QUESTION: The Mishnah says that if a husband and his wife had been
quarreling, and the woman then testifies that her husband died, she is not
believed. The Gemara defines a "quarrel" as any situation in which the woman
exclaims, "You already divorced me," when he did not. Since she was ready to
make such a false statement in order to get away from her husband, it
indicates that they hate each other. If she later testifies that her husband
died, she is not believed.
The Amora'im argue why she is not believed. Rav Chanina says that we are
afraid that she will maliciously lie and claim that he is dead when he really
is alive. Rav Shimi bar Ashi says that she will convince herself that he is
dead ("bid'Dami") by surmise when he really is alive.
The Gemara explains that the practical difference between these two opinions
would be in a case where the *husband* instigated the quarrel between them,
and not the wife.
TOSFOS explains that if we are afraid that she lies, then when the husband
instigated the quarrel, she will not lie about his death because she is not
so angry with him. Hence, according to Rav Chanina, she is believed when she
says that her husband dies. According to Rav Shimi, though, we still suspect
that she might surmise, incorrectly, that he is dead (i.e. testify
"bid'Dami") and therefore she is not believed.
Why did the Gemara not give a very simple difference between these two
opinions? The Gemara (114b) teaches that a woman does not mistakenly assume
("bid'Dami") that she buried her husband when she did not actually bury him.
Therefore, in a time of war, even though she is not believed to say that her
husband died because she might say "bid'Dami," she *is* believed to say that
"he died and I buried him."
Accordingly, the Gemara should give this simple case -- where she testifies
that "he died and I buried him" -- as a difference between Rav Chanina and
Rav Shimi! If we are concerned only for "bid'Dami," then she is believed to
say that she buried him. If we are concerned that she lies, then she is not
believed to say that she buried him! (TOSFOS HA'ROSH; see also HAGAHOS HA'GRA
(a) The RITVA writes that indeed, the Gemara could have given this case as a
difference between Rav Chanina and Rav Shimi, but it chose to mention the
other difference instead.
The MAHARI BEN LEV (quoted by the KESEF MISHNAH in Hilchos Gerushin 13:1)
adds that the case that the Gemara does give as a practical difference
between the opinions teaches us an additional Chidush. The Gemara is teaching
that when the husband instigates the quarrel, the woman does not hate him to
the extent that she will want to lie about his death. We might have thought
that it does not matter who started the quarrel, since she now is quarreling
(and claimed to have been divorced from him) she will lie about his death.
The Gemara teaches that if he starts the quarrel, she does not hate him so
much and she does not lie about his death.
(b) The ARUCH LA'NER suggests as follows. Rav Shimi, who holds that we are
afraid that she will say "bid'Dami," holds that we are *also* afraid that she
will lie about her husband's death, when she quarreling with her husband. He
is just adding that *even* in a case where there is no fear that she will
lie, we are still afraid that she will say "bid'Dami."
RABEINU ELIYAHU MIZRACHI (Teshuvos #20, cited by KESEF MISHNAH, Hilchos
Gerushin 13:1), who suggests a similar answer, adds that there are indeed
strong logical grounds to explain the Gemara like this. We see that the woman
who is quarreling with her husband has already lied once by saying
Gerashtani; if she lied once, then perhaps she will lie again! Therefore both
Amora'im must agree that she is suspect of lying to be rid of her husband.
The practical difference between the two Amora'im is in a case where we know
that she will not lie. According to Rav Shimi, there is still a fear that she
will say bid'Dami, while Rav Chanina argues (see Maharsha). That is why the
Gemara did give the case of "he died and I buried him" as a difference;
everyone agrees that she might be lying when she says that!
(The Mizrachi limits the amount we suspect the woman of lying. He says that
Rav Shimi -- who says that we fear that she says "bid'Dami" -- holds that
even though we do not normally suspect her of lying, *in a case where she
says "bid'Dami"* we suspect that she will strengthen her claim by lying
because she thinks that he really did die.)
The TOSFOS HA'ROSH, who asks why the Gemara did not list "I buried him" as a
practical difference between Rav Shimi and Rav Chanina, asks this as a
question on RABEINU CHANANEL who specifically says that Rav Shimi is *not*
afraid that she will lie, and that the Amora'im are indeed arguing in a case
of "he died and I buried him." Our Tosfos, though, may not agree to Rabeinu
Chananel on this point.
(c) The RAMBAM writes that in a time of war, when the woman says that "he
died and I buried him," she is *not* believed (contrary to the simple way of
understanding the Gemara earlier (114b), which said that even in a time of
starvation she is believed when she says "he died and I buried him" -- see
Insights to 114:3.)
From the HAGAHOS HA'GRA there (and in the Shulchan Aruch, EH 17:107) it seems
that the Vilna Ga'on understood that the Rambam holds that even in a case of
"he died and I buried him" we fear that she will say "bid'Dami." The only
time we do not fear that she will say "bid'Dami" is where he died in a
famine. In such a case, she is relatively more relaxed because there is no
imminent danger facing her in that situation, and thus she will not make such
a big mistake as to say that she buried him when it was actually someone else
that was buried. (See Insights to 114:3:c, from the Levush.) Under other
circumstances, though, where she says that he was killed in some sudden,
tragic way, she will say "bid'Dami" even that he was buried, because the
sudden death and her own danger in the chaotic situation causes her to become
confused and think that is was her husband who was buried.
According to that reasoning, it is clear why saying "he died and I buried
him" is not a difference between Rav Chanina and Rav Shimi. According to both
of them she will not be believed in such a situation, since she will either
lie *or* testify "bid'Dami" as to the burial of her husband (unless he dies
in an anticipated manner, such as in times of famine).