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Halacha depends on the facts of a situation. Generally, when one cannot know the exact facts, he is expected to assume that they are as usual (rov), or as they were when last checked (chazaka). When one knows the facts, can he deliberately cause himself not to know them? We seem to find contradictory rulings in various branches of halacha.

For example, one cannot take a non-kosher spoon identical to other, kosher spoons, and hide it among them (Shulchan Aruch, Yore Dea 99:6), causing himself not to know the facts.

Moreover, there are times when one must strive to ascertain the facts, which seems to be even stronger than a prohibition on causing himself to not know the facts. For example, even though "shehakol" works on any food b'diavad, one can't eat something, saying "shehakol", if he doesn't know what sort of food it is (e.g., Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 50:2): he must ascertain the facts if he can. Similarly, as DoubleAA notes in a comment, one is required (SA, Orach Chayim 8:9) to inspect tzitzis before donning their garment, so as to be sure they are kosher, again a requirement to ascertain facts.

However, one can hide a dairy spoon among pareve spoons, causing himself not to know the facts. (I can't cite this at the moment, but am pretty sure of it.)

Also, someone not in her shiv'a n'kiyim should wear colored clothes so as to hide any potential spotting (SA YD 190:10), causing herself not to know the facts.

Also, I seem to recall (but cannot find) that bes din, in interviewing witnesses to the new moon, would be deliberately cursory if they knew (by calculation) the correct date, so as not to find out the witnesses were lying, again causing themselves not to know the facts.

So my question is: Are there specific parameters for when we say one can deliberately not know the facts? What is it about the first case I give, and others like it, that distinguishes it from the latter ones, and others like them?

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I suspect that in all of your latter cases, the deal is that a reality hasn't been created yet. There's no state of prohibition yet associated with the dairy spoon. The spotting only creates a prohibition if it's seen (I think). The new month is established by the confirmed testimony, not by the witnessing. –  Isaac Moses Jul 31 '12 at 21:51
    
@IsaacMoses, sounds plausible. I wonder whether it will hold up in other cases, or is sourced. –  msh210 Jul 31 '12 at 21:55
    
Just to add to Isaac's point, spotting is only temeah miderabanan. –  Double AA Jul 31 '12 at 22:06
    
I think the name for this kind of case is "Efshar LeVarer". See another example here he.wikisource.org/wiki/… –  Double AA Jul 31 '12 at 22:13
    
@DoubleAA, hm, yes, there are many cases we demand inspection, such as tolaim. I guess my question is more pointed when about cases that allow someone (or don't) to deliberately obscure knowledge. I'm editing out the shehakol case. –  msh210 Jul 31 '12 at 22:16
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1 Answer

I don't know about the spoon, but the thing about shiv'a n'kiyim is because spotting is entirely M'derabanan. (M'deraisa hargasha or time are what count.)

And the same Rabanim who said to watch out for spotting also said to wear colors.

So shiv'a n'kiyim is not a good example of this.

But I'll give you a better example: Mamzer. In Israel someone was ruled not a mamzer because there were no witnesses to it. The mother was not believed, even though of all people she is most likely to know.

Story from the Gemara Nidah 59:b, transcribed from "Family Purity by Rabbi Fishel Jacobs"

Once a woman came before Rabbi Akiva saying she saw a stain. "Perhaps you have a cut?" he asked. "Yes," she replied, "but it healed." "Perhaps it reopened?" asked Rabbi Akiva. "Yes, perhaps it did." Rabbi Akiva pronounced her pure.

Seeing the surprised look on his students' faces he explained: "The sages decreed that finding blood stains can render a woman niddah but this legislation itself was a stringency. Therefore specific decision with the laws of staining aren't to be decided in a vein of strictness, but rather in a spirit of leniency. This is so because on a scriptural level only actual menstruation renders a woman niddah, as it says, "When a woman experiences a menstrual discharge, it being blood which emerges from her body..."

Also see Mechaber 190:18, and Niddah 58:b; and Toras Hashlomom 190:14 which talks about the suggestion to wear colored clothing.

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Do you have a source for you second paragraph? –  Double AA Aug 1 '12 at 2:17
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I think that Mamzer case is actually a poor example. They are not purposefully obfuscating the situation; they just have no way of knowing. It's not like they are taking the kosher witnesses and hiding them. –  Double AA Aug 1 '12 at 2:18
    
@DoubleAA I will try to find a source. –  Ariel Aug 1 '12 at 3:30
    
@DoubleAA Yes, actually they are doing that. They simply refuse to let any witnesses give testimony (or refuse to find the witnesses). Wikipedia has an example: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamzer#Orthodox_Judaism –  Ariel Aug 1 '12 at 3:30
    
@DoubleAA Added sources. –  Ariel Aug 1 '12 at 4:22
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