Wednesday, December 10, 2008

eid echad testifying against a rov (I)

According to many Rishonim an eid echad cannot testify against a chazakah (see Yevamos 88). Would an eid echad be believed against a rov? For example, if I have three pieces of meat in front of me and only one is kosher, can I trust an eid echad who identifies the kosher piece?

As a general rule halacha tells us ruba v'chazakah -- ruba adif. When there is a clash between the evidence of rov and the evidence of chazakah, the evidence of rov is considered superior and more authoritative. It would stand to reason therefore that if an eid echad is not believed against the inferior form of evidence of chazakah, he would certainly not be believed against the superior evidence of rov.

The Achonim are bothered by this conclusion because it flies in the face of common practice. As the Pnei Yehoshua points out in a few places (e.g. see Kidushin 63b), we buy meat trusting an eid echad (the butcher) that it's kosher even though most of the meat in the world (rov) is treif.

My son brought to my attention an interesting sevara of R' Naftali Trop. One of the other proofs of the Pnei Yehoshua (quoted by R' N"T, but which I have not found in the Pnei Yehoshua yet) that an eid echad is believed is from the fact that we would accept an eid echad's testimony as to who the rightful owner of a lost object is even though there are many more people in the world (rov) who are not the owner than who are.

R' Naftali says this case is not a proof --this case of returning a lost object is completely different than the case of the mixed up pieces of meat that we started with. Can you figure out the difference?


  1. Anonymous2:42 PM

    Rav Chaim,

    Why can’t we say that in the case of the 3 pieces of meat, the “rov” would rule on the piece at issue that it is treif, but the witness testifies directly against that conclusion. By an aveidah, the “rov” would not rule that the item is ownerless, or owned by any other individual – so the ayd echad is not testifying k’neged the “rov” conclusion. The rov defines something different in the two cases.

    I like this chiluk because it goes to the rest of your posting (as one of those who spoke about bitachon, I feel constrained to defend what I had said – which by the way, sourced only in poskim, not in mussar seforim, for the exact reason that I was seeking practicality). How should I have trust in Hashem that all will be well ? The rov of people without income get hungry, and the rov look back on the unemployment as an unpleasant experience - ?

    First, bitachon reminds us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu does not run the world on “rov”, but on hashgacha pratis (it’s really no more difficult for Hashem to find me a job in the recession than it is in a boom economy). Rov is a mechanism to resolve a safek – I have a safek, because I cannot see what Hashem knows, but the din when I have a safek is “shaylinhu!” – ask Him. He has no safek, so I must look away from the Rov and focus on hashgacha pratis. This is what I need now (not sure why, but so it is).

    Second, even if this is a safek of Rov, we must focus on who has come to give aydus that this ordeal is for me – the ayd echad is HKBH Himself.


  2. Will get to the rov sevara next, but with respect to bitachon:

    >>>How should I have trust in Hashem that all will be well ?

    Even when one has a clear havtacha l'tova, one has no guarantee that it will work out well - as we learn in this week's parsha, even Ya'akov Avinu was afraid shema yigrom hacheit.

    >>>focus on hashgacha pratis

    The Rishonim (e.g. Rambam in M.N., Ramban as well - see Ramban to Braishis 18:19) indicate that such a level of personal hashgacha is guaranteed to tzadikim but not to the average Joe, so I am not sure that this is a reasonable or realistic expectation.

    Even assuming personal hashgacha, all that means is that we eat our just deserts as meted out by G-d through his intervention in the world. Most people hoping for Divine deliverance are asking for something far beyond what their merits would warrant. By what right do they deserve that?

    You have to learn that bitachon is a different mechanism.

  3. Bitachon is belief that all will be according to plan. That is likely not to match my notion of "well". The Chassidish / Novhardok model of bitchon, despite being the theme of many stories, is to my mind (speaking as someone who lost a child) simply unsupportable. A generation that still lives in the shadow of the Holocaust would have to be very uncritical in their thinking in order to adopt such an attitude.

    Note my use of the word "model". I'm not saying that universal hashgachah is false. Or that it's true. It's a model for understanding how Hashem runs the universe, and therefore necessarily a simplified description of the world according to our perception. I'm saying that this model should not be able to speak to us in this period given our experiences and memories. To do so requires being dishonest to very real feelings.

    As for the original topic... I would argue from R' Aqiva Eiger's position that rov is not a means of determining halakhah, but a means of determining metzi'us. Meat whose metzi'us state is "rov shuman" is kosher.

    Extrapolating: Metzi'us then, is not an objective question, but one of how the world appears to us -- how it is "nimtza". (And thus microscopic bugs have no metzi'us.)

    Returning to RAE, qavu'ah is a case where someone knew and established the metzi'us, and therefore the safeiq isn't in the realia, but in the din. And there one can't rely upon rov.

    Extrapolating again: Chazaqah demei'iqarah is that the state was once observed, and therefore would follow qavu'ah logic -- it's a way of establishing din. But chazarah disvarah is a rule of thumb, a law of nature, and therefore more like rov.

    Once you have eidus, you're out of the realm where rov is an issue. Perhaps this is the sevara behind terei kemei'ah.

    My basic point being, you can't compare eidus and chazaqah demei'iqarah with rov and chazaqah disvara. I would put them on different sides of RAE's divide -- they determine different things.

    I did a similar logical oddity.

    Migo bemaqom eidus lo amrinan, even in a case of terei uterei (conflicting eidus). (Obviously adding the baal din can't be better than terei kemei'ah! - Tosafos BQ 72b)

    Chazaqah demei'iqara, however, is believed bemaqom terei uterei. (Sheiv Shmaatesa 6:22)

    And yet:
    Migo vs chazaqah demei'iqara, we follow the migo. (Kiddushin 64a)


    PS: When did we get old enough that you can have a son who can argue sevaros? Sunrise, sunset...

  4. Started to follow up on the bitachon issue first before seeing youtr reply. Your bitachon model fits the Chazon Ish. I'll have to get back to the rov later.

    >>>PS: When did we get old enough that you can have a son who can argue sevaros? Sunrise, sunset...

    Tell me about it.

  5. Ischazek is not chazaka. Ischazek is an Anan Sahadei. That an Eid Echad is not believed against Ischazek=Anan Sahadei does not signify anything re Rov or Chazaka.

  6. My point was more that given the events of the last century, it is hard to teach someone the "everything will be good" (or "tracht gut vet zain gut") and still expect them to relate their ideals to their experience.

    I think it's telling that the CI wrote Emunah uBitachon shortly before his petirah (it was published posthumously). Any seifer on bitachon written in the late 1940s or early 50s had to reflect grappling with the Hashem's (seeming?) silence during the Holocaust.

    I have a frustration with the fact that aggadita (machashavah, mussar, etc..) is taught so superficially that the person is left ill equipped to relate it to real life. Compartmentalization is inevitable, since the two don't mesh.

    Thus my strong support for the CI's description of bitachon. Not that he is the inventor of a new shitah; we just tend to associate the position with the CI because he put in effort to actually argue against one position and for the other.