the Fifth Week of Lent
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Name of a treatise of the Mishnah and of the Tosefta, elaborated in the Palestinian and in the Babylonian Gemaras. It belongs to the third order, "Nashim" (Women), but occupies different places in the different compilations. Thus, in the separate Mishnah editions and in the Tosefta it stands sixth; in the Tosefta attached to Alfasi and in the Babli, fourth; and in the Yerushalmi, fifth. The number of chapters in this treatise is nine, except in the Tosefta appended to Alfasi, where the number is reduced to seven, the third, fourth, and fifth chapters being united into one. While the name of the treatise signifies "documents," it is specifically applied to bills of divorce, and of these, and of the parties thereto, the treatise discourses, referring only incidentally to other documents. The chapters provide as follows:
- Ch. : The bearer of a "geṭ" (bill of divorce) from the husband to his wife in another country must be positive of its genuineness; he must be able to declare that the document was written and signed in his presence, and for the special purpose of divorcing the parties named therein. If an accident disables the bearer from making such declaration, the geṭ will be valid only after the original witnesses to it have authenticated their signatures, or others have authenticated those signatures; and as the Rabbis consider divorce as well as marriage a religious act, they provide that all parties concerned in the proceedings must be Jews. If before the delivery of a bill of divorce or a bill of manumission the sender annuls it, the annulment will be effective in the case of a wife, but not in that of a slave. If the giver of either document dies before its delivery, it is not valid, there being no authority to consummate the act of divorcement or of manumission (comp. 3:3).
- Ch. : At least two witnesses must authenticate the geṭ (comp. 4:3); it must be written and signed within a single day, between sunset and sunset; and there are regulations as to the parties who are qualified to write it, as to the materials on and with which it may be written, and as to who may carry it between husband and wife (see Geṭ).
- Ch. : The geṭ must be written specially for the woman to be divorced. For example, if a man has two wives of the same name, and the geṭ is written for the purpose of divorcing one of them, and he changes his mind and determines to divorce the other by the same geṭ, he can not legally do so. Nor may one have the geṭ written with the reservation that it be valid to divorce either one of two wives; neither may blank forms be used in divorce proceedings: the whole of the geṭ must be specially written for the parties intended. If the bearer loses the geṭ, and then recovers it, there must be no doubt of its identity or it will not be valid. If the bearer of the geṭ leaves the giver sick or very old, he may deliver the geṭ on the presumption that his principal still lives (comp. 1:6). If an accident befalls the bearer and renders him unable to deliver the geṭ, he may appoint a substitute, provided the husband has not commissioned him to return with some object from the wife.
Annulment of Geṭ.
- Ch. : Legally, until the geṭ reaches the woman it is the property of the husband, even while it is in the possession of his messenger; therefore he has the right to annul it before any court without the cognizance of either his wife or his messenger. However, as such procedure might eventuate in unwitting polyandry, R. Gamaliel I. ordained that the annulment shall have no effect unless it take place either in the presence of the wife or in that of the messenger. Gamaliel also ordained that the geṭ must bear in full the names by which the respective parties to the divorce are anywhere known. Further, this chapter treats of a widow's dower and maintenance (see Alimony; Dowry); of the status of a captive or hypothecated slave; of the half-slave (a person formerly the property of two persons, but emancipated by one of them, or one who has purchased from his master half liberty); of Jewish slaves sold to idolaters, and of the redemption of captives and of sacred things which have fallen into the hands of idolaters; and it concludes with the enumeration of causes for divorce which act as bars to a remarriage between the divorced.
- Ch. : Regulations of an economic nature, concerning levying on lands to satisfy damage claims, debts, alimony, dowry; laws governing restitution for the consumption of the produce of land bought of a usurper; concerning transactions involving confiscated property, and those with minors or deaf and dumb persons; and other provisions calculated to promote social order.
- Ch. : Concerning the rights of the husband to annul the geṭ after delivery to his messenger or to his wife's proxy; the process adopted in divorcing a minor, and the effect of the designation of the place where the geṭ should be delivered or received; the difference, as regards the status of the woman, between appointing a messenger to "convey the geṭ to her" and appointing a messenger to "accept the geṭ for her"; the legal presumptions to be drawn from the husband's expressions in ordering the geṭ: the husband's condition and circumstances at the moment of ordering the geṭ, or immediately following it, the scope of the agent's mission depending upon the husband's expressions.
- Ch. : Where the husband, while in the throes of "kardiakos" (delirium tremens, melancholia), orders that a geṭ be written for his wife, his order is void; but where the order precedes the attack, even if during the attack he countermands it, the geṭ must be written and delivered. If the husband is stricken dumb, and at the suggestion that a geṭ be written for his wife he moves his head affirmatively, and the bystanders are satisfied that he is conscious, the geṭ is to be written and delivered. But where such a suggestion is made to a healthy man, even if, after the geṭ is written and signed, he himself delivers it to his wife, that geṭ is void, the law requiring that the orders concerning the writing and attesting of the geṭ should emanate from the husband himself. No geṭ can take effect after the death of the husband (see 1:6); and if in handing the geṭ to his wife he stipulates that it go into effect after his death, it is void. On the other hand, if he stipulates that in case of his death the geṭ should have effect from and after the time of delivery, it is valid. If he says, "In case of my death from my present illness this geṭ shall have effect from this date," the effect is doubtful; wherefore the woman is neither his widow nor divorced, and while he lives she must not stay with him in private. Where the husband imposes conditions, these conditions must be complied with; otherwise the geṭ will be void.
- Ch. : The geṭ does not take effect unless it comes into the divorcee's possession; hence if she is on the husband's premises and he thrusts the geṭ at her, the act of divorcement is not completed, even if the geṭ falls at her side. On the other hand, if this is done on her own premises (or even on his premises if the geṭ falls into her lap or on her personal property), it is effective. If the geṭ is in any way misdated, or the names of the parties concerned are in any way misstated, the geṭ is void (see 4:2).
- Ch. : The pith of the geṭ is the phrase, "Thou art free to marry any man." Therefore, if on delivering the geṭ the husband interdicts the wife's marriage to any man, the geṭ will have no effect, unless he takes it back and redelivers it to her with an unqualified declaration of her freedom. Where the limitation is embodied in the geṭ, the geṭ is invalid, even if the husband himself takes it back and erases therefrom the objectionable clause. See Divorce; Geṭ.
Digressions in Gemara.
The Gemaras, both Palestinian and Babylonian, discuss and exemplify the rules laid down in the Mishnah. The Palestinian Gemara is comparatively concise, and contains few digressions; the Babylonian is, as a rule, more diffuse, and quite frequently breaks the argumentation with hagga-dot. One example from the former may be given. Discussing the requirement of the Mishnah (1:2) that the bearer of a geṭ must be able to declare that the bill was written and signed in his presence, it cites the name of the city of Acco. That name recalls to the memory of the compiler a story regarding something that occurred at Acco which gave rise to the decree that no "talmid" (pupil, unordained scholar) should decide ritualistic questions. This, again, recalls a baraita declaring that the premature death of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1 et seq.) was the punishment for presuming to act on their own decisions in the presence of Moses, their master (see 'Er. 63a). This in turn recalls another story. It happened that a talmid decided a question in the presence of R. Eliezer, who thereupon predicted to Imma Shalom, his wife, the early death of that talmid, and the prediction was soon fulfilled. Eliezer's disciples then inquired: "Master, art thou a prophet?" To which the master replied: "I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet; but I am aware of a traditional doctrine declaring that the talmid who decides questions in his master's presence deserves death" (Yer. Giṭ. 1:43c).
The Babylonian Talmud, among other haggadot, describes the last struggle of the Jews with the Romans (55b-58a). It introduces R. Johanan as remarking that the verse, "Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief " (Proverbs 28:14), teaches that man's actions must be governed by caution and prudence, since trifling causes may produce stupendous results. Thus the destruction of Jerusalem resulted from an invitation to a banquet extended by mistake to Bar Ḳamẓa instead of to Ḳamẓa; that of Ṭur Malka was brought about by a cock and a hen; and that of Bettar resulted from some trouble about the shaft of a litter! In the quasi-historical accounts which follow, many legends are embodied. The following is one of them: Nero was ordered to reduce Jerusalem. He came, and prognosticated his fortunes by shooting arrows. He shot eastward, and the arrow fell toward Jerusalem; he shot west-ward, and again the arrow fell toward Jerusalem; he shot toward the other points of the compass-with the same result. Though thus assured that his arms would triumph, he nevertheless sought another oracle: he ordered a Jewish lad to quote a verse of the Bible, in the purport of which he expected to read assurance or discouragement. The lad responded by repeating: "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom [Rome] by the hand of my people Israel," etc. (Ezekiel 25:14). On hearing this, Nero exclaimed: "God wishes to destroy His house and make me His atonement." Thereupon he fled and embraced Judaism, and eventually became the ancestor of R. Meïr (Giṭ. 56a).
Another legend is as follows: A mother and her seven sons were brought before Cæsar. The first son was ordered to worship an idol, but he replied: "It is written in our Law, 'I am the Lord thy God'" (Exodus 20:2). He was led forth and executed. The second refused, saying: "In our Law it is written, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me"' (20:3); he also was executed. The third said: "He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed" (22:18 [A.V. 20]); the fourth: "Thou shalt worship no other god" (34:14); the fifth: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4); the sixth: "Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else" (4:39): all of these likewise were killed, At last came, the turn of the seventh son; he, too, refused to desert his God, saying: "It is written in our Law, 'Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God . . . and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people' [26:17]; thus we have bound ourselves before the Holy One, blessed be He! not to exchange Him for another god, and He has promised us not to desert us for another people." Cæsar then suggested that he would drop a ring, and that the lad should stoop down and pick it up, that it might be thought that he had complied with the royal behest; but the lad vehemently refused, exclaiming: "Wo unto thee, Cæsar! wo unto thee! Thou art thus anxious to preserve thine own honor: how much more should I be anxious for the honor of the Holy One! Blessed be He!" As this son also was led forth to execution, his mother requested permission to kiss him, and then said: "My children, go and say to Abraham, your father, 'Thou hast prepared one altar, while I have offered on seven altars!'" Thereupon she ascended to a roof and threw herself off. As she died a "bat ḳol" was heard repeating the words of Psalm 113:9: "A joyful mother of children!" (Giṭ 57b; comp. II Macc. ).
In its discussions on the first mishnah of the seventh chapter the Babylonian Talmud devotes considerable space to pathology (67b-70b), for which see Bergel, "Medizin der Talmudisten," pp. 32-54, and Brecher, "Das Transcendentale . . . im Talmud," passim.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Giṭṭin'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​g/giin.html. 1901.