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Shabbat Parashat Naso| 5770

Pninat Mishpat: An Excuse for an Admission of Being Married

(condensed from Mishpetei Shaul, siman 10)

Case: A woman told a beit din that she got married to her first husband in the Caucus region with a civil marriage, after which an old Jew did a chupa for them. The marriage ended without a get. In a later court appearance she claimed that while the “chupa” was done for religious reasons, the old man was not a rabbi, there were no witnesses, no ring, and no ketuba, just a party with some of her husband’s friends, people who worked on Shabbat, and the ceremony just consisted of the old man mumbling some words.


Ruling: Rav Elyashiv and Rav Goldschmidt ruled that the woman is to be presumed to be married. She admitted to this status by saying that she had been married with a chupa and only with an amatla (explanation of why she made an admission that was not accurate) that convinces beit din can she rescind it. Her claim that, although there was a religious ceremony, it had no basic elements of halachic value, is not convincing. Rav Yisraeli argued with the aforementioned (and was the minority opinion), and we will now present his reasoning.

A classic case of amatla is when one rescinds his previous statement and explains why he made an incorrect statement. If one stands by his statement but just clarifies what he meant by it, he may do so. Thus, regarding money, one who said that a field is “from my fathers” can then say that he acquired it and meant that it is as securely his as if it had been his fathers’.

In this case, she only said that the old man made a chupa and did not say that there had been kiddushin (the “giving of the ring”), which brings on the crucial halachic circumstances. Thus, when she says there was no ring, she is not explicitly denying her previous statement. Although we hold that if there was known to have been a chupa, we would consider it a doubt whether or not there was kiddushin (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 26:2), the Pitchei Teshuva (ad loc.) says that this is only when the chupa included yichud (seclusion of the couple), which was never implied here. Some even say that if one said there was kiddushin, he can later say the kiddushin were before unfit witnesses. The Maharival says that she is believed to say that she did not previously know that the kiddushin she acknowledged were not valid.

One can posit based on apparent contradictions between sources [beyond our present scope] the following distinction. In a case where the woman should have realized that her story had impact on her status, she should have been careful with her words, and then she needs an explanation for why she is changing her story. In this case, it is clear from the development of the story that she was just telling a story in a casual manner, and therefore she can explain later what she meant in describing what happened.

Therefore, we do not view her original story of a chupa as admission that there had been halachic kiddushin.



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