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Beit Din for Chalitzah

Yevamot (12:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 days ago

During the beginning of the week learnt about chalitzah. The first detail mentioned (12:6) is that the yabam and yavama come to Beit Din. The earlier Mishnah (12:1) taught that a formal Beit Din is not required and the three "dayanim" can even be regular people. The Bartenura explains that the Mishnah referred to them as such since they must at least know how to direct the reading of the pesukim as part of the process. He adds that even though the Mishnah mentions only three, one should include an addition two to publicise the event. These additional people can even be amei ha'aretz. Note that in our Mishnah the group of three people is referred to as Beit Din where as in the earlier Mishnah it is simple three (or five) individuals. How do we understand its status?

The Tosfot (101a) agrees with the Bartenura that they must at least know how to read Hebrew. With respect to any other detail, they need not be versed. This is because if there are questions regarding what was performed, they would be able to verify every detail with an expert. If, however they cannot read, that detail would not be able to be verified.

The Ritva however explains that the term "hedyotot" – regular people – used in the Mishnah already implies that they know how to read (otherwise they would be termed yoshvei kranot). When the Mishnah also terms them as dayanim it teaches that we do not require dayanim smuchim – ordained judges - and individuals that do not sit on the city's Beit Din can be used. Nevertheless, they must be well versed in the laws of chalitzah. Consequently, we find that the Ritva requires a much higher standard.

We find the question of the status of this Beit Din in another area. The Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 79:9) rules that one adopts the status of a kafran (one who falsely denies owing money to another) only if he denied in front of Beit Din. The Ketzot HaChoshen comments that one would assume that this would be in front of a Beit Din of three judges, with at least one of them being an expert. However, the Ketzot cites the Moharit who maintains that this would be the law if one denied in front of a Beit Din of three hedyotot. Since the matter does not require deliberation, they would have the status of a Beit Din. Expert judges are only required when there is a need to deliberate. He cites our case of chalitzah, where the only requirement is that they can read, and undoing nedarim, as cases where a lower standard of "judge" is required, yet the matter can be resolved. In the case of chalitzah, since there is no deliberation necessary and it must simply be performed in front of Beit Din, this standard of "dayan" is sufficient.

The Ketzot however argues that for a Beit Din to have that status, the dayanim must be well versed in the matter they are addressing. Consequently, for one to adopt the status of a kafran, he would have need to falsely deny in front a Beit Din with at least one expert judge. He explains that in the case of Nedarim, where according to the Shach no expert judge is required, this is because the absolvent of vows is not even considered a din – judgement. Similarly, in our case he cites the Ritva's position in support becuase the requirement of proficient judges is required even for Chalitza. (He suggests that event according to the Tosfot that maintains an even lower standard, their position is an exception based on pesukim, that for chalitza that standard is acceptable.)

Based on the above debate, we find that the Ketzot understands that the performance of chalitzah in front of Beit Din is indeed a Din and requires proficient judges. According to the Mahorit, it appears that he understands that since no deliberation is required, no execution of Din, even hedyotot can be used.

We find this question in another law as well. We learnt (12:2) about the debate regarding the validity of a chalitzah that is performed at night. The Gemara explains that a din that is started during the day and completed during the night is valid. The debate is simply whether we define chalitzah as the beginning or end of din. The Chatam Sofer (Even HaEzer 54) cites Rashi who explains that Chalitzah is considered din since the yevama can then collect her ketubah. The Chatam Sofer explains that, on its own, chalitzah is not considered din. Consequently, Rashi stressed its monetary consequence to explain why chalitzah is treated as din when considering whether it can be performed at night.

The Radbaz (4 A155) however explains that chalitzah is referred to as din because of all the processes that must be performed in front of Beit Dinchalitzah, rekika, etc. The Nodeh BeYehuda (II Even Hezer 114) explains that when Rashi references the collection of the ketubah, it is to explain why chalitzah is categorised as monetary and not of capital consequence (whose judgement cannot even be completed at night) but not to justify why it is considered din.




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