[The following rules apply with regard to] a woman who told her husband:1 "You divorced me in the presence of so and so and so and so," and those witnesses came and denied her statements.2 If afterwards, she and her husband departed [for a far-removed country] while peace prevails in the world at large,3 and then she returns and says, "My husband died," her word is not accepted.

[The rationale is] that she is considered to be a liar, who desires to free herself from her ties to her husband.4 If one witness comes and testifies on her behalf that her husband died, she should not [be granted permission to] marry; we fear that perhaps she hired him.5 If, however, she marries, nevertheless, she need not leave [her second husband], for there is a witness who supports her.


הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁאָמְרָה לְבַעְלָהּ גֵּרַשְׁתַּנִי בִּפְנֵי פְּלוֹנִי וּפְלוֹנִי וּבָאוּ אוֹתָן הָעֵדִים וְהִכְחִישׁוּהָ וְאַחַר כָּךְ הָלְכָה הִיא וּבַעְלָהּ וְשָׁלוֹם בָּעוֹלָם וּבָאָה וְאָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת. שֶׁזּוֹ הֻחְזְקָה שַׁקְרָנִית וְרוֹצָה לְהִשָּׁמֵט מִתַּחַת בַּעְלָהּ. בָּא עֵד אֶחָד וְהֵעִיד לָהּ שֶׁמֵּת בַּעְלָהּ לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא שֶׁמָּא הִיא שָׂכְרָה אוֹתוֹ. וְאִם נִשֵּׂאת לֹא תֵּצֵא שֶׁהֲרֵי יֵשׁ לָהּ עֵד:


Similarly, when there is a state of war in the world at large, if [a woman] comes and says, "My husband died in the war,"6 her word is not accepted, even where the couple's relationship is peaceful.

[The rationale is that we fear that] she will rely on a situation in which the likelihood is that he will die - e.g., the people in the front and at the rear were killed, and her husband is in the center. She might think, "Since these were killed, and those were killed, he was killed surely together with them."

For this reason, her word is not accepted, even if she says, "He died in the war, and I buried him."7 If, however, she says that he died in bed, her word is accepted.8


וְכֵן אִם הָיְתָה מִלְחָמָה בָּעוֹלָם וּבָאָה וְאָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי בַּמִּלְחָמָה אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהָיָה שָׁלוֹם בֵּינוֹ לְבֵינָהּ (שֶׁמָּא) תִּסְמֹךְ דַּעְתָּהּ עַל דְּבָרִים שֶׁרֻבָּן לְמִיתָה וְתֹאמַר מֵת כְּגוֹן שֶׁנֶּהֶרְגוּ הָרִאשׁוֹנִים וְהָאַחֲרוֹנִים שֶׁהָיָה בַּעְלָהּ בְּאֶמְצָעָן שֶׁהֲרֵי הִיא אוֹמֶרֶת מֵאַחַר שֶׁנֶּהֶרְגוּ אֵלּוּ וְאֵלּוּ נֶהֱרַג הוּא בִּכְלָלָן. לְפִיכָךְ אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת וַאֲפִלּוּ אָמְרָה מֵת בַּמִּלְחָמָה וּקְבַרְתִּיו. אֲבָל אִם אָמְרָה מֵת עַל מִטָּתוֹ נֶאֱמֶנֶת:


If we are not aware of a war raging in the world, and a woman comes and says: "There was a war in a particular county and [my husband] died in that war," a priori, she should not marry. If, however, she marries, she need not leave [her second husband].9


לֹא הֻחְזְקָה מִלְחָמָה בָּעוֹלָם וּבָאָה וְאָמְרָה מִלְחָמָה הָיְתָה בְּמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי וּמֵת בַּמִּלְחָמָה לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא לְכַתְּחִלָּה. וְאִם נִשֵּׂאת לֹא תֵּצֵא:


Similarly, if a woman says, "My husband died in a landslide," her word is not accepted. In the same vein, if an area was overrun by swarms of snakes and scorpions, and she says, "He was bitten by a snake - or a scorpion - and died," her word is not accepted.10 [The rationale is] that she might rely on the fact that most men die because they were bitten in this manner, [and make a statement without knowing for certain whether or not her husband died].


וְכֵן הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁאָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי תַּחַת הַמַּפּלֶת אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת. וְכֵן אִם הָיָה שִׁלּוּחַ נְחָשִׁים וְעַקְרַבִּים וְאָמְרָה נְשָׁכוֹ נָחָשׁ אוֹ עַקְרָב וָמֵת אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת. שֶׁמָּא תִּסְמֹךְ דַּעְתָּהּ עַל רֹב אֲנָשִׁים שֶׁמֵּתוּ כָּךְ בִּנְשִׁיכָה:


If [a woman] says, "They filled the house - or the cave - [in which we were hiding] with smoke; he died, but I was saved," her word is not accepted. [It is possible that] just as she [was saved] by a miracle, he could have been [saved by a miracle].

If it is a year of famine, and she says: "My husband died," her word is not accepted.11 [If she says,] "He died and I buried him," her word is accepted.12


אָמְרָה עִשְּׁנוּ עָלֵינוּ בַּיִת אוֹ מְעָרָה הוּא מֵת וַאֲנִי נִצַּלְתִּי אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת. כְּשֵׁם שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה לָהּ נֵס כָּךְ נַעֲשָׂה לוֹ. הָיְתָה שְׁנַת רְעָבוֹן וְאָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי אֵינָהּ נֶאֱמֶנֶת. מֵת וּקְבַרְתִּיו נֶאֱמֶנֶת:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


If [a woman] says, "Gentiles - or thieves - attacked us. He was slain, and I was saved," her word is accepted, because it is not common for attackers to kill women.13 Thus, [it is not fitting] to say: Just as she was saved, he was saved.


אָמְרָה נָפְלוּ עָלֵינוּ עַכּוּ״‎ם אוֹ לִסְטִים הוּא נֶהֱרַג וַאֲנִי נִצַּלְתִּי נֶאֱמֶנֶת. שֶׁאֵין דַּרְכָּן לַהֲרֹג אֶת הַנָּשִׁים כְּדֵי שֶׁנֹּאמַר כְּשֵׁם שֶׁנִּצְּלָה הִיא כָּךְ נִצַּל הוּא:


If an epidemic was raging throughout the world, and [a woman] says, "My husband died," her word is accepted.14 For [there is no widely accepted likelihood] with regard to a plague; everyone knows that in a time of plague some die and some live. And it is possible that strong young men will die from the plague, and elderly infirm people will be saved. And therefore, we do not suspect that she relied on the likelihood that most people died.


הָיָה דֶּבֶר בָּעוֹלָם וְאָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי נֶאֱמֶנֶת שֶׁדָּבָר פָּשׁוּט בְּפִי כָּל אָדָם שֶׁבִּשְׁנַת הַדֶּבֶר זֶה חַי וְזֶה מֵת. וְאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיָּמוּתוּ בַּדֶּבֶר נְעָרִים חֲזָקִים וְיִנָּצְלוּ הַזְּקֵנִים הַחוֹלִים. וּלְפִי זֶה אֵין חוֹשְׁשִׁין לָהּ שֶׁמָּא סָמְכָה דַּעְתָּהּ עַל רֹב הַמֵּתִים:


It has already been stated15 that a witness who [did not see evidence of the person's death himself, but who] testifies after hearing the statements of another person is acceptable with regard to [the verification of the death of] a woman's [husband].

When does this apply? When the person heard a mentally competent adult - even a servant or a maid -servant - say that so and so died. If, however, a person heard from a mentally incompetent person or from a minor16 that an individual died, he may not testify [to that effect], nor do we rely on their statements.


כְּבָר אָמַרְנוּ שֶׁעֵד מִפִּי עֵד כָּשֵׁר לְעֵדוּת אִשָּׁה. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁשָּׁמַע מִפִּי בֶּן דַּעַת שֶׁמֵּת פְּלוֹנִי כְּגוֹן עֶבֶד אוֹ שִׁפְחָה. אֲבָל אִם שָׁמַע מִפִּי שׁוֹטֶה אוֹ מִפִּי קָטָן אֵינוֹ מֵעִיד וְאֵין סוֹמְכִין עַל דִּבְרֵיהֶם:


[There is an exception to the above principle.] If a person heard children saying: "We just came from so and so's funeral. These and these many people recited eulogies. The sage so and so and these and these others followed the bier. And this and this is what happened to the bier,"17 the person may offer this as testimony [regarding a man's death], and on this basis permission is granted for [the deceased's] wife to remarry.


שָׁמַע מִן הַתִּינוֹקוֹת שֶׁהֵן אוֹמְרִין עַכְשָׁו בָּאנוּ מֵהֶסְפֵּד פְּלוֹנִי כָּךְ וְכָךְ סַפְדָּנִין הָיוּ שָׁם וּפְלוֹנִי הֶחָכָם וּפְלוֹנִי עָלָה אַחַר מִטָּתוֹ כָּךְ וְכָךְ עָשׂוּ בְּמִטָּתוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה מֵעִיד מִפִּיהֶן עַל פִּי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן וּמַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ:


When a Jew says, "I killed so and so," [the man's wife] is allowed to remarry on the basis of his testimony. [The rationale is] a person's own testimony cannot be used to incriminate him. [Therefore, he is not disqualified, and] he did testify that [the husband] died.18


יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁאָמַר הָרַגְתִּי אֶת פְּלוֹנִי הֲרֵי זוֹ תִּנָּשֵׂא עַל פִּיו שֶׁאֵין אָדָם מֵשִׂים עַצְמוֹ רָשָׁע וַהֲרֵי הֵעִיד שֶׁמֵּת:


It has already been stated19 that statements made by a gentile in the course of conversation can be used as a basis to grant [a woman] permission to remarry.

What is implied? If a gentile exclaimed: "How terrible is it that so and so died! He was so nice! He did so much for me!" Or if the gentile was talking and said, "We were traveling on our way, and to our amazement, so and so who was traveling with us fell down and died. We all were amazed that he died so suddenly." If he makes statements of this nature that indicate that he has no intention of giving testimony,20 his word is accepted.


כְּבָר אָמַרְנוּ שֶׁהָעַכּוּ״‎ם שֶׁהֵסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ מַשִּׂיאִין עַל פִּיו. כֵּיצַד. הָיָה עַכּוּ״‎ם מֵסִיחַ וְאָמַר אוֹי לִפְלוֹנִי שֶׁמֵּת כַּמָּה הָיָה נָאֶה וְכַמָּה טוֹבָה עָשָׂה עִמִּי. אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה מֵסִיחַ וְאוֹמֵר כְּשֶׁהָיִיתִי בָּא בַּדֶּרֶךְ נָפַל פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁהָיָה מְהַלֵּךְ עִמָּנוּ וָמֵת וּתְמֵהַנִי לְדָבָר זֶה כֵּיצַד מֵת פִּתְאֹם וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ שֶׁהֵן מַרְאִין שֶׁאֵין כַּוָּנָתוֹ לְהָעִיד הֲרֵי זֶה נֶאֱמָן:


When a Jew hears a gentile [say] in the course of conversation [that a man died], he may testify that he heard these statements, and the man's wife may be granted permission to remarry on this basis.

When does the above apply? When there is no rationale to explain [why the gentile would make these statements if they were not true]. If, however, there could be a reason for the gentile's statements, and he is making them with another intent in mind [his word is not accepted].

For example, [a gentile] told a Jew, "Do such and such for me, or else I will kill you, as I killed so and so,"21 he is not making these statements in the course of conversation, for his intent is to cast fear upon his listener.


יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁשָּׁמַע מֵעַכּוּ״‎ם הַמֵּסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ מֵעִיד שֶׁשָּׁמַע מִמֶּנּוּ וְתִנָּשֵׂא עַל פִּיו. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה שָׁם אֲמַתְלָא. אֲבָל אִם הָיְתָה שָׁם אֲמַתְלָא בְּשִׂיחַת הָעַכּוּ״‎ם שֶׁמָּא לֹא יִתְכַּוִּן אֶלָּא לְדָבָר אַחֵר. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר לְאֶחָד עֲשֵׂה לִי כָּךְ וְכָךְ שֶׁלֹּא אֶהֱרֹג אוֹתְךָ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהָרַגְתִּי פְּלוֹנִי. אֵין זֶה מֵסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ שֶׁכַּוָּנָתוֹ לְהַטִּיל אֵימָה עַל זֶה:


Similarly, if a person heard the gentile legal authorities say, "We executed so and so," their word is not accepted.22 For they will use falsehood to reinforce their position and to cast fear [among the populace]. The same applies in all similar instances.


וְכֵן אִם שָׁמַע מֵעֶרְכָּאוֹת שֶׁל עַכּוּ״‎ם שֶׁאָמְרוּ הָרַגְנוּ פְּלוֹנִי אֵינָם נֶאֱמָנִין. שֶׁהֵן מַחֲזִיקִין יְדֵי עַצְמָן בְּכָזָב כְּדֵי לְהַטִּיל אֵימָה. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ:


When, at first, a gentile made statements in the course of conversation,23 and afterwards was asked questions [by Jews] until all the details [of the person's death] were disclosed,24 his statements are accepted, and the woman is granted permission to remarry on this basis.


עַכּוּ״‎ם שֶׁהֵסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ תְּחִלָּה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁשָּׁאֲלוּ אוֹתוֹ אַחַר כָּךְ וּבְדָקוּהוּ עַד שֶׁיְּפָרֵשׁ כָּל הַמְאֹרָע הֲרֵי זֶה נֶאֱמָן וּמַשִּׂיאִין עַל פִּיו:


It has already been stated25 that a witness who testifies: "I heard that so and so died,"26 is acceptable with regard to testimony [concerning] a woman's [husband], and the woman may remarry on this basis. [This applies even when] he heard the statements from a woman or from a servant.

If, however, a witness, a woman or a servant says: "So and so died; I saw that he died," the witness should be asked:27 "What did you see? How do you know that he died? " If the witness responds with clear [testimony], his word is accepted. If the witness replies, describing a situation in which it is highly likely that the person would have died, we do not grant his wife license to remarry. For testimony concerning a man's death [can be accepted] only when [the witness can say] with certainty that he saw the man die, and there is no doubt concerning the matter.


כְּבָר הוֹדַעְנוּ שֶׁהָעֵד שֶׁאָמַר שָׁמַעְתִּי שֶׁמֵּת פְּלוֹנִי אֲפִלּוּ שָׁמַע מֵאִשָּׁה שֶׁשָּׁמְעָה מֵעֶבֶד הֲרֵי זֶה כָּשֵׁר לְעֵדוּת אִשָּׁה וּמַשִּׂיאִין עַל פִּיו. אֲבָל אִם אָמַר הָעֵד אוֹ הָאִשָּׁה אוֹ הָעֶבֶד מֵת פְּלוֹנִי וַאֲנִי רְאִיתִיו שֶׁמֵּת. שׁוֹאֲלִין אוֹתוֹ הֵיאַךְ רָאִיתָ וּבְמַה יָּדַעְתָּ שֶׁמֵּת. אִם הֵעִיד בְּדָבָר בָּרוּר נֶאֱמָן וְאִם הֵעִיד בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁרֻבָּן לְמִיתָה אֵין מַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁאֵין מְעִידִין עַל הָאָדָם שֶׁמֵּת אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁרָאוּהוּ שֶׁמֵּת וַדַּאי וְאֵין בּוֹ סָפֵק:


What is implied? If a man was seen falling into the sea, even if he fell into the ocean, testimony should not be offered that the man died, because it is possible that he was cast away or escaped [from the sea] from an [unseen] place.28

If he fell into a body of water with definite boundaries - e.g., a cistern or a cavern in which a person standing [at the edge] could see the entire periphery - testimony that the man died may be offered, and license may be granted for his wife to remarry, provided [the witnesses] remained there for a period of time beyond which it was impossible for the man to live,29 and saw that he did not ascend [from the body of water].

Similarly, if he was cast into the sea and a net was cast in after him, and a limb that a person would not be able to live without was raised up,30 testimony may be offered that he died, and his wife may [be granted license] to remarry.31


כֵּיצַד. רָאוּהוּ שֶׁנָּפַל לַיָּם אֲפִלּוּ טָבַע בַּיָּם הַגָּדוֹל אֵין מְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁמֵּת שֶׁמָּא יָצָא בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר. וְאִם נָפַל לְמַיִם מְקֻבָּצִים כְּגוֹן בּוֹר אוֹ מְעָרָה שֶׁעוֹמֵד וְרוֹאֶה כָּל סְבִיבָיו וְשָׁהָה כְּדֵי שֶׁתֵּצֵא נַפְשׁוֹ וְלֹא עָלָה מְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁמֵּת וּמַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ. וְכֵן אִם הִשְׁלִיכוּהוּ בַּיָּם וְהִשְׁלִיכוּ מְצוּדָה אַחֲרָיו וְהֶעֱלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אֵיבָר שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּנָּטֵל מִן הַחַי וְיִחְיֶה הֲרֵי זֶה מְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁמֵּת וּמַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ:


If [a man] fell into a lair of lions, leopards or the like, testimony that he died may not be offered,32 for it is possible that they will not eat him. If he fell into a pit of snakes and scorpions,33 into a furnace,34 or into a boiling caldron filled with wine or oil,35 or his esophagus and windpipe were slit - either in their majority36 or in their entirety - testimony may be offered that he died, even if he arose and fled. For [in these situations], he ultimately will die.

Similar laws apply in all situations in which it is impossible that the person will live, but rather will die shortly afterwards. Testimony may be offered that he [died].


רָאוּהוּ שֶׁנָּפַל לְגֹב אֲרָיוֹת וּנְמֵרִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אֵין מְעִידִין עָלָיו. אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכְלוּהוּ. נָפַל לַחֲפִירַת נְחָשִׁים וְעַקְרַבִּים אוֹ לְתוֹךְ כִּבְשַׁן הָאֵשׁ אוֹ לְתוֹךְ יוֹרָה רוֹתַחַת מְלֵאָה יַיִן אוֹ שֶׁמֶן אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁחֲטוּ בּוֹ שְׁנֵי סִימָנִין אוֹ רֻבָּן אֲפִלּוּ עָמַד וּבָרַח מְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁמֵּת. שֶׁוַּדַּאי סוֹפוֹ לָמוּת. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה מִדְּבָרִים שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּחְיֶה אֶלָּא יָמוּת מִיָּד בִּזְמַן קָרוֹב הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מְעִידִין עָלָיו:


If we see a man hanging37 and a vulture eating from his body, testimony may not be offered that he died. [This applies] even if he was stabbed with a lance, or arrows were shot at him.38

If, however, we see the vulture eating from a place that would cause him to die - e.g., his brain, his heart or his intestines, one may offer testimony that he died.


רָאוּהוּ צָלוּב וְהָעוֹף אוֹכֵל בּוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁדְּקָרוּהוּ אוֹ יָרוּ בּוֹ חִצִּים אֵינוֹ מֵעִיד עָלָיו שֶׁמֵּת. וְאִם רָאוּ הָעוֹף אוֹכֵל בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁהַנֶּפֶשׁ יוֹצְאָה בִּנְטִילָתוֹ כְּגוֹן מֹחוֹ אוֹ לִבּוֹ אוֹ בְּנֵי מֵעָיו הֲרֵי זֶה מֵעִיד עָלָיו שֶׁמֵּת:


[The following laws apply when] one witness testifies, "I saw that he died in a war or in a landslide, or that he drowned in the ocean39 and died," or mentioned other causes that would probably lead to death. If he says, "I buried him," his statements are accepted,40 and she may be granted permission to remarry. If he did not say, "I buried him," she should not be granted permission to remarry. If, however, she remarries, she need not leave [her second husband].41


עֵד אֶחָד אוֹמֵר רְאִיתִיו שֶׁמֵּת בַּמִּלְחָמָה אוֹ בְּמַפּלֶת אוֹ שֶׁטָּבַע בַּיָּם הַגָּדוֹל וָמֵת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ שֶׁרֻבָּן לְמִיתָה אִם אָמַר קְבַרְתִּיו נֶאֱמָן וְתִנָּשֵׂא עַל פִּיו. וְאִם לֹא אָמַר קְבַרְתִּיו לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא. וְאִם נִשֵּׂאת לֹא תֵּצֵא:


Similarly, if one witness42 testifies that a woman's husband drowned in the sea or in a body of water that does not have a defined periphery, he did not emerge [from the water], all traces of him have disappeared,43 and his existence has been forgotten, the woman should not [be granted license to] remarry on this basis, as we have explained.44

If, however, she remarries,45 she need not be forced to leave her second husband. Even if a gentile said in the course of conversation, "So and so drowned at sea," and on this basis [the man's wife] remarried, she need not be forced to leave her second husband. Nevertheless, [in the above instances,] the sage who gave permission for her to remarry should be placed under a ban of ostracism.46


וְכֵן הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁהֵעִיד לָהּ עֵד אֶחָד שֶׁטָּבַע בַּעְלָהּ בַּיָּם אוֹ בְּמַיִם שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם סוֹף וְלֹא עָלָה וְאָבַד זִכְרוֹ וְנִשְׁתַּכַּח שְׁמוֹ הֲרֵי זוֹ לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא עַל עֵדוּת זוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְאִם נִשֵּׂאת לֹא תֵּצֵא. וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיָה הָעַכּוּ״‎ם שֶׁהֵסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ וְאָמַר טָבַע פְּלוֹנִי בַּיָּם וְנִשֵּׂאת עַל פִּיו הֲרֵי זוֹ לֹא תֵּצֵא. וְחָכָם שֶׁהוֹרָה לְהַשִּׂיאָהּ לְכַתְּחִלָּה מְנַדִּין אוֹתוֹ:


[The following rules apply when the body of a man who was] slain or died of natural causes is discovered. If his forehead, his nose and his facial features are intact, and his identity can be established based on them,47 testimony concerning his death may be offered.

If, however, any of these identifying factors is missing, even if there are signs [through which he can be identified]48 on his body and on his personal artifacts,49 even if one of those signs is a mole,50 testimony concerning his death should not be offered.

When does [the leniency mentioned in the first clause] apply? When the corpse was seen within three days of his murder or death. After three days have passed, testimony concerning his death should not be offered, because his facial features [may have] become distorted.51


מְצָאוּהוּ הָרוּג אוֹ מֵת. אִם פַּדַּחְתּוֹ וְחָטְמוֹ וּפַרְצוּף פָּנָיו קַיָּמִין וְהִכִּירוּהוּ בָּהֶן שֶׁהוּא פְּלוֹנִי מְעִידִין עָלָיו. וְאִם נִטַּל אֶחָד מֵאֵלּוּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָהֶם סִימָנִין בְּגוּפוֹ וּבְכֵלָיו וַאֲפִלּוּ שׁוּמָא אֵין מְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁמָּא אַחֵר הוּא. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁרָאוּהוּ בְּתוֹךְ שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים אַחַר הֲרִיגָתוֹ אוֹ אַחַר מִיתָתוֹ. אֲבָל אַחַר שְׁלֹשָׁה אֵין מְעִידִין עָלָיו מִפְּנֵי שֶׁפַּרְצוּף פָּנָיו מִשְׁתַּנֶּה:


[The following rules apply when a man] drowned at sea and was cast out onto dry land. Although several days have passed, if his facial features and his nose can be identified,52 testimony may be offered with regard to his [death], for in water the features of a corpse do not become distorted until an extremely long period of time has passed.53

If the corpse lay on dry land for twelve hours54 after being cast out of the sea and the corpse became bloated,55 testimony may not be offered because [his features] have been distorted.56 When we look at the form [of a corpse] in order to identify [a man] to offer testimony with regard to his [death], [it is acceptable if] we look at [the corpse] even by candlelight or by moonlight.57


טָבַע בַּיָּם וְהִשְׁלִיכוֹ הַיָּם לַיַּבָּשָׁה אֲפִלּוּ אַחַר כַּמָּה יָמִים. אִם הִכִּירוּ פָּנָיו וְחָטְמוֹ מְעִידִין עָלָיו, שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִשְׁתַּנֶּה בַּמַּיִם אֶלָּא לְאַחַר זְמַן מְרֻבֶּה. וְאִם שָׁהָה בַּיַּבָּשָׁה אַחַר שֶׁהֻשְׁלַךְ מִן הַיָּם י״‎ב שָׁעוֹת וְנִתְפַּח אֵין מְעִידִין עָלָיו שֶׁהֲרֵי נִשְׁתַּנָּה. כְּשֶׁמִּסְתַּכְּלִין בְּצוּרָתוֹ כְּדֵי לְהַכִּירוֹ לְהָעִיד עָלָיו בּוֹדְקִין אוֹתוֹ וְרוֹאִין אוֹתוֹ אֲפִלּוּ בַּלַּיְלָה לְאוֹר הַנֵּר אוֹ לְאוֹר הַלְּבָנָה:


[The following rule applies when] we see a person at a distance and he says that he is so and so, the son of so and so, or so and so from a particular place,58 and that he has been bitten by a snake and is dying. Even if we go [to the place where he was standing], find [the corpse and discover] that its features have changed to the extent that it is no longer distinguishable, we may, nevertheless, [grant license for] his wife [to] remarry.59


רָאוּ אֶחָד עוֹמֵד מֵרָחוֹק וְאוֹמֵר שֶׁהוּא פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי אוֹ פְּלוֹנִי מִמָּקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי וַהֲרֵי נְשָׁכוֹ נָחָשׁ וַהֲרֵי הוּא מֵת וְהָלְכוּ וּמְצָאוּהוּ שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּנָּה וְלֹא הִכִּירוּהוּ הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ:


[A person's testimony is effective in the following instance.] A person came and said: "A court - or people - told me, when you arrive at this and this place,60 tell them that Yitzchak, the son of Michael, died." When this person came to that place and delivered the message - although he is not aware of the identity [of the deceased] - since [the people at that place] do know his identity, [the deceased's] wife [may be granted] permission [to remarry]. We do not presume that perhaps it was another person named Yitzchak, the son of Michael, who died.61


בָּא אֶחָד וְאָמַר אָמְרוּ לִי בֵּית דִּין אוֹ אֲנָשִׁים כְּשֶׁתֵּלֵךְ לְמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי אֱמֹר לָהֶם שֶׁמֵּת יִצְחָק בֶּן מִיכָאֵל. וּבָא הַשָּׁלִיחַ וְאָמַר לָנוּ. וְהַשָּׁלִיחַ אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ מִי הוּא זֶה. הוֹאִיל וְאָנוּ יוֹדְעִים פְּלוֹנִי הַיָּדוּעַ בְּשֵׁם זֶה הֲרֵי אִשְׁתּוֹ מֻתֶּרֶת וְאֵין אוֹמְרִין שֶׁמָּא יִצְחָק בֶּן מִיכָאֵל אַחֵר הוּא שֶׁמֵּת:


When a Jew and a gentile left from our [location] for a different destination, and the gentile came and said in the course of conversation: "The man who left [this city] with me died," [the deceased's] wife [may be granted license to] remarry. [This applies] even when the gentile does not know the identity of the man, provided he says: "I buried him."62


יָצָא עַכּוּ״‎ם וְיִשְׂרָאֵל מֵעִמָּנוּ לְמָקוֹם אַחֵר. וּבָא הָעַכּוּ״‎ם וְהֵסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ וְאָמַר אִישׁ שֶׁיָּצָא עִמִּי מִכָּאן מֵת. מַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הָעַכּוּ״‎ם יוֹדֵעַ אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ. וְהוּא שֶׁיֹּאמַר קְבַרְתִּיו:


Similarly, when ten men were taken together while shackled in chains or tied by heavy ropes used to lead camels63 or the like,64 from one place to another,65 and a gentile came and said in the course of conversation that all ten men who went out while tied died, and he buried them,66 their wives [may be granted license to] remarry.


וְכֵן אִם יָצְאוּ עֲשָׂרָה בְּנֵי אָדָם כְּאֶחָד מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם וְהֵן אֲסוּרִין בְּקוֹלָר אוֹ נוֹשְׂאִים גְּמַלִּים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ. וְהֵסִיחַ הָעַכּוּ״‎ם לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ וְאָמַר שֶׁעֲשָׂרָה אֲנָשִׁים שֶׁהָלְכוּ מִמָּקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי לְמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי וְהֵם נוֹשְׂאִים כָּךְ וְכָךְ מֵתוּ כֻּלָּם וּקְבַרְנוּם מַשִּׂיאִין אֶת נְשׁוֹתֵיהֶן:


If a Jew says: "A Jewish man died in our company in this and this place. These and these were his facial features. These and these were signs of identification," we do not make a guess and say that it was probably so and so.67 Rather [the person is not considered to have died] until a witness mentions his name and the name of his city.68

If, however, [a person]69 says: "One of the inhabitants70 of the city of so and so journeyed out in our company and died," we check in that city. If only one man left the city, his wife [may be given permission to] marry.


יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁאָמַר מֵת אִישׁ יְהוּדִי עִמָּנוּ בְּמָקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי כָּךְ וְכָךְ צוּרָתוֹ וְכָךְ הָיוּ סִימָנָיו. אֵין אוֹמְרִים בְּאֹמֶד הַדַּעַת פְּלוֹנִי הוּא עַד שֶׁיָּעִיד הָעֵד שֶׁהוּא פְּלוֹנִי וְיַזְכִּיר שְׁמוֹ וְשֵׁם עִירוֹ. אֲבָל אִם אָמַר אֶחָד יָצָא עִמָּנוּ מֵעִיר פְּלוֹנִית וּמֵת. מְחַפְּשִׂין בְּאוֹתָהּ הָעִיר אִם לֹא יָצָא מִשָּׁם אֶלָּא הוּא תִּנָּשֵׂא אִשְׁתּוֹ:


[The following rule applies if] a document was found saying: "So and so, the son of so and so, died," or "So and so, the son of so and so, was killed": If it can be determined that this was written71 by a Jew,72 [the man's] wife [may be given permission to] marry.73

Similarly, when a person has lost the power of speech, and he was tested, as he would be tested with regard to a get,74 and it is proven that he is mentally sound, if he writes that so and so died, we may rely on his writing, and [the deceased's] wife [may be given permission to] marry.75

We do not follow the standard process of interrogation76 with regard to witnesses who testify [concerning the death of] a woman's [husband]. For our Sages did not speak about establishing stringencies regarding such matters. [Indeed, their approach was characterized by] leniency in order to permit a woman without a husband [to remarry].77


מָצְאוּ כָּתוּב בִּשְׁטָר מֵת אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי אוֹ נֶהֱרַג פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי וְנוֹדַע שֶׁזֶּה כָּתַב יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי זֶה תִּנָּשֵׂא אִשְׁתּוֹ. וְכֵן מִי שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּתֵּק וּבָדְקוּ אוֹתוֹ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁבּוֹדְקִין לְגִטִּין וְנִמְצֵאת דַּעְתּוֹ מְכֻוֶּנֶת וְכָתַב שֶׁמֵּת פְּלוֹנִי בֶּן פְּלוֹנִי סוֹמְכִין עַל כְּתִיבָתוֹ וְתִנָּשֵׂא. וְאֵין בּוֹדְקִין עֵדֵי אִשָּׁה בִּדְרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה שֶׁלֹּא אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים בַּדָּבָר לְהַחֲמִיר אֶלָּא לְהָקֵל מִשּׁוּם הַתָּרַת עֲגוּנָה:


Do not wonder at the fact that our Sages discharged78 the prohibition [against a married woman], which is considered a very severe matter, on the basis of the testimony of a woman, a servant or a maidservant, statements made by a gentile in the course of conversation, a written statement or [testimony] that was not investigated by the ordinary process of interrogation, as we have explained.

[These leniencies were instituted] because the Torah requires only testimony of two witnesses, and all the other details of the laws of witnesses with regard to matters that cannot be verified definitively except via witnesses and their testimony - e.g., that one person killed another, or that one person lent money to another. When, by contrast, the matter may be verified definitively without the testimony of a witness, and the witness cannot justify [his statements] if they are not true - e.g, when one testifies that a person died,79 the Torah did not necessitate [that the requirements of formal testimony be met in these instances]. For it is unlikely that a witness will testify falsely.80

For this reason, our Sages [extended] the leniency with regard to this matter and accepted the testimony of a single witness that is based on the testimony of a maidservant, [testimony] from a written document, and [testimony] that was not investigated by the ordinary process of interrogation. [These leniencies were accepted] so that the daughters of Israel will not be forced to remain unmarried.

Blessed be the Merciful One, who grants assistance.


אַל יִקְשֶׁה בְּעֵינֶיךָ שֶׁהִתִּירוּ חֲכָמִים הָעֶרְוָה הַחֲמוּרָה בְּעֵדוּת אִשָּׁה אוֹ עֶבֶד אוֹ שִׁפְחָה אוֹ עַכּוּ״‎ם הַמֵּסִיחַ לְפִי תֻּמּוֹ וְעֵד מִפִּי עֵד וּמִפִּי הַכְּתָב וּבְלֹא דְּרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. שֶׁלֹּא הִקְפִּידָה תּוֹרָה עַל הֲעָדַת שְׁנֵי עֵדִים וּשְׁאָר מִשְׁפְּטֵי הָעֵדוּת אֶלָּא בְּדָבָר שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה יָכוֹל לַעֲמֹד עַל בֻּרְיוֹ אֶלָּא מִפִּי הָעֵדִים וּבְעֵדוּתָן כְּגוֹן שֶׁהֵעִידוּ שֶׁזֶּה הָרַג אֶת זֶה אוֹ הִלְוָה אֶת זֶה. אֲבָל דָּבָר שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לַעֲמֹד עַל בֻּרְיוֹ שֶׁלֹּא מִפִּי הָעֵד הַזֶּה וְאֵין הָעֵד יָכוֹל לְהִשָּׁמֵט אִם אֵין הַדָּבָר אֱמֶת. כְּגוֹן זֶה שֶׁהֵעִיד שֶׁמֵּת פְּלוֹנִי. לֹא הִקְפִּידָה תּוֹרָה עָלָיו. שֶׁדָּבָר רָחוֹק הוּא שֶׁיָּעִיד בּוֹ הָעֵד בְּשֶׁקֶר. לְפִיכָךְ הֵקֵלּוּ חֲכָמִים בְּדָבָר זֶה וְהֶאֱמִינוּ בּוֹ עֵד אֶחָד מִפִּי שִׁפְחָה וּמִן הַכְּתָב וּבְלֹא דְּרִישָׁה וַחֲקִירָה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תִּשָּׁאַרְנָה בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲגוּנוֹת: סְלִיקוּ לְהוּ הִלְכוֹת גֵּרוּשִׁין בְּסִיַּעְתָּא דִּשְׁמַיָּא

Blessed be God who grants assistance.