Talmud Tips

For the week ending 27 February 2016 / 18 Adar I 5776

Gittin 79 - 84

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Rabbi Eliezer permits one who divorces his wife to give her a get and say to her, “You are allowed to marry anyone except for Ploni (he names a specific man)”, whereas the Chachamim (majority of the Sages) forbid this… What should he do (according to the Chachamim)? Take back the get and give it again and say, “You are permitted to marry any man.”

The gemara proves that this is the correct intent of the mishna, which uses an “unusual” word for “except for” — “ella” — instead of the seemingly clearer word “chutz”. The gemara teaches that this dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and the Chachamim, as to whether the husband must say that he permits her to now marry any man in order for the get to effect divorce, is based on how to understand a verse in the Torah (the Sages cite two possible sources: Devarim 24:2 and Vayikra 21:7).

The halacha is according to the Chachamim and is codified in Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’Ezer 137:1.

The gemara also clarifies why he must take the get back and then return it to her while saying the correct words for the divorce to be valid. The gemara asks later (84b) why he must give it to her a second time, and not just correct his statement? In other cases, such as if he gave it to her while she slept, it is enough to say these words to her when she awakes, and he does not need to take the get back from her and give it a second time (78a). The gemara answers that when he gave her the get and said this incorrect wording she gained a type of ownership of the get, despite the giving of the get not causing an actual divorce. In the words of the gemara, “she acquired it to become forbidden to a kohen”. Therefore, if he didn’t take it back the get would not effect a divorce, but it was hers in a sense with the first giving, causing a different outcome of only being forbidden to marry a kohen (Rashi; the Aruch Hashulchan 137:3 explains this concept in detail, especially why the same get may be given twice.)

  • Gittin 82a

Rabbi Yehoshua said to them, “You cannot ask questions on the lion after his passing.”

This statement of Rabbi Yehoshua concludes a tosefta in which four different Sages posed four different challenges to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that is taught in the mishna (see Tip #1 above). As the tosefta states, these Sages posed these refutations to Rabbi Eliezer — “the lion” — only after his passing from this world. Rabbi Yehoshua seems to be saying to them that this is something that should not be done. If Rabbi Eliezer were still with them in this world, perhaps he would be able to answer them convincingly (Rashi). In fact, the much later Sage Rava states in this sugya that he considers each of their challenges to have a flaw, except for the question posed by Rabbi Elazar ben Azariya.

An interesting note, adds the gemara, is that the Sage who said not to ask these questions after Rabbi Eliezer’s passing — Rabbi Yehoshua — also taught in a beraita that he too has a different question on Rabbi Eliezer’s ruling. The gemara answers that Rabbi Yehoshua was including himself in what he told the other Sages, “Whether it be me, or whether it be you, questions should not be asked on the lion after his passing.” (A student once asked me why the gemara didn’t answer that Rabbi Yehoshua taught his own question while Rabbi Eliezer was still alive in this world. I replied that, if so, then Rabbi Yehoshua would have certainly have recorded Rabbi Eliezer’s answer to his challenge.)

  • Gittin 83a

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