We are beginning siman 18, which discusses testimony of a katan. We have a general halachic rule that eid echad ne’eiman b’isurim, the testimony of a single kosher witness is relied upon in cases of issur, such as kashrus. Nevertheless, the one witness must be a valid witness, which generally excludes a katan.
There are two parts to testimony: the process of witnessing something, and the process of testifying about it. A katan’s testimony is not accepted in the sense that they cannot testify as a katan. However, if an adult wishes to testify about something they witnessed as a child, their testimony is accepted regarding what they witnessed when the testimony regards issurim derabanan (such as an eruv boundary). It is not accepted regarding issurim deoraysa.
Regarding accepting the testimony of a katan while they are still a katan, the general rule is that a katan cannot testify. However, in Chochmas Adam, the Chayei Adam writes that if the katan is sharp and knowledgeable, and the background facts support his testimony, we will accept his testimony to make something assur. We will accept his testimony to make something muttar if it is beyado of the katan (within the power of the katan) to have made it permissible even without the acceptance of his testimony.
Based on the halacha that a katan is not believed to testify regarding issurim deoraysa, the Chayei Adam questions a katan’s believability to deliver kosher food and testify to its recipient that it is kosher. However, he concludes that he is believed, because although the katan is not able to testify, he is not assumed to go out of his way to ruin something which is already kosher.
Regarding kevillas keilim, a katan does not have credibility to report whether an item was toveled (even though they could theoretically do the tevillah).
A 13 year old, of whom it is not yet clear that they have achieved physical maturity (see shiurim 1300 and 1301), is not believed regarding an issur deoraysa, but is believed regarding an issur derabanan.
- The testimony of a katan is generally not accepted. However, there are two exceptions:
- A gadol is believed to testify about something he witnessed as a katan, but only regarding issurim derabanan;
- A katan is believed to testify while still a katan if they are sharp and knowledgeable, and the background facts support his testimony. His testimony will be accepted to make something assur, and will only be accepted to make something muttar if it was beyado to have made it muttar regardless of the acceptance of his testimony.
- A katan is believed to deliver kosher food, because they are not assumed to go out of their way to ruin something already kosher.
- A 13 year old, of whom it is not yet clear that they have achieved physical maturity, is not believed regarding an issur deoraysa, but is believed regarding an issur derabanan.