1) BELIEVING A WOMAN WITH A "MIGU"
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses a case in which a woman testifies that there was a war in a certain place and her husband died there. Beis Din knows of the war only because of her testimony. The Gemara asks whether she is believed or not. On one hand, she has a "Migu" that if she wanted to lie, she would have said that there was peace in that place, and then she certainly would have been believed to say that her husband died there. On the other hand, perhaps a "Migu" is not effective in this case, because the concern is not that she is lying but that she assumes that her husband died without definite knowledge to that effect ("bid'Dami"). Since she thinks she is telling the truth and she is not attempting to lie, the logic of a "Migu" does not support her claim.
Why does the Gemara ask in the first place that she should be believed because of the "Migu"? There clearly is no concern that she is lying.
Moreover, if the logic of "Migu" applies when she testifies that her husband is dead, why is she not believed during a time of war or famine? During those times she also should be believed because of a "Migu" -- if she wanted to lie, she would have made a more effective claim: in a time of war she would have claimed that her husband died upon his bed, and in a time of famine she would have claimed that her husband died and she buried him.
(a) TOSFOS (114b, DH Mi) writes that the Gemara does not actually mean that she should be believed because of a "Migu." Indeed, she is not suspected of lying, and thus a normal "Migu" cannot raise her level of trustworthiness. Rather, the Gemara means that the "Migu" proves that the woman was careful to verify the facts of her testimony even though it was a time of war.
How exactly does the "Migu" prove that she was careful to verify the facts?
The woman could have come to Beis Din and said merely that her husband died, without adding any details. However, she added pertinent details to her testimony which Beis Din did not ask her to report (i.e. that there was a war, and that her husband died from the war). Beis Din would not have known these details without her testimony. Since she was so careful to point out the details because of her concern that they were necessary for the outcome of her testimony, Beis Din may assume that she was careful about her testimony and did not add anything based on conjecture.
This is the question of the Gemara here: Does her addition of facts in her testimony prove that she is telling the truth (like a "Migu") or not?
In contrast, when it is already known that there is a war or famine and the woman says merely that her husband died, she has no "Migu" that she could have said that he died upon his bed, or that he died and she buried him. In such a case, Beis Din knows that she is not trying to lie, and a "Migu" helps only a person who has reason to lie. Similarly, Beis Din has no proof that she verified the details of her testimony because she adds no pertinent details. Therefore, Beis Din suspects that she is testifying based on conjecture ("bid'Dami").
(b) The RASHBA, RITVA, and TOSFOS CHAD MI'KAMAI explain the "Migu" of the Gemara in a slightly different manner than Tosfos. They do not consider the fact that she informed Beis Din that there was a war as a "Migu" which proves that she verified the details of her testimony. Rather, she is believed for a different reason.
The "Migu" here does not state that if she is lying, she would have said a better lie. Rather, the "Migu" is that she did not have to say a lie at all; she could have said nothing about the war. Her omission of the fact that there was a war would not have been a lie, and yet it would have enabled Beis Din to believe her testimony that her husband died. Since she could have testified and been believed without lying at all, when she mentions that there was a war -- a fact which is to her detriment because Beis Din assumes that in such situations a woman only speculates about what happened ("bid'Dami") -- she should be believed. She informed Beis Din about the war only because she knows that her testimony is not based on conjecture and that her testimony is the absolute truth.
This explanation also addresses why no "Migu" applies when a woman says that her husband died due to the war or famine. When she says that her husband died, the "Migu" -- that she could have said that her husband died on his bed or that he died and she buried him -- does not enable Beis Din to believe her now, because Beis Din knows that the woman does not want to utilize those claims since she has no desire to lie.
(c) TOSFOS CHAD MI'KAMAI cites RABEINU MOSHE BAR YOSEF who says that the woman has no "Migu" that she could have said that her husband died on his bed during a war, because such testimony -- that he died a natural death during a time of war -- appears very dubious. (Tosfos mentions this logic apparently as a second answer to his question.)
However, Tosfos Chad mi'Kamai (and the HAGAHOS MAYIM CHAYIM on Tosfos) asks that this reason does not explain why she is not believed with a "Migu" that she could have said, "He died and I buried him." In both a case of war and a case of famine she should have a "Migu" that she could have said that she buried him. Such a "Migu" should be valid since there is no reason for her to be afraid to make such a statement.
The answer to this question may be as follows. A woman who knows that Beis Din does not accept her testimony about her husband's death during a time of war or famine does not think that they do not believe her because of her tendency to conjecture ("bid'Dami"). Rather, she thinks that Beis Din does not believe her during a time of war because they assume that she is using the war as a pretext to claim that her husband died. She thinks that Beis Din suspects her of lying; she does not realize that they do not accept her testimony only because she says "bid'Dami." Accordingly, when she says "he died and I buried him" there is no greater reason to believe her than when she says simply that he died; she thinks that what she says makes no difference, and that is why she does not mention that she buried him. (This approach may also explain why Tosfos does not ask the question from the "Migu" of "he died and I buried him" but only from the "Migu" of "he died on his bed.")
With regard to why the Gemara suggests that she has a "Migu" in the first place if she is not trying to lie at all, perhaps Rabeinu Moshe bar Yosef understands that even when she testifies "bid'Dami" and thinks that she is telling the truth, she knows that she is not saying the facts exactly as they are. She is aware that she did not actually witness the death of her husband; she is just so certain that he died that she allows herself to exaggerate so that no one will doubt what she says. She should be believed with a "Migu" because once she knows that she is altering the facts, she might alter the facts even more so that Beis Din will accept her testimony with no questions.
(According to this explanation, why is she believed to say, "He died and I buried him"? Once Beis Din suspects her of lying, Beis Din should suspect that she might lie about his burial as well! The answer is that a woman will not lie about what happened after her husband's death (i.e. his burial) in order to strengthen her testimony, because she does not realize that it will affect her testimony.) (M. KORNFELD)