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Friday, August 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

In the beginning of the Parsha (17:6), regarding the giving of capital punishment, the pasuk says "Al pi shnayim eidim...", that we require at least two witnesses. Later on, (19:15), regarding monetary matters, it states "Al pi shnei eidim...", again that two witnesses are required. Although the word 'shnayim' and 'shnei' both seem to mean '2', there is still a difference between the two. What is the difference, and why is one used over the other in each instance? 

Netzi"v writes, in Hemek Davar, that 'shnei' means two identical objects whereas 'shnayim' doesn't mean 2, but rather a pair. In the Yerushalmi Sanhedrin, brought in the Rosh 23a, it says that if two witnesses give absolutely identical testimony, they must be checked out for something is a little suspicious. It is told that the GR"A would disqualify witnesses who gave absolutely identical testimony based on a Mishna in Sanhedrin. Therefore, with regards to capital cases, since there is a requirement to deeply investigate the witnesses (derisha vechakira), it says 'shnayim', because identical testimony is not accepted. But in monetary matters, where there is no requirement of 'derisha vechakira', it says 'shnei', because they are allowed to be identical.

[I was once asked why when we count the omer we say 'shnei shavuos' or 'shnei yamim' instead of 'shevu'ayim' or 'yomayim'. I answered based on the above, that shvuayim or yomayim would mean a pair of weeks, or a pair of days and therefore, would not be a real counting of two and for the sfira, we require a genuine count.]

Mahari"l Diskin offers an alternate explanation. The word 'shnayim' means not only two, but two at the same time. Just as raglayim or yadayim refers to a presence of two hands or feet, shnayim means two together. Therefore, for capital matters, it says 'shnayim' because the two witnesses must be present together. Two witnesses who both see a crime, but don't see each other are not valid witnesses. This is referred to in the gemara as "eidus meyuchedes". However, for monetary matters, "eidus meyuchedes" is still valid. So the Torah wrote shnei instead of shnayim over there.


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