It says in Kesuvos 19b:

מר בר רב אשי אמר אמנה היו דברינו אין נאמנין מודעא היו דברינו נאמנין מ"ט האי ניתן ליכתב והאי לא ניתן ליכתב

Witnesses who said that this [contract was written on] trust aren't believed. This was a Modaah is believed. Why? One is permitted to be written and the other isn't.

The reason given is that a contract written on trust (signed before the money is given) is forbidden to be written since it will be a "stumbling block" in front of the "lender".

Why is a Modaah allowed to be written? I issue a Modaah the day before that my contract tomorrow will be false. Tomorrow, I come to him, sell him my field, and the next day come to court to take it back. He pulls out his Shtar, so I pull out my "Modaah". How is this potential situation allowed to happen?

  • The modaah comes from the witnesses, not the buyer it seller. Big difference – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 '15 at 1:11
  • Don't the witnesses on the moda'a have to be aware that the seller is in a situation of ones and is being coerced into the sale? That should forestall abuse of the mechanism of moda'a. – Fred Mar 2 '15 at 3:28

Using Rashi for accurate terminology seems to solve the problem: (I re-ordered Rashi for our purposes.)

עדים. החתומים בשטר ואמרו "אמנה היו דברינו, לא הלוהו כלום, אלא כתבנו לו לכשיצטרך ילוה לו, וזה שיעבד לו נכסיו מעכשיו אם ילוה אפילו לאחר זמן". דלאו מוקדם ליהוי לטרוף שלא כדין: ‏

Amana: Let's write an IOU, in case I decide to lend him money one day.

Problem: Since one can collect a debt from an IOU signed by witnesses from real estate, by pre-dating the IOU we may incorrectly confiscate property sold before the money was lent.

Thus, it is illegal to write such a document.

אין נאמנין. דלא אתי על פה, ומרע ליה לשטרא: ‏

We don't believe purported-Amana witnesses - as they contradict what is written in the document.

In other words, why wasn't the Amana clause included in the IOU? As a judge, I have to assume the answer is: because it's not an Amana. So I don't believe the witnesses.

Besides, it's illegal to write an Amana (as per Rashi below) and I can no longer believe you; either you are wicked for writing one or else you are lying.

Verdict: This document is not an Amana. We will process the claim as written in the document.

מודעא היו דברינו. אם שטר מכר הוא, ואמרו עדים החתומים בו "המוכר מסר מודעא בפנינו והראנו אונסו והכרנו בו": ‏

Moda'a: I want you to be my witnesses on my sale. But I am telling you - in secret - that I am being coerced to sell my property - and I'll prove it to you that I am being coerced.

מודעא. ניתן לעדים לכתוב את השטר כדי להציל האנוס מאונסו. אמנה לא ניתן להכתב דעולה הואי, וכי אמרו "חתמנו" משוי לנפשייהו רשעים, ואין אדם נאמן לשום עצמו רשע:‏

Witnesses are allowed to sign on this forced sale, in order to save the seller from the dire consequences of not selling. I can, therefore, believe the witnesses, if they claim they knew this was a forced sale.

As a judge, I have no reason not to believe the witnesses, since they did nothing illegal by witnessing the forced sale. Au contraire, by agreeing to be witnesses, they prevented the seller from losing his property forever to some strong-armed gangster.

Verdict: The Moda'a invalidates the document, and the property must be returned.

SUMMARY: As the Gemara says: האי ניתן ליכתב והאי לא ניתן ליכתב - I am not allowed to write an Amana, but I am allowed to write a Moda'a.
Short for: I am not allowed to be an Amana witness on an IOU, but I am allowed to be a Moda'a witness on a contract.

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