Bava Batra, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One



The tenth chapter of Bava Batra deals with laws concerning the proper writing and execution of documents.


Mishnah One

1)                     A simple document has the signatures within (at the bottom of the page); a sewn document has signatures behind [each fold].

2)                     If in a simple document its witnesses signed behind, or if in a sewn document its witnesses signed within, they are invalid.

a)                                           Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel says:  “If in a sewn document its witnesses signed within, it is valid, since it can be made into a simple document.”

b)                                          Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel says:  “Everything should follow local custom.”



An “simple” document is one in which the text is written at the top of the page and the witnesses sign on the bottom, similar to forms used today.  A “sewn” document is one in which a few lines of text are written, and then the text is folded over and sewn at the fold and then signed on the back of the document.  This process is repeated several times, with each fold being witnessed and sign on the back side of the document.  Evidently this was a more difficult type of document to forge.  The first opinion in the mishnah states that each type of document must be signed in its customary manner:  a simple document on the front and a sewn document on the back.

Rabbi Hanina ben Gamaliel states that a sewn document with signatures on the front is nevertheless valid, and is in essence treated as if it was a simple document.

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel states that this law is dependent on the customs of the place. If the custom is to allow sewn documents to be signed on the inside as well as the outside then they are valid; if not they are invalid.


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why is a simple document whose witnesses signed on the back invalid?  What is the problem with signing on the back?