The Mishna on 116 cites a ruling of Hillel who says that if a woman says her husband died and there are specific circumstances which are similiar to a prior ruling- she is believed. Hillel says the circumstances must be identical : ie the grain harvest and in the same county. Shammai disagrees and says we don’t need exact facts such as grain harvest, it could be olive or grape harvest. The big question is how we rule on fact issues. How similar do the facts have to be to rely upon a prior ruling. Ultimately Hillel reverses his position.
In a week with big issues decided in the Supreme Court, this daf is rather timely. The dispute here is one of jurisprudence. How similiar or close to the original content or decision must the facts of current dispute be to one where a ruling has already occurred. In essence, how do we make legal decisions. Do you look expansively? Do we look narrowly?
The facts of the original case are finally discussed in the Gemara. During a wheat harvest a bunch of people where working and a snake bit someone in the field. A woman came to Beis Din and said her husband died. She is believed.
The SD would like to weigh in. The Court is looking at the law, but maybe also the circumstances, the veracity of the woman, the situation. It is not making a dispassionate decision. It is weighing the real life situation. Clearly the Court must base its anaylysis on law, but uses law for just and compassionate outcomes . Jewish law at its best: stare decisis (precedent) and compassion.