While continuing the discussion of the ritual status of a ketem (see daf 53) – the Mishna on today’s daf segues to focus on the trustworthiness of Kutim with regard to these laws. For example, the Mishna relates that they are trusted when they state definitively that they buried a still-born child in a certain place or that they did not do so, similarly they can be trusted regarding a gravesite. They cannot be trusted, however, regarding a question that comes up having to do with a tree or a jutting stone under which there might be a grave. Similarly they cannot be trusted regarding determining a field as a beit ha-peras.
The law of a beit ha-peras teaches that a field that has doubtful status regarding ritual defilement of a dead body must be treated stringently. When we know that there was a grave in a given field, when that field is plowed the doubtful ritual status may be created either because we fear that the plowing may have dislodged bones that now may be spread throughout the field or that the grave was “lost” and we cannot be certain where the body is buried.
With regard to the source of this expression, Rashi and Tosafot agree that the word peras means “broken” and that we fear that the original grave and its contents have been broken by the plowing. According to the Rambam, the term peras means “spread out,” since we treat the field as if the ritual defilement is spread across the entire field. Others suggest that the source may be Greek expressions meaning “courtyard” or a place that cannot be crossed.
The Mishna explains that in general we trust Kutim with regard to areas of Jewish law that they accept, but we cannot trust them in areas of halakha that they reject.