Friday, August 8, 2008

Gittin 24-27 – The Agunah problem of a pre-fab Get

Pretty dull notes here for anyone who is not currently studying Gittin. About the only point you might find interesting is the discussion of why pre-fab Gittin are not acceptable, below at Gittin 26b. Otherwise, feel free to jump to some other post.

Gittin 24a
Note that throughout the page, דמטית התם should be דמטית להתם

Gittin 24b
If this idea of ברירה seems odd to you, since it depends on a later action of mine to resolve the current doubt – and not for a later independent event, the way it usually does – don’t be alarmed. The gemara will discuss this on 25-26.

Note the Rava/Rabbah change toward the bottom of this page; it’s because Abayye is presented as challenging Rava’s statement, and Abayye doesn’t do that with Rava, his student. He does it with Rabbah, his rebbe.

Gittin 26a
Rabbi Eliezer’s view, in the end of the mishnah, is unclear. Rashi seems to think he is approving writing the boilerplate part of the document in advance, and leaving the names out. Tosafot, though, makes the case (based on a discussion toward the end of 26b) that Rabbi Eliezer is actually approving writing the entire thing in advance.

Worth noting: The word “משום” is seen here as a term of indirect association with a source (in this case, a pasuk; the more direct term is שנאמר). We do the same thing in other passages when a law is cited משום a certain authority – we assume that it was not heard directly from that authority, but rather it was heard from someone else in his name.

Gittin 26b
Agunah law: The gemara discusses a pre-fab get, a case in which a scribe writes a get in advance, and a man whose name matches that of the man in the get, and whose wife’s name matches the wife’s name in the get, is involved in a domestic dispute and grabs the get and throws it to his wife – so that his wife is left as an agunah (to use the gemara’s terminology). To forestall such a possibility, the gemara prohibits scribes from having such “ready documents” lying around.
However: It is not clear why she is an agunah here; she is validly divorced!
1) I made a note in my gemara’s margin some 15-20 years ago that perhaps, due to the haste of the case, the get was not signed by witnesses, and so there is debate as to its validity – and this is why she is left as an agunah. I don’t know where I saw this idea, though.
2) Rashba takes a similar approach, reading “threw” literally and says that he threw it to her and left town, and it is not clear whether the get was closer to him or to her, so that her status is in doubt.
3) Rashi, though, has a different definition of “agunah.” He says that we are not dealing with a doubtful situation; rather, the concern is that the hasty husband will find a ready-made get and divorce his wife quickly. The term “agunah” then means simply that she will lack a husband. This is consistent with Rashi’s comment in Sanhedrin 107a מעונות defining “agunah” not as a woman whose marital status is in doubt, but rather as a woman whose husband fails to live with her conjugally. The sages see this situation as painful for her, and legislate to avoid it.

Gittin 27b

Tosafot סימנים unpacks the gemara’s point about whether we rely on “unique characteristics - סימנים” as identification biblically or rabbinically.
The idea is that true proof can come only through witnesses, as seen from the courtroom disqualification of circumstantial evidence. So according to the view that “unique characteristics” are only accepted as identification rabbinically, the biblical rule would be that we needed witnesses for all purposes of identification, such as claiming lost objects, or identifying a corpse.

Tosafot ודוקא explains why I would be more likely to believe a talmid chacham on his own stated recognition of an item.

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