Monday, 20 March 2017

Bava Batra 56: Partial Transgressions, Partial Testimony

In their continued conversation about how different boundaries might affect acquisition, the Gemara notes that a person carrying a fig from a private to a public domain on Shabbat would be exempt if s/he walked into two different public domains.  However if s/he walked into the same public domain twice, s/he is liable.

And how are boundaries similar when they are used to demarcate areas permitted on Shabbat or regarding gittin, bills of divorce?  When can a beam or a karmelit (undesignated domain) count as a proper boundary?  What about places that have no formal boundaries?  Is a line of trees* enough to demonstrate the end of one's property and the beginning of another's?  

Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as saying that Joshua used sea squills to determine the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael as described in the Torah.  Joshua is said to have included small settlements close to the town’s borders.  These borders were critically important to know who was obligated in tithing.  The rabbis argue about which lands (and the homes of which peoples) are included and excluded in from these boundaries and related halachot.

After many days working to understand our last Mishna, we are introduced to a new one.  It teaches us more about conspiring witnesses:
  •            If two witnesses claim that they saw proof of chazaka as one was working and profiting from the land for three years, and they were found to be conspiring, they owe the true owner the cost of the land in dispute.
  •           This follows Deuteronomy (19:19) where we learn that what was conspired to be doe to one should be done to the conspirators.
  •           If three different pairs of witnesses claim to have seen a person profit from the land, one pair per year for three years, and they are found to be conspiring, the cost of the land is split among them. 
  •           If three brothers each testify that he was profiting from the land, one brother each year, and each brother was joined by another independent witness, the court can decide between two options: if their testimony is considered to be together, then they are conspiring witnesses. If their testimony is deemed to be independent, then their words stand.

Rabbi Akiva and others argue that half of an argument, half of a testimony – anything less than fully testimony – is not adequate to use as an argument in court.  The rabbis use the example of locating two pubic hairs on a girl as part of her identification as a young woman and not a child.   If one found one pubic hair on her genitals and one on her back, should that be acceptable?  Do two different witnesses witness each hair?  Is this question about a complete or half of a matter?  Or about complete or half of a testimony? 

*sea squills, with large root balls above ground level.

No comments:

Post a Comment