of the mishna, what is the reason that when he remains silent, the Rabbis obligate him to bring to an offering based on the testimony of one witness? If we say it is because the witness is deemed credible, but there is the case of an ordinary pair of witnesses, where even though he contradicts their claim they are deemed credible, and yet the Rabbis exempt him from bringing an offering. If so, they would certainly not obligate him to bring an offering due to the testimony of a lone witness. Rather, is it not because he remained silent, and silence is considered like an admission? If this is the reason why he brings an offering, there is no proof from here that the testimony of one witness is accepted.
Rather, this is evidently based on logical reasoning: Just as it is in the case of a piece of meat about which it is uncertain if it is forbidden fat and uncertain if it is of permitted fat, and there is no way of clarifying which it is, and one witness comes and says: It is clear to me that it is permitted fat, the halakha is that he is deemed credible. Here too, the testimony of a single witness can resolve the uncertainty.
The Gemara raises a difficulty: Is it comparable? There, the presumption of a prohibition has not been established, as there is no proof that the piece was ever forbidden, and one can therefore rely on the witness who permits it, whereas here, the presumption of the prohibition with regard to a married woman is established, and there is a principle that nothing involving those with whom relations are forbidden can be determined by fewer than two witnesses.
In fact, this is comparable only to a case involving a piece of meat that is definitely forbidden fat, and one witness comes and says: It is clear to me that it is permitted fat, as the halakha is that he is not deemed credible. The Gemara refutes this claim: Is it comparable? There, when it is established as forbidden fat, even if one hundred witnesses come they are not deemed credible. Here, since if two witnesses come and say the husband is dead they would be deemed credible, let us also deem one witness credible. This is just as it is in the case of untithed produce, i.e., produce from which neither teruma nor tithe has been separated, consecrated property, and konamot, an alternative term for offerings [korbanot] used in vows creating prohibitions. Such vows are called by the generic term: Konamot.
The Gemara asks: With regard to this case of untithed produce, what are the circumstances? If it is his, and he testifies that terumot and tithes have been separated from it, he should be deemed credible because it is within his power to prepare the produce for consumption by separating tithes whenever he wishes. Rather, you must say that he testifies with regard to untithed produce of another, but if so, what does the anonymous Sage who cited this example hold in this case?
The Gemara elaborates: If he holds that one who separates tithes from his produce for that of another does not require the owner’s knowledge, and he can prepare his friend’s produce for consumption whenever he chooses, in this case too his testimony is deemed credible because it is within his power to prepare it. And if he holds that the owner’s knowledge is required before someone else can separate the gifts, and this is referring to a situation where the witness comes and says: I know with regard to it that it is prepared, in that case, it itself, this very halakha, from where do we derive it? Why is the case of untithed produce more obvious than the testimony with regard to a missing husband?
Similarly, with regard to consecrated property too, if it is merely sanctity that inheres in its value, i.e., it is not an actual offering but an item that has been dedicated to the Temple upkeep, then the reason why the testimony of one witness who says it is not consecrated is accepted is due to the fact that it is within his power to redeem it. And if this is referring to inherent sanctity, the matter still remains to be clarified: If it is his offering, then the reason is due to the fact that it is within his power to request from a Sage that the vow be dissolved, like any other vow. Rather, you must say that it is referring to the offering of another, and he said: I know with regard to it that its owner requested from a Sage that his vow be dissolved. However, here too, in this case itself, from where do we derive that he is deemed credible?
In the case of konamot too, if he holds that there is misuse of consecrated objects with regard to konamot, i.e., he holds that articles sanctified by a konam have the status of consecrated property, and that the sanctity that inheres in its value applies to them, then his claim is accepted because it is within his power to redeem it. And if he maintains that there is no misuse of consecrated objects in the case of konamot, and it is an ordinary prohibition that rides on its shoulders, i.e., it is forbidden due to its similarity to consecrated property despite the fact that is not fully sacred, even in this case the above argument applies: If the property in question is his, it is permitted because it is within his power to request from a Sage that his vow be dissolved.
Rather, you will say that the konam must belong to another, and he said: I know with regard to it that its owner requested from a Sage that his vow be dissolved. However, with regard to this halakha itself, that one witness is deemed credible in this case, from where do we derive it? Consequently, after the Gemara has refuted these attempts to explain why one witness should be deemed credible, the question remains: Why is the testimony of a single witness accepted in the case of a missing husband?
Rabbi Zeira said: Due to the stringency that you were stringent with her, the woman who married on the basis of a single witness, at the end, i.e., if it turns out that the testimony was incorrect and the husband is still alive, the halakha is very severe with her and she loses out in all regards, you are lenient with her at the beginning, by accepting the testimony of a single witness to enable the woman to marry. The Gemara suggests: If so, let us not be stringent at the end and not be lenient at the beginning.
The Gemara answers: Due to the case of a deserted wife, the Sages were lenient with her. Since it is not always easy to find two witnesses to attest to a husband’s death, the Sages realized that if the testimony of one witness were not accepted, the woman would be likely to remain a deserted wife, unable to remarry. However, to prevent this leniency from causing mistakes and licentiousness, they were very stringent with her in a case where the testimony is found to be erroneous, to ensure that she is very careful not to accept untrustworthy accounts.
§ The mishna teaches that if she was informed that her husband was dead and she married another man, and her husband later returned, she must leave this one and this one. Rav said: They taught this halakha only if she married by virtue of the testimony of one witness, but if she married on the basis of the testimony of two witnesses, she does not have to leave him. They laughed at him in the West, Eretz Yisrael: The man, the first husband, has come and stands before us, and yet you say she does not have to leave her second husband. The Gemara explains: No, it is necessary in a situation when we do not know the man who comes before us claiming to be the first husband.
The Gemara asks: If we do not know him, even if she married by one witness, why should she leave? The testimony of the witness who says the husband is dead should be accepted. The Gemara answers: No, it is necessary for a case when two others came and said: We were with him from when he left until now, and it is you who do not recognize him, as his appearance has changed over the course of time. This is as it is written: “And Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him” (Genesis 42:8), and Rav Ḥisda said that this verse teaches that Joseph left his brothers without a full beard, and he came with a full beard, which is why they failed to recognize him. This shows that one’s appearance can change so much over time that even his own family members are unable to identify him.
The Gemara asks: Even in this case, ultimately they are two against two. Initially, two witnesses testified that the man was dead, and now another pair arrives saying he is alive. Why should the testimony of the witnesses who say he is dead be accepted, allowing her to remain with the second husband, while other witnesses claim he is still alive?