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The Gemara Gittin 76, in a discussion of conditional divorces, says (transation from Soncino):

Our Rabbis taught: If a man said to his wife in the presence of two witnesses, 'Here is your Get, on condition that you look after my father for two years', and he subsequently said to her in the presence of two witnesses, 'Here is your Get on condition that you give me two hundred zuz', the second statement does not nullify the first, and she has the option of either waiting on the father or giving the husband the two hundred zuz.

If, however, he said to her in the presence of two witnesses, 'Here is your Get on condition that you give me two hundred zuz', and he subsequently said to her in the presence of two witnesses, 'Here is your Get on condition that you give me three hundred zuz', the second statement nullifies the first.

Nor can one of the first two witnesses and one of the second combine to form a pair [testifying that there is some sort of condition].

The Gemara goes on to ask:

To which ruling [does this last statement belong]? It cannot be the second one, because [the first condition there] is nullified? Rather it is the first one. But in this case it is self-evident? — You might think that all [the witnesses who can help] to establish that there was a condition can be joined together. We are therefore told [that this is not so].

Rashi explains the first issue saying,

אילימא אסיפא - פשיטא דאין אחד מן הראשונים כלום שהרי אפילו באו שניהם אינן כלום דהא בטיל ליה ההוא תנאה.‏

It's obvious that one of the first set of witnesses can't count for anything, since even if they were both here their witness wouldn't be worth anything being that the first condition is already nullified.

And now, for the question

Rashi says there that even if both of the first witnesses were here it would be meaningless. But, if we only have the first two witnesses, informing us of the original condition, how would we know of the second condition which overwrote the first?

And if we know through the second pair then we already know about the condition and there is no further purpose for the whole conversation.

  • I don't understand why you think that "we only have the first two". We're talking about the situation where we know of both pairs of witnesses - the first and second. Then, since the first testimony was nullified by the second, obviously we cannot take one from the first pair, since both first witnesses don't count anymore. – Cauthon Mar 17 '16 at 8:46
  • @Cauthon, thanks. My issue is that in order to disqualify the Eidus it would have to be based on real knowledge. How would we know of it reliably without hearing from the second pair? – HaLeiVi Mar 17 '16 at 13:29
  • We know about the first testimony from the first pair, and we know about the second from the second pair. There's no issue here of bad testimonies, so after both testimonies we say that the first is nullified (because of the existence of the second). Once we know the first is nullified, we do not allow one of them to testify with one of the second pair. – Cauthon Mar 17 '16 at 13:33
  • Rashi says that if both first come with the seconds, the first will be uneffective. – kouty Mar 17 '16 at 13:40
  • @Cauthon If we heard from both what is left to testify about? – HaLeiVi Mar 17 '16 at 14:02
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Rashi says there that even if both of the first witnesses were here it would be meaningless. But, if we only have the first two witnesses, informing us of the original condition, how would we know of the second condition which overwrote the first?

Rashi here means that we can assume that the Gemara would not mention the second group disqualifying the first unless they were available. That is, given that the event happened, then there must have been witnesses and we would know about it. That is, the wife could say "My husband said this in front of the witnesses as he handed it to me" so we know the second pair exists. Similarly, we cannot even consider the idea of one of each pair testifying unless we already know about both pairs.

Rashi is saying that the situation of one of each pair of witnesses being available to testify can only take place where the two pairs of witnesses (given all four are there) would be valid. That is, whichever condition that she chooses to fulfill would have a pair of witnesses that confirms that it is a valid condition. In that case, the two pairs do not contradict each other nor show that the other pair has been nullified.

That is why the case of one from each pair testifying has to be considered. The answer is that even though they each testify that a valid condition was specified, since they are different conditions, they cannot join together.

An example if the original condition was serve or pay then either is valid but there must be two witnesses who heard whichever part she actually fulfills.

  • You are explaining the Pshat of the Gemara and Rashi. My question is specifically on Rashi's mentioning how even both of the first would be useless. Without hearing the second pair, how can we disqualify the first? – HaLeiVi Mar 17 '16 at 13:26
  • @HaLeiVi I added to the post. – sabbahillel Mar 17 '16 at 15:29
  • As to the last sentence of your first paragraph, they are themselves telling us that one of them cancels the other. It's not that we disqualify them with outside information. – HaLeiVi Mar 17 '16 at 17:12
  • I started barking up this same tree but I really wonder if we'd say the same thing when it comes to other areas. Would we really ignore witness based on information from a litigant? – HaLeiVi Mar 17 '16 at 17:20
  • @HaLeiVi EFSHAR Be careful, Here there is no condradiction "הכחשה". The fact that the husband retracted his first words before Messirath Hageth makes the second pair a pair of change of Tnay. So rashi describe a masked Hava Amina: the second pair is no relevant to proof a fact that is accredited by the first pair, and Rashi says, if this H.A is not, KVH with one testimony of the first pair alone. – kouty Mar 17 '16 at 19:22
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Here is the text of Rashi.

ואין אחד מן הראשונים ואחד מן האחרונים מצטרפין אהייא אילימא אסיפא הרי בטל אלא ארישא פשיטא מהו דתימא כל לקיומא תנאי מצטרפין קמ"ל:‏

מהו דתימא - הואיל ומקיים גיטא בחד מהני תנאי הוו להו כחד תנאה וכל סהדי דמסהדי לקיומי תנאה דהאי גיטא ליצטרפו קא משמע לן:‏

If you read on accurately. To create a valuable group of witnesses we need two witnesses with a common testimony. In the first case (to help my father, to give 200 zuz) there is a condition anyway, what is the condition? or to help his father or to give 200 zuz. In Hava Amina each witness testimonies to the fact that there is a condition. But obviously if both groups of witnesses came they help to reach an exact description of the condition: a condition with 2 possibilities.

In the second case the witness from the second group testimonies about the annulation of the first condition.If the second witness says true, the event related by the first witness is irrelevant. Even if the two witnesses of the first group came together, according to the two witnesses of the second group, the first group is halachically irrelevant. After the Chazara, there is no first condition. So the value of one witness from the first group cannot be additioned to the value of one witness of the second group.

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It might be possible to understand Rashi as simply making the point of how worthless someone of the first pair of witness is. Even if they were both in front of us, their testimony wouldn't be worth anything. It wouldn't be necessary either once we have the second set (through whom we know of the redacted condition), but besides for being unnecessary we understand that they are nullified as well.

Even though this has no legal ramification, the point is illustrated that we can't use someone of the first set.

Now, once we get to this point, we can even find legal ramifications as well. If they become Zomemin these two of the first set would not be flogged, since not only are they extra but they aren't witness at all.

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