Based on the gemara's explanation of the demon in the pit, I'm having a hard time picturing a reasonable circumstance in which the witnesses can hear someone calling from a pit, the person in the pit's life is in danger, the witnesses can't help the person, they can't see the person, but they CAN see a double shadow off the person. Even the idea of a person in a pit, which is naturally dark, and the double shadow being visible to those outside the pit, is hard to picture.
Menachem Weiman, St. Louis, MO
1) I suggest that the witnesses heard the voice, but by the time they managed to climb into the pit the person had already died and they were able only to find the dead body. However, we still have to be concerned that the voice that they heard was not from the person but rather from a demon who was also in the locality.
2) The Mesivta edition of the Gemara cites the Shitas ha'Kadmonim who writes that when the sun leans strongly towards the east or to the west (that is, early in the morning or late in the afternoon) every object possesses two shadows, one is strong and the other is weak. The "shade of the shade" referred to by the Gemara is this weak accompanying shade (around the strong shade there is a weak shade).
Dear Reb Dovid,
Thank you for your reply. That is precisely my question. A "shadow of a shadow" has to come from an early morning or late afternoon light, which would not hit an object person inside a pit. A deep pit that a person can't get out of, and you can't see the person, doesn't get sunlight from the side, only from the sun being directly above. How can they see a shadow to determine its not a demon?
It does not have to be a deep pit. The Gemara in Bava Kama (end of 3a) states that Chazal knew that a pit 10 Tefachim deep is capable of killing the person who fell into it. According to Rav Chaim Naeh's measure, 10 Tefachim is 80 centimeters (31.5 inches). So somebody fell into such a pit and was mortally injured. Before he died he managed to scream out his instructions about the Get. Two people heard the screams. They rushed to the pit and saw a moving double-shadow (which was created by the person in the pit and was visible outside because the pit was so shallow) but by the time they actually got close enough to the see the person himself he had died. Is that not a plausible scenario?
If we're dealing with a very shallow pit, then why can't you tell when you get close whether or not its a demon just by examining the corpse? And what is the point of the pit, it would be the same halacha if you heard the person from afar saying I'm dying give my wife a get, and by the time you reach the person he's dead. A shallow pit is easy enough to pull the corpse out and examine it.
I'm sorry, but I still don't understand.
1) It seems that it is not always easy to distinguish between a demon and a human after they have died, especially as they might be mutilated. The Gemara in Chagigah 16a states that demons eat, drink, have children, and die like humans. The Shulchan Aruch (Even ha'Ezer 141:19) states that even though one pulled the corpse out of the pit and did not recognize it, one still may write the Get because this is considered a time of danger. The Shulchan Aruch continues and writes that some say that this applies only if he looks like a human. This suggests that even though one pulled him out of the pit, one still might not know if it is a human or a demon.
2) Tosfos (66a, DH v'Leichush) writes that demons are common only in pits or fields, or on the top of mountains, but they are unusual in town. If one hears someone cry out in town one does not need to be worried that he might be a demon.