Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Identifying Lost Stuff by Stuff Near Them

Leah's husband, Yehuda has been enjoying some solo time on his small watercraft off the coast of BlahBlahBlah.  Unfortunately, no one has heard from Yehuda for a few weeks and Leah is justifiably worried.  To make matters worse, just this afternoon, a body found washed up onto a beach on the coast of BlahBlahBlah.  The bad news is that the body is decomposed/whatever to the point that there is not possibility of a positive identification.  The good news is that there is a wallet near the body that contains documents that undeniably and irrefutably both belong to Yehuda; further, the documents are the sort that Yehuda would never give nor even loan to anyone else.  In other words, that lost wallet was undeniably and irrefutably lost by Yehuda.  So... Yehuda has gone missing off the coast of BlahBlahBlah, a corpse that is the general shape and size of Yehuda is found on the coast of BlahBlahBlah, and Yehuda's wallet -- lying just inches from said corpse -- is also found.

Question: Can Leah (after a respectful time) get remarried?  That is: Can we conclude, based on the circumstantial evidence of a Yehuda's lost wallet found near a corpse generally matching Yehuda's description, in the area where would expect to find Yehuda (dead or alive) that Yehuda is morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead?  Seems pretty open and shut, right?  Ok... you know I am setting you up.  Let me make it worse.

Suppose we find an empty canister/barrel/what-have-you lying open on its side (sure looks like something fell out).  We also find some fruit -- enough to fit comfortably into said canister/barrel/what-have-you lying right next to the canister/barrel/what-have-you.  Zevulun (we haven't used that name in a while) come to the city lost and found to report that he has lost a canister/barrel/what-have-you and he is able give us enough details to convince us that the canister/barrel/what-have-you we found is, in fact, Zevulun's canister/barrel/what-have-you.  Moreover, Zevulun tells us that they canister/barrel/what-have-you was full of fruit.  In that case, everyone agrees that we return both the canister/barrel/what-have-you and the fruit to Zevulun as the rightful owner.

Good greif... the case of poor Leah now seems so open and shut that you are wondering why I even brought it up.  No you're not; you are wondering what I have up my sleeve.  What I have up my sleeve is that they Beis Shmuel says that Leah cannot get married based on such weak circumstantial evidence.  Moreover, he says, this case is nothing at all like the case of the canister/barrel/what-have-you and the fruit.  Huh and huh?

Let's go back to Zevulun.  Why did we give him the fruit?  Suppose that Yissachar had come to use first and said, "I lost some fruit and I lost a canister/barrel/what-have-you.  I can positively identify the canister/barrel/what-have-you, but the fruit is ... you know... fruit."  In that case we would not have given any fruit to Yissachar.  It's not that we don't believe him that he lost some fruit.  It is simply that we do not have enough evidence to positively ascertain that this is the fruit he lost.  Zevulun, on the other hand, connected the fruit to the canister/barrel/what-have-you.  Again, we have no reason to believe that Zevulun is lying and it is very unlikely that his fruit got taken and this is Yissachar's lost fruit.  Our conclusion, then is that since this is Zevulun's canister/barrel/what-have-you and because Zevulun connected the loss of his canister/barrel/what-have-you to his lost fruit, then the most logical conclusion is that this is Zevulun's fruit.

Back to poor Leah.  We found a wallet and a corpse.  Certainly the wallet has been lost from Yehuda.  However, the corpse could be anyone; we have no evidence to connect the wallet to the corpse.  We have proximity, but in halacha when you have proximity (the wallet is next to a corpse) and you have a majority (most people in the vicinity have wallets and people tend to lose them), then the majority wins over proximity.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…