The Torah states that if two people bear false witness on another and they are proved by another pair of witnesses to have been elsewhere at the time they testified to have seen the innocent committing the alleged crime, they must be punished with the same punishment they plotted should be done to the innocent. Thus if they said they saw Mr X commit adultery, a capital crime, if they are proven to be lying they must die, if it was a monetary loss they would have caused, then it is money they pay.
The Talmud asks, if they bore witness that Mr X had divorced his wife and not paid his severance (ksuba), what do they have to pay?
The reasoning goes like this; The ksuba has to be paid if the husband dies or he divorces his wife. If she dies first or in some other extreme circumstances, she does not get her ksuba. So now either he is going to die first, in which case the ksuba would be paid anyway or she will die first and there is no ksuba for her and he would have lost the entire ksuba had the witnesses had their way. So what do we fine them for it?
The Talmud’s answers is; either his worth or hers. Cryptic but sharp, Rashi explains like so. The husband could go to a businessman and offer him the following deal. I have a ksuba on my wife for 100 pieces of gold. How much will you give me now so that if my wife dies before me I will give you the ksuba?
If we suppose a savvy business man would give 7 pieces of gold for a lotto ticket like that then the witnesses have caused him certain damage of seven pieces of gold, because by being forced to pay now he can no longer earn back those seven pieces. The rest is non-proveable loss at this time. That is his worth.
There is another deal the husband can cut. He can offer to buy her ksuba from her now, at a discount. How much would I have to give you now cash in hand so that if I die or divorce you I should not have to pay the ksuba? A clever woman I suggest, would go for half in hand now. The difference is the loss they would have caused. That is her worth.
A friend of mine was complaining today that the arrival of the ArtScroll Talmud with the all the commentaries boiled down to bite sized blurbs, was killing the ability of people to research and explore the Talmud in its original form. I just happened to learn this piece of Gemara today and I left my AtrtScroll aside to struggle through manually.
It took longer but the satisfaction was immense. I thought I would like to share such an exquisite piece of logic with you who have shared my finest whines too. (-;