More Discussions for this daf
1. laws of solitary witness 2. Hoda'as Piv vs. Eidim 3. Compare penalty money with Torah oath
4. Self-obligation to pay and Hazamah 5. Modeh b'Miktzas 6. Bringing a Chatas for a sin one denies

Robert Chesler asked:

Dear Rav Kornfeld and Rav Weiner:

My chavrusa and I have some questions.

Rav Chiya's kal vachomer in Bava Metzia 3a compared Situation #1 of a litigant admitting partial liability, making himself subject to an oath about the rest, to Situation #2 where the testimony of two witnesses established the partial liability.

Because of some technical problems, the comparison is later shifted to compare Situation #1 to Situation #3 where one witness says there is partial liability. What made #3 the better choice for the comparison with #1?

And doesn't it carry some weight that Rav Chiya chose to use the initial comparison of #1 and #2?

And does a single witness have extra power to induce an oath because the litigant that he supports is also a witness in a sense? Which is to say, if one litigant has one witness to support their claim, can the litigant count as a witness alongside the non-litigant witness, to compel the other litigant to take an oath?

Perhaps in the mishnah's case of two litigants holding a tallis, if the one litigant has a witness, such as who could testify that the first litigant picked up the tallis before the second litigant came along, perhaps the Beis Din would require a different oath upon the litigant who did not have a witness than in the case where the 2 litigants had equal weight of testimony?

Yet perhaps the witness even in such a case is not really adding anything if we might also say that at any time in a dispute one litigant could impose an oath upon the other litigant by offering to "raise the stakes" to the level of oath by offering to take an oath himself?

In which case if the litigant who picked up the tallis first were to offer to take an oath to that effect to the Beis Din, then perhaps the other litigant would be required to either take an oath in order to deny that claim?

That although Beis Din would not impose conflicting oaths, if one came forward wanting to take an oath, that Beis Din would require the other to take an oath or accept judgement which recognized the force of the first one's oath?

Thank you.


The Kollel replies:

Dear Robert:

Please note that the Gemara does not abandon the original Rav Chiya. Two witnesses on partial liability cause a oath on the remaining part. This is based on his kal vachomer which the Gemara then searches to know what it is. (Rav Chiya himself didn't explain this to us.)

Situation #3 is different from what you wrote. One witness helping one litigant causes the second litigant to swear directly against the witness even in full liability. He does not cause an oath on any remaining liability. See Rashi for the source of the oath against one witness -- the Torah gives one witness "strength", not to force payment like two witnesses, but to bring about an oath (if he doesn't swear, he pays).

The Gemara tries to learn situation #2 from situation #3 (as I explained it).

Please review again the flow of the Gemara. We'll be happy to write again.

The strength of the single witness is without the litigant's help. The litigant cannot function as a witness.

In the case of a single witness backing up one holder of a tallis, he doesn't swear because the witness helps him, and the other holder must swear.

There is no such thing as raising the stakes and forcing the other litigant to swear if he is not responsible to do so.

All the best,

Reuven Weiner