Project Genesis




The Jewish Legal System

Do we trust a woman’s testimony?

Question: Is it true that according to the Torah a woman can’t be a witness in court? Why?

It is certainly true that, under certain circumstances, women may not testify in a Jewish court.

I certainly can’t say that I fully understand the reasoning behind any Torah law, but I have come across a valuable observation that can help. There are many legal scenarios in which women’s testimony is believed – on occasion, even in court (for instance, on subjects with which women are especially likely to be familiar). So it can’t be said that the are any less trusted or reliable than men.

In a way, this seems similar to a hypothetical testimony delivered by Moses and Aaron, the high priest - who were, of course, brothers. No beis din on earth would accept their testimony (in cases requiring two witnesses) despite the fact that no one would suspect them of lying or foolishness. Rather, the Torah says that two brothers may not testify together and that’s that.

So why did the Torah limit women? Remember, most people don’t want to testify, but are compelled by legal necessity. Perhaps, since being forced to appear in court and then to be subject to intense cross examinations runs counter to the Torah’s key value of modesty for women, the Torah exempted them from the more common examples of it.

Question: Is this still enforced today?

Yes. Although, as I said, there are instances where women’s testimony is sought and accepted.

With my regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Ottawa, Canada

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