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Thought for the Day: Testifying to the Entire Matter

In our wedding album (first and only; album, that is, not wedding) there is a striking picture of my hand over my wife's hand over the wedding license.  Striking because the contrast between my wife's lovely hand is quite a contrast to the hairy paw emerging from the white tuxedo with frilly french cuffs.  That picture has evoked comments from "Beauty and the Beast" to "Snow White visits Planet of the Apes".  I was reminded of that picture by a Rashi on Bava Kama 70b: I saw a hair on her knuckles.  (Of course in my the case of our wedding picture, my poor wife's hand was covered by a lot more than one strand of hair.)  I suppose you want context, now.  Fine.

First you have to know three things.  (1) Once you are on property for three years, you no longer need to keep a receipt; everyone knows it's yours. (2) The word "davar"/matter in the verse "al pi shnayim eidim yakum davar"/"On the testimony of two witnesses the matter shall be decided" (D'varim 17:6) is extra and means the entire matter has to be decided by one set of eidim.  (3) A person really becomes a gadol when his (or her) body sprouts two hairs that a child does not bear.

The gemara asks what happens if Occupant lives in his house for three years, but it's a transient community and no one else has stayed in the neighborhood for more than a year.  Occupant has been there for three years, but it takes the testimony of three groups of witnesses to prove it in court.  Does that work?  R' Akiva says no, the chachamim say yes.  To best understand the machlokes, it is always best to find the two closest cases to the disputed case; one where everyone agrees it works, the other where everyone agrees it doesn't work.

The gemara, ever prepared, presents first the case where everyone agrees it works: one set of witnesses testify  that Sara married Shlomo in Nissan, the second testify that Sara had an affair with Reuvein in Iyar.  It takes the testimony of both groups to find her guilty of a capital crime.  Even R' Akiva agrees in this case because the first set of eidim did, in fact, accomplish something; they assured her from all other men.  The second group just added insult to injury (death being a right big insult).

The case where everyone agrees this doesn't work establishing if a girl has become a g'dola.  One set of eidim saw one hair on a girl's knuckles (there's the context), the other group saw one adult only hair somewhere else; hameivin yavin.  In that case, neither testimony has any effect at all without the the other.  In fact, each set by itself could taken as testimony that she is still a k'tana (as they have testified that there is only one adult only hair).

Tosafos (in his preferred explanation) says that the chachamim feel the case of Occupant is still in the category of "the entire matter" because each group testified about everything they could know (as opposed to the case of the two hairs, where each group could have investigated further).

My chavrusa and I spent quite a while trying to get all that straight this morning.  I am writing it down to solidify it in my mind.  You, I fear, are now also stuck with that picture of my hairy hand emerging from a tuxedo with frilly french cuffs.  Life is trade offs.


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