1) THE MITZVAH OF "CHINUCH"
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses whether or not Beis Din is required to stop a Katan from committing a transgression.
What is the Gemara's question? The general obligation of Chinuch requires that every Jewish child be taught to fulfill the Mitzvos and refrain from Aveiros. Why should the obligation of Chinuch not obligate Beis Din to stop a Katan from committing a transgression?
(a) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 17:28, and Hilchos Avel 3:12) explains that the Gemara is discussing the specific obligation of Beis Din. Beis Din has no obligation of Chinuch for a child. The obligation of Chinuch is the exclusive responsibility of the child's father (or parents; see Insights to Chagigah 6:1). When the father is present he certainly is obligated to stop the child from committing the Aveirah. The Gemara's question is whether Beis Din must stop the child when the father is not present (or when he is present but does not stop the child himself). This approach is cited by TOSFOS and the TOSFOS YESHANIM in Yoma (82a) in the name of the RI.
(b) The RASHBA and RITVA here, and TOSFOS in Shabbos (121a, DH Shema Mina), suggest that the Gemara is discussing a Katan who has not yet reached the age of Chinuch ("Katan she'Lo Higi'a l'Chinuch"). No obligation of Chinuch applies for such a Katan. Nevertheless, perhaps Beis Din is obligated to stop him from doing a forbidden act. The point of the Gemara's question is whether an Isur is more severe than a positive Mitzvah, such that Beis Din must prevent a child from committing an Isur even before he reaches the age at which his parents are required to instruct him to fulfill positive Mitzvos.
Although the Ritva accepts this ruling in practice, the Rashba rejects it. The Rashba cites the Gemara earlier (113a) which asks that a Chareshes married to a Kohen should be allowed to eat Terumah because she is like a Katan who is not obligated to observe the Mitzvos, and Beis Din is not required to stop such a person from committing an Aveirah. The Gemara implies that there is no difference between a Ketanah who has reached the age of Chinuch and a Ketanah who has not reached the age of Chinuch -- in both cases, Beis Din is not required to stop the Ketanah from committing an Aveirah.
(Perhaps the Ritva does not accept this proof because he differentiates between a Chareshes and a Ketanah who has reached the age of Chinuch: unlike a Ketanah, a Chareshes will never be obligated to do Mitzvos. See end of Insights to Yevamos 112:2.)
(c) The RASHBA concludes that the Gemara here refers to a child who has reached the age of Chinuch. The reason why the Mitzvah of Chinuch does not obligate Beis Din to prevent the child from committing an Aveirah is that the Mitzvah of Chinuch applies only to Mitzvos Aseh. The Gemara's question is whether there is a requirement of Chinuch for Mitzvos Lo Ta'aseh as well. This is also the view of TOSFOS in Nazir (28b), and of TOSFOS YESHANIM in Yoma (82a) in the name of RABEINU ELIEZER.
The reason why Chinuch should apply specifically to Mitzvos Aseh and not to Mitzvos Lo Ta'aseh is that more effort is required to teach a child to perform an action than to teach him to refrain passively from doing an action (see TERUMAS HA'DESHEN #94). (See also Insights to Shabbos 121:1.)
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 343) cites the Rambam's opinion (a) that only the father, and not Beis Din, is commanded to stop the child from sinning. The REMA cites the opinion of the Rambam (a) and the opinion of the Ritva and Tosfos (b). He refers to the Rambam's opinion as "Yesh Omrim." The Terumas ha'Deshen favors the opinion of the Rashba and Tosfos Yeshanim (c) who differentiate between a Mitzvas Aseh and a Lo Ta'aseh. (See also Insights to Nazir 29:1.)
2) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WAR AND FAMINE
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that a woman who claims that her husband died during a time of war is not believed. The Gemara says that the same applies during a time of famine, with one difference: In a time of war, a woman is believed to say that her husband died upon his bed. In a time of famine, a woman is not believed to say that her husband died upon his bed, unless she also says that she buried him.
RASHI (DH Meis u'Kevartiv) explains the reason for this difference. "In a time of war, she assumes that he might have run away and was saved (if she did not actually see him die, and thus she will not mistakenly assume that he died on his bed), but in a time of famine, she assumes that there is no way he could live (and thus she might mistakenly assume that he is dead)."
Rashi understands that there is less of a chance that a person will survive in a famine than in a war, because, as he explains, one stands a chance to escape from the dangers of war more easily than from the dangers of famine. What is the basis for such a difference? Why is it easier for one to run away from war than from famine? One who is sick and bedridden cannot run away from war any easier than he can run away from famine. Moreover, why will his wife assume, if he recovered from his sickness, that he died from the famine? The Gemara implies that the only concern is that the wife will testify to the husband's death "bid'Dami," based on conjecture, because she thinks that since he is almost dead he will certainly die soon (as in the incident with Rava and the "Nafefisa"). Why, then, would she testify that a hitherto healthy husband is dead just because there is a famine?
(a) The MAHARSHAL explains the words of Rashi as follows. When a woman says that her husband died a natural death on his bed, there indeed is no reason to suspect that she is testifying "bid'Dami." In times of famine, however, a woman is so certain that her husband cannot survive the famine that she is prepared to lie and say that she saw him die. Since she is so certain that her husband will die from the famine, Beis Din must suspect that she is lying when she claims that her husband died a natural death.
In times of war, she assumes that her husband is able to run away and escape death. Therefore, she will not say that he died unless she personally witnesses his death. In times of famine, when she thinks that it is impossible to escape death, she will lie and say that she saw him dead because she assumes that he will die soon in any case. However, she will not lie and say that she also buried him, because she has no reason to assume that he was buried if she in fact did not bury him.
RAV YAKOV EMDEN points out that this does not appear to be the Gemara's intention. The Gemara does not indicate that the wife is suspected of lying outright.
(b) The ME'IRI gives a simple difference between hunger and war. Hunger affects a person regardless of where he is or what he is doing. Even if he dies on his bed of other causes, his hunger hastens his death by compounding the effects of his illness. Therefore, in a famine his wife assumes that he died (and she testifies "bid'Dami") even if he was in bed due to illness or other ailments unrelated to hunger. In contrast, a war does not affect a person dying of natural causes, and thus his wife does not assume that he will die faster from natural causes during a time of war than at any other time.
Perhaps this is also the intent of Rashi (and not as the Maharshal explains his intent). When Rashi says that the woman assumes that her husband can run away from war, it means that she knows that he might recover from his illness in a time of war because the war itself does not affect a person dying from other causes. In a time of famine, hunger exacerbates disease, and therefore she assumes that her husband will not recover and will die from his illness. (Perhaps the word "Barach" (flee) in Rashi should be "Barya" (he became healthy), with an "Alef" instead of a "Ches." In a time of war, a woman assumes that her husband will recover, and that is why she does not attest that he died unless she knows for certain that he died.)
(c) The RITVA and other Rishonim disagree with Rashi and explain that the difference between the trustworthiness of the wife during war and her trustworthiness during famine is unrelated to the likelihood of her husband recovering from illness. The chances for recovery are equal in both situations. When the Gemara says that he is dying in bed, it does not mean that he is dying from natural causes, but rather that he is dying at home from battle-wounds.
If the chances of his death are equal in both cases, why is his wife believed during a time of war and not during a time of famine?
The answer is that the reason why a woman is not believed is that she testifies "bid'Dami" -- she assumes that her husband died without definite knowledge to that effect. Why does she not wait at her husband's side to see if he indeed dies? She does not wait because she fears for her own life, and therefore she flees! (This reasoning may be inferred from the Gemara's words with regard to armed robbers; see 115a and Rashi, DH Hasam.) Accordingly, even if her husband was wounded in war, since he is now on his bed and not on the battlefield the war no longer poses a danger. Hence, his wife will stay with him and will see whether or not he dies. There is no concern that she will testify "bid'Dami" in such a case. In contrast, in times of famine the danger posed by the famine affects them even when they are in the safety of their home. Therefore, the wife is still afraid that she will die herself from the famine if she stays there, and she flees before she witnesses her husband's fate.
3) A WOMAN'S TESTIMONY ABOUT HER HUSBAND'S BURIAL
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that although a woman is not believed to say that her husband died during a time of famine (even when she says that he died on his bed of natural causes), she is believed to say, "He died and I buried him." She is not believed to testify about his actual death because she is suspected of testifying based on conjecture ("bid'Dami"). In contrast, when she testifies that she buried him her testimony is based on fact and not conjecture.
It stands to reason that during a time of war, when the woman is believed to say that her husband died of natural causes, she certainly is believed to say, "He died [in the war] and I buried him." Indeed, this is the ruling of most Rishonim. The RAMBAM, however, rules differently. The Rambam rules that she is not believed to say that he died and she buried him (Hilchos Gerushin 13:2; see HAGAHOS HA'GRA here).
The Rishonim ask that the Rambam's ruling seems illogical. If a woman is believed when she says that she buried her husband in a time of famine because she does not testify based on conjecture ("bid'Dami"), she certainly should be believed in a time of war when there is no reason to suspect her of conjecture.
The Acharonim suggest a number of approaches to understanding the Rambam.
(a) The KESEF MISHNEH (Hilchos Gerushin 13:1) cites a lengthy Teshuvah of RABEINU ELIYAHU MIZRACHI (#20) who discusses many aspects of the Rambam's rulings with regard to Beis Din's acceptance of the testimony of a woman who says that her husband died.
The Mizrachi (towards the end of his Teshuvah) suggests that in a time of war, it is unusual to have time to bury the dead. It is even more unusual for a woman to bury her dead husband. Every person is concerned with trying to save his own life, and he flees from the battlefield and does not linger there to seek out and bury the dead. Consequently, there is strong reason to assume that the woman is lying when she says that she buried her husband who was killed in battle.
(According to this explanation, if she says that she buried him after the battle was over, she should be believed.)
(b) The Kesef Mishneh cites the MAHARI BEN LEV (2:16) who discusses many of the points raised by the Mizrachi and offers another explanation for the Rambam's ruling. He explains that although a woman is not suspected of lying outright, she is suspected of speculating ("bid'Dami") that her husband is dead and then supporting her conjecture with a lie.
This logic is sound (and is similar to what the Maharshal writes, as cited in the previous Insight). However, why does the same logic not apply in a time of famine, when she is believed to say that her husband died and she buried him? According to this logic, she should not be believed just as she is not believed in a time of war.
Perhaps the difference between famine and war can be understood based on the words of the LECHEM MISHNEH. The Lechem Mishneh writes that according to the Rambam, the woman is not believed -- when she says that her husband died and she buried him in a time of war or famine -- only when she says that he died as a result of the war or the famine. When she claims that her husband died on his bed, she is believed to say that she buried him, both in wartime and in famine.
Accordingly, she is suspected of lying to strengthen her claim only when she testifies about a death due to war or famine, in which case she is more certain that her husband died and is not afraid to lie and say that she buried him. When her husband did not die as a result of war or famine, she is not so certain that he died and thus she will not exaggerate and say that she buried him; rather, she will say the facts as they are.
(c) The LEVUSH writes that even when she says, "He died and I buried him," there is a concern that she only assumes that he was buried when she saw a body being buried, when in fact it was the body of someone else and not the body of her husband. She says that she buried him ("bid'Dami") because she does not verify the facts. In a time of famine there is no concern that she will make such a mistake about the burial, because she is less panic-stricken during famine than she is during a time of war. In a famine, she might mistakenly assume that her husband died, but she will not mistakenly assume that she saw him being buried when it was someone else she saw being buried. (See also Insights to Yevamos 116:1:c, and footnotes of Rav Aharon Yaffen to the Ritva, 14:3.)