An Ignorant Person’s Recognition – Bava Metzia 18


By: Rabbi Avrohom Adler


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An Ignorant Person’s Recognition
The Mishna had stated: If an agent (who was bringing a get) lost the get and found it immediately, it is still valid. However, if he found it after some time, it cannot be used (for we are concerned that it fell from someone else and it is not the get which he lost). If he found the get in a chafisah or in a deluskema (types of containers), or if he recognizes the get, it is valid.
Rashi explains that if the agent himself found the get (not in a container) and he recognizes it, the get is valid.
Other Rishonim understand the Mishna to mean that the get is valid if he recognizes the container.
The Rashba writes that the get will be valid if the agent found it and claims that he recognizes it. This is true even if the agent is an ignorant person. That which the Gemora says below that an ignorant person cannot be trusted that he recognizes the get is only true when someone else found it and the agent is trying to claim it from him. There, we suspect that he is lying. However, if he himself found the get, he is trusted that he recognizes it, for he has a migu (believe me what I am saying, for if I would want to lie, I could have said a better lie); he could have said that he never lost it in the first place. (The Ritva seems to say that the ignorant person is believed even without the migu.)
The Ramban writes that it is only with respect to a lost article that we do not trust an ignorant person when he claims that he recognizes it. However, with regards to a get, which is a prohibitory matter, he is trusted. (The Magid Mishnah explains that this is because one witness is believed with respect to prohibitory matters.)
There are two glaring questions on the Ramban. Firstly, the Gemora below states explicitly that to return it to someone who claims that he recognizes it by sight, it is only to a Talmudic scholar who would be trusted, but not any ordinary person!? Secondly, a get should be regarded as a davar she’b’ervah, a matter with respect to relations, and two witnesses are required for testimony involving such matters!?
The Toras Gittin answers the first question as follows: When the Gemora states that an ordinary person will not be trusted that he recognizes the get, that is only with respect to the monetary issues of the get; however, with respect to the prohibitions stemming from the get, he will be trusted.
The Maharam Schick answers the second question: The halacha is if a father said, “I accepted a kiddushin for my daughter, but I do not know from whom,” and a fellow comes to us and says that it was him, he is believed and she is married to him. The Ran explains that although ordinarily, a davar she’b’ervah requires two witnesses, here it doesn’t, for his testimony is not in contrast with any preexisting status quo; it is merely a clarification as to whom the father accepted the kiddushin from. One person is sufficient for this. So too, here, the one witness is not testifying on the divorce; rather, he is clarifying for us as to who this get belongs to.
The Oneg Yom Tov answers this question by saying that the concern for two Yosef ben Shimon’s in the same city is only a Rabbinical one, and therefore, although it is a davar she’b’ervah, only one witness is required.