Shabbat Parashat Toldot| 5763
Classical Agunah Issue –Testimony (II)
Those who are not able to testify on monetary issues because of g’zeirat hakatuv (Divine decree) are able to testify about the death of a man to allow his wife to remarry. Those who are not believed for fear of incorrect testimony are believed under certain circumstances. If they relate news of the death in a way which Chazal call meisee-ach l’fi tumo (very loosely translated as, speaking off the cuff), they are believed (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 17:3). The main difference between formal testimony and meisee-ach l'fi tumo is that in the former, the assumption is that the witness realizes that the woman will be relying on the testimony, and in the latter, he is relaying the information for the sake of the information, and it is accepted.
As could be expected, much discussion has arisen regarding gray areas between one who spoke as a meisee-ach l'fi tumo and one who intended for testimony (and would not be believed). Let us mention but one se’if in the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:15). If the witness began relating his information in an informal manner with insufficient detail and then is interrogated regarding details, he is believed. If the witness was approached directly for information, then he is not considered meisee-ach l'fi tumo.
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