diligently” (Deuteronomy 19:18). Taken together, there are seven interrogations alluded to in these verses by each instance of the terms inquire, investigate, and diligently.