Friday, March 13, 2009


By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

In a situation where two groups of witnesses contradict one another about an event; it is classified as contradictory witnesses, where we have no reason to believe one any more than the other. Under these circumstances the Gemora in Bava Basra has a discussion about what to do - it is an uncertainty, so follow the chazakah. One thing, however, is clear, that we do not believe the latter group any more than the first. However, where the second group doesn't testify about the event, rather about the validity of the first two as being valid witnesses, such as testifying that they are thieves, the second group is completely believed to overthrow the testimony of the first group. This is not considered a novelty, since everything that the first group is saying is true, just that by believing the second group that the first are thieves, we automatically do not accept their testimony.

Rava (in the first version) holds that a zomeim is a novelty and therefore only becomes disqualified from the time of the hazamah, and not retroactively from the time of the testimony. Abaye would presumably agree with Rava that zomemin is a novelty, just that it is not logical for them to be disqualified from the time of the hazamah; therefore we disqualify them retroactively from the time of their testimony.

It seems that the concept of “novelty” by zomemin is that rather than considering it to be a case of contradictory witnesses, where the second group are merely disagreeing about the event, we consider it as if the second group are actually testifying about the character of the first group, invalidating them as witnesses. (See Tosfos who explains that the novelty of zomemin more than contradictory testimony is either that the second group is entirely believed, or that the first group is definitely disqualified, not just out of uncertainty. Assuming like Tosfos’ second approach that the novelty of zomemin is to view the testimony to be on the character of the witnesses, not on the event, in which case it is not a novelty to directly disqualify the first or to validate the second, rather it is a novelty in classification).

Why are zomemin somewhere in between? In essence, the second group is not making a character judgment; they are only contradicting the facts – “these two witnesses could not have possibly witnessed what they claim to have witnessed since they were with us elsewhere.” Had it not been for the novelty of the Torah that we believe the second group, we would view it as if they just contradicting the first group about the events, where we would have a legitimate doubt as to who to believe. We would interpret their intent as simply being that the event was not witnesses by these two witneses because they were with us elsewhere. But the Torah teaches us that we are not to regard the hazamah as just undermining the plausibility of the event, rather they are giving a character testimony similar to claiming that the first group were thieves. Why?

It would seem that the reason is because when testifying about an event, it is sometimes possible to misinterpret the event, or not have a clear picture as to what actually happened, so we give each group the benefit of the doubt. But, by zomemin, the second group is claiming that it was clearly premeditated lying that is taking place, not an innocent mistake. People who would fabricate a story when they were in an entirely different location have a fatal character flaw just as thieves do, and therefore they are not admissible as witnesses in any court.

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It was stated (Bava Kamma 72): Abaye said: A zomeim witness is disqualified (for any other testimony) retroactively (from the time that he testified). Rava said: He is only disqualified from the time that he is found to be a zomeim.

The Gemora explains: Abaye said that he is disqualified retroactively, for it is at that time that he became an evildoer, for the Torah states: Do not place your hand with an evildoer to be a corrupt witness. Rava said that he is only disqualified from the time that he is found to be a zomeim, for his disqualification is itself a novelty (so why should we stretch it). This is because the two sets of witnesses are two against two, so why should we listen to the second set more than the first? Accordingly, we can only apply the disqualification novelty from the time that they become zomemin.

Tosfos asks: Why is it such a novelty that we believe the second set of witnesses over the first? They should be believed, for they have a migu that they could have disqualified the first set by testifying that the initial witnesses are thieves (“believe us when we say that they were with us, for if we would have wanted to lie, we could have said that they are thieves!”)!?

Tosfos answers that we do not apply the principle of “migu” by two witnesses, for each one of them is not aware as to what the other one is thinking.

Furthermore, it is similar to a “migu against witnesses,” where the migu is not effective, and since in this case, the first set of witnesses are testifying that they did in fact witness the event, they are clashing with the migu of the second set. In such types of cases, a migu is not effective.

The Tzlach answers that this is a migu for half a claim and that is why it is not effective. If they would have only testified that the initial witnesses were thieves, they would become disqualified, but they would not be liable to pay at all. However, if they would testify that the first set was not there at the time that they said the event took place, they would be disqualified and they would be liable to pay. Accordingly, the migu principle would not apply in this case.

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How Kosher?

The poskim discuss different cases of people who transgress, and how we relate to them, in light of Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel (Rashbag)’s opinion. One situation discussed in recent times is a hotel that wishes to be certified as kosher, but with limitations. The hotel owners agree that all the food prepared in the hotel will be kosher (including only kosher meat, and no cooking of meat and milk together). However, they explicitly do not want to restrict their guests from eating milk right after meat, or even mixing (not cooking) meat and milk together. These actions are Rabbinically forbidden, but not as severe as the other potential transgressions being avoided by the certification. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer Y"D 4:7 and 6:3:3) rules that the rabbinate may - and should - certify the hotel, and says that Rashbag’s statement does not apply to this case. The Rambam rules like Rashbag, but says it’s good to be like the tznuim, making it a positive trait to be concerned with people’s religious welfare. Further, the Rambam may rule like Rashbag only in the case of robbery, which is more severe. Further yet, in the case of the trespassers, they may avoid the land altogether if they know that it may involve other prohibitions. In this case, without the certification, no one will avoid prohibitions, but, on the contrary, violate other ones. Finally, there are many customers who will not eat milk and meat together, and therefore the certification will make the difference for them between forbidden and permitted food. These people (including unwitting tourists) know no better, and therefore are considered anusim (forced), and we are concerned with their welfare.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Y"D 1:52) also discusses a similar case of an establishment that agrees to only prepare kosher food (with certification), but not restrict the uses of the food by its patrons. Rav Moshe rules that the restaurant should be certified, since a certification does not have to relate to and concern external matters, even in the use of the certified food. Rav Moshe adds that this is especially true, since some of the patrons may be totally ignorant, and have the status of tinok shenishba. This would remove the rule of haliteyhu entirely, even according to Rashbag.

The Tzitz Eliezer (11:55 and 12: page 224) strenuously disputes these rulings, and states that only bad results can come from such a certification. The public at large will take the rabbinate certification much more lightly, and even the certification will be hard to enforce. The Tzitz Eliezer states that Rashbag’s statement definitely applies here, as we want to have no hand in enabling transgressions, and have no interest in ameliorating any of the transgressions involved. In his response to Rav Ovadia Yosef’s letter to him, the Tzitz Eliezer says that it seems that he and Rav Ovadia Yosef approach this halachic area differently.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Insights on Bava Kamma - 69


Tosfos (69a kol hanilkat) discusses how the part of the vineyard that grew after the Tznuim’s declaration did not prohibit the rest of the vine. Tosfos assumes that the regular rules of bittul – nullification of a prohibition in a larger mixture – would not apply, since the fourth year vineyard is a davar sheyesh lo matirin – a prohibition which will become permitted. See the Rama YD 102:4 for a conflicting opinion.

Cuthean produce vs. D’mai

There is a dispute among the Tannaim whether Cutheans are Halachically Jewish, but just less trustworthy, or not Jewish at all. This depends on whether we classify them as Geirei Arayos - converts only due to fear of lions - or Geirei Emes - true converts. (See Tosfos Chulin on how to reconcile the second opinion with the verses in Melachim that state the history of the Cutheans). The Rishonim explain that the author of the braisa in our Gemora holds that the Cutheans are Jews, but just not trustworthy. Their produce is still different than D’mai, the produce of Amei Haaretz, on which there is a doubt as to some of the tithes. D’mai is most likely tithed, but the Sages instituted an assumption of some tithes not taken. Since it’s a special stringency, there are areas where the Sages allowed leniency (e.g., poor people can eat it, it can be separated on twilight Friday night). However, the produce of the Cutheans are considered definitely not tithed, and these leniencies do not apply.

Ye’ush vs. Hefker

The Rishonim question why a person should have to declare the extra fallen sheaves to be hefker for the poor people. Presumably, the owners - who are ready to declare hefker on these sheaves - have given up on them, and such despair (ye’ush) is sufficient for someone to take ownership. Even those opinions earlier in the perek who do not accept ye’ush to transfer ownership, will agree that changing possession together with ye’ush will. Tosfos (69a kol shelaktu) answers that ye’ush will effectuate ownership, but not remove the need for tithes. Tithes are not necessary for hefker, since the Torah states that tithes should be given to the Levi "ki ein lo chelek v’nachala imach" - because he does not have a portion and inheritance with you. This implies that hefker, where the Levi has equal rights with you and everyone else, will not require tithes. Ye’ush, however, will only transfer the grain to the poor, but not give the Levi (or anyone else) rights to the sheaves. In addition, Tosfos states that the ye’ush here is only vis a vis the poor people, and is no better than hefker only to the poor, which is not considered hefker at all.

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In the course (Bava Kamma 69) of discussing Rabbi Yochanan’s statements, the Gemora introduces the concept of bereirah. Bereirah is a wide ranging concept, appearing throughout Shas, in a variety of forms, having ramifications in many halachic areas. Below are a number of facets of bereirah, which appear in the Rishonim and poskim.

Courtyard neighbors

The Gemora (Nedarim 55b-56b) discusses the status of two people who are partners in a courtyard. They both have use rights, but it may depend on bereirah to determine exactly when each one has ownership at a given time.


The Gemora (Beitza 37b-38a) discusses cases of partners who split their joined item, insofar as techumim ownership. Bereirah allows us to consider the ultimate allocation reflective of the original true ownership.


This case is discussed by Rabbi Yochanan in our Gemora, and appears in many other Gemoros.

Separating Tithes

This case is discussed by Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah in our Gemora, and appears in many other Gemoros.

Choosing a Techum

The Gemora (Eruvin 36b-38a) discusses various Eruvei Techumim, where the actual details of the Eruv are left for later clarification, using Bereirah. The Gemora includes a lengthy discussion of Rabbi Yehudah’s position on Bereirah, based on multiple conflicting sources.

Why does (or doesn’t) it work?

Tosfos (Eruvin 37b Ela) states that those who do not accept bereirah feel that later designation is meaningless, and therefore the action is not effective at all. In our case, this means that the separation that will happen after Shabbos is meaningless, and therefore, the declaration at the onset of Shabbos has no wine to take effect on, and it not effective at all. Rashi (Chulin 14b osrin), on the other hand, states that those who do not accept bereirah simply hold that the later designation cannot resolve the initial unclarity. In the case of the wine, when the person declares that he is taking the tithes from wine that will be designated later, the tithes now exist in the wine, but the person cannot designate them later. Therefore, this wine has indeterminate tithes, and none of it can be used.

See Shaarei Yosher (3:22 v’af shera’isi) for a more detailed discussion of how bereirah does work, and what are its limitations. See Shiurei R. Dovid Lifshitz (Hulin, #29) for a further discussion of this dispute.

How much is unclear?

The Ran in Nedarim (55b v’ika) suggests that the case of partners’ use in a courtyard can be considered full ownership, even according to those who generally do not accept bereirah, since the bulk of the "split" is already done, with only the exact time that it will be used left for later clarification.

Will it definitely be clarified?

Tosfos (Gittin 25b Rabbi Yehudah) states that some cases of bereirah are less acceptable, since there may never be any clarification. For example, as opposed to our case of the wine - where some wine will be taken, but it’s not known which - a case of one who consecrates the coin that he will take from his pocket, is a case where it’s possible that no coin will be chosen at all.

Who decides?

The Gemora in Gittin (25a-b) raises the possibility that bereirah may be more acceptable in the case where the area left for later clarification depends on another party. If bereirah is unacceptable because the party doing the action must decide before acting, then if the only clarification is external, the active party has done his part, and left the rest up to something else. Examples of this are:
1. A person who betroths a woman, but stipulates that it will only take effect if the woman’s father agrees.
2. A person who gives his wife a Get, which should be effective one moment before he dies. This is making it dependent on outside party, i.e., Hashem.

Explicit exceptions

There are cases where the Torah states an explicit detail, which overrides the general rules of bereirah.

The Torah explicitly states that a Get must be written "la" - for her (the wife), and from this the Gemora learns (Gittin 2b) that a Get must be written "lishma" - explicitly for the wife’s sake. From this verse, Tosfos (24b l’aizo) suggests that even those who accept bereirah may invalidate a Get which was written for the sake of "the wife that I choose"

The Gemora on our daf mentions the case of brothers who split their father’s estate as a case of bereirah. Tosfos (Gittin 48a Ee) suggests that, even without bereirah, inheriting brothers could be not subject to return on the Yovel year, due to the inherent nature of inheritance and Yovel.

Torah vs. Rabbinic

The Ri in Tosfos (Nedarim 56b) rules that we accept bereirah in all areas of halachah. The Rambam (Eruvin 8:7, Trumos 1:21, Yom Tov 5:20) rules that in Rabbinic areas of halachah, we accept bereirah, while in areas of Torah halachah, we do not accept bereirah.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Paying for its Worth at the Beginning

Rav said: A thief must pay the principle according to the value of the stolen object at the time that it was stolen. He pays the double payment and the fourfold and fivefold payments according to the value of the object at the time that he was sued in Beis Din.

Tosfos asks: What is the novelty of Rav’s ruling that a thief must pay the principle according to the value of the stolen object at the time that it was stolen? This is an explicit Mishna below that a thief pays according to the object’s value at the time that it was stolen!?

They answer: This, in fact, is not a novelty at all. Rav is teaching us that the double payment and the fourfold and fivefold payments are paid according to the value of the object at the time that he was sued in Beis Din.

The Shitah Mekubetzes writes that the thief pays the double payment and the fourfold and fivefold payments according to the value of the object at the time that he was sued in Beis Din is completely logical, for since the thief is not immediately liable in these payments, for if he wishes, he can admit and be exempt from paying. He therefore pays according to its value at the time that he was sued in Beis Din.

The Rosh seems to be uncertain if this, in fact, is a logical argument, or if this is something which may be derived only based upon a Scriptural verse.

The Machaneh Efraim discusses the following case: If one damages an object belonging to another; at the time of the damage, it was worth five, but at the time of the payment it was only worth four – how much is the damager required to pay? Perhaps the halachah that one pays according to the value that the object was worth at the time that it was stolen applies only to a thief, for that is where the Torah teaches us the halachah; however, by a damager, perhaps he is only required to return a similar object to the one which he damaged, even if now it is worth less?

He concludes that this would be dependent upon the Rishonim in our sugya. If the halachah that a thief pays according to what the object is worth at the time it was stolen is purely logical, then it stands to reason that this should apply to a damager as well. However, if it is something that is derived from a Scriptural verse, perhaps it only applies by a thief, and not by a damager.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Exemption when One Admits to a Fine

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 64) asks: According to the opinion (63b) who holds that one verse teaches us about the thief himself and the other deals with a custodian who alleges that the object he was watching was stolen and we find that he stole it himself, and he derives the law about the thief himself from the verse, “If the thief will be found,” what does he derive from the verse, “If it will be surely found?”

The Gemora answers: He understands the verse is required for the teaching of Rava bar Ahilai, for Rava bar Ahilai says: Why does Rav say that if a person admits to a fine (which a person by Torah law does not have to pay based on his own admission) and then witnesses come and testify to his guilt that he is still exempt from paying? This is as the verse states, “If it will surely be found.” This teaches us that if it was first revealed with witnesses he should then be decided as guilty by the judges. This excludes a case where he admitted his guilt. [He will be exempt from paying the fine even if witnesses come later.]

Does this ruling apply only in the Beis Din in which the person admitted to the fine, or does it apply even where witnesses testify in a second Beis Din against him?

The Ketzos Hachoshen (350:2) writes that when one is exempt from liability after admitting to a fine, it is not as if the obligation is cancelled; rather, the halachah is that Beis Din cannot obligate him to pay after he has incriminated himself. Therefore, the exemption applies only in the Beis Din in which he admits. If, however, he admitted in one Beis Din and afterwards he was sued in a second Beis Din and witnesses testified against him, the second Beis Din may obligate him to pay the fine. And similarly, if witnesses testify against him in one Beis Din but they did not complete the judgment, and then he is taken to a second Beis Din where he admits to the fine, he will be exempt from paying, since witnesses had not testified in the Beis Din where he admitted, and the Beis Din where he admitted cannot make him liable, for he incriminated himself.

The Nesivos Hamishpat disagrees and maintains that once a person admits to a fine in one Beis Din, he no longer can be obligated to pay even if witnesses testify against him in a different Beis Din. He also holds that in a case where witnesses testify against him in one Beis Din but they did not complete the judgment, and then he is taken to a second Beis Din where he admits to the fine, the second Beis Din cannot obligate him to pay, but it is not because the halachah of admitting is dependent upon Beis Din. Rather, it is because that as long as a verdict has not been reached, it is still regarded as a fine, and therefore, if he admits before a second Beis Din, they cannot obligate him to pay, for he has incriminated himself. However, if witnesses will testify against him in the second Beis Din, he will be liable to pay.

The Nesivos evidently holds that once he admits to the fine and is exempt from paying, the debt is completely cancelled and a second Beis Din cannot make him liable to pay any longer.

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