Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Uncertain Warning

The Gemora states: If witnesses appeared when she was betrothed that she had been unfaithful during the betrothal, she is stoned at the doorway of the city gates. If she had been unfaithful while betrothed but then became a bogeres (older than twelve and a half), she is killed with strangulation.

Reb Akiva Eiger asks: Rabbi Yehudah in Sanhedrin (8b) maintains that in order for a person to be subject to a death penalty, they must be warned and informed precisely death they will be receiving if they transgress the prohibition. If so, Reb Akiva Eiger asks: How can the bogeres be executed through strangulation; when she was warned, the witnesses informed her that she would die by stoning since she was a na’arah at the time?

We are compelled to say that our Gemora is following the opinion that holds that one who is warned for a stricter punishment is automatically regarded as being warned for a more lenient punishment. Since she was warned that she will be stoned if she commits adultery, Beis Din may execute her through strangulation if she becomes a bogeres because stoning is stricter than strangulation.

Reb Akiva Eiger asks on any na’arah; how can we execute her by way of stoning? We cannot inform her that she will certainly be stoned, for perhaps, her judgment will not be complete until she becomes a bogeres, and then her death penalty is strangulation, not stoning!?

We are forced to say that Rabbi Yehudah is in accordance with his own opinion, for he holds that an uncertain warning is a valid one. Accordingly, we warn her that she might get stoned or strangled; it all depends on what her status is at the time of Beis Din’s verdict.