A knas (penalty) is never paid through the admission of the one who would pay it. For example, if someone steals $1 he has to pay $2 back, but if he returns the money by himself, he only pays $1 back, because the extra $1 is a knas.

In the last parshah (Naso), we find (5:7) a case where someone steals from a ger and he dies and has no inheritors. In that case, he pays the money to the kohen and adds a fifth to it.

However, this is what the ibn Ezra writes there:

"And he will add a fifth to it," if he admits from himself; but if there are witnesses against him [and he pays it back because of them], he adds two fifths.

If so, the first fifth is not a knas, because he pays it through his own admission; but the second fifth is a knas.

However, in the Gemara (very end of Makos 2b), they ask whether eidim zomemim is a knas. "Rav Nachman says: Know [that eidim zomemin is a knas], because the money is in the hands of the owners and they still pay." It implies that whenever the money is in the hands of the owners [i.e. they've been recompensed for any actual damages] and you still pay, it is a knas. However, in the above case in Naso, the money is in the hands of the owners and they pay, but the first fifth isn't a knas!

Can anyone resolve this apparent problem?

  • Isn't it just easier to ask why he pays a 1/5 when he admits since a person cannot obligate himself in a kenas? (Also, I don't think the current title is related to the question.)
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 4:59
  • @YDK PLEASE adjust. I think it really depends how you look at the question: if we assume all the regular rules of knas, then the q is is this really a knas; if we assume it actually is a knas, then the q is how is it a knas if it doesn't follow the rules. Finally, it certainly is closer than the previous title.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 5:57
  • @DoubleAA, It sounds like the question assumes that logically it is a kenas and that is why he assumes the double 5th with witnesses is a kenas. The question only assumes the 1st 5th is not a kenas because otherwise, per the rules, he would not be obligated. That's a little backwards. I think it behooves us to define the parameters of kenas vs non-kenas.
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 13:39
  • @DoubleAA, my question about the title is that the post has nothing to do with a ger. The ibn Ezra just decided to elaborate on the double 5th here instead of vayikra.
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 13:40
  • @YDK Ahh I see what you mean. Fair enough. Can you come up with a good way to title it? "Is the one-fifth penalty on stealing a knas?" "Is the penalty for lying about stealing a knas?"
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


I think you're confused.

If someone stole and then confessed, they just pay it back.

If one FALSELY SWORE after stealing something, then felt guilty, then in addition to a guilt sacrifice, one must pay it back plus "a fifth" (actually a quarter, but that's a story for another day). See Leviticus 5:20.

Gezel HaGer (Numbers 5:5) is simply a special case of Leviticus 5:20, namely, if one stole from a convert (or cheated him, or failed to return his lost object, etc.), then swore falsely about it, and the convert went to his grave having been deprived of his property because of a Jew who swore falsely (I doubt G-d's too happy about that), if the convert has no heirs, then give the payment plus fifth to the Cohen on-duty that week.

  • Sounds like a comment.
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 13:42
  • @YDK Only the commentary is a comment.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 2:29

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