Gittin before Kiddushin

Gittin | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

The last masechtot in this seder are Gittin and Kidushin. Gittin relates to divorce, while Kidushin discusses halachic engagement and ultimately marriage. The order of the last two masechtot at first may be somewhat surprising. One would expect that Kidushin would precede Gittin as it would match the chronological ordering of the events discussed in these masechtot. The reverse however is true.

The Rambam (Introduction to Mishnayot) explains that the order chosen matches the order in which the pasuk discusses both topics and from which one of the methods of kidushin is derived:

...and he wrote for her a bill of divorce and presented it into her hand, and sent her from his house. And she left his house and went and married another man (Devarim 24:1-2)

Consequently, the compiler of the Mishnayot simply adopted the order that was set out in the Torah.

One may still however feel unsatisfied. Why was this order chosen irrespective of where is was derived from?

Many have understood that this ordering is based on the concept that Hashem “creates the remedy prior to the blow”. While this concept has generally been understood on a national-historic level, i.e., that the seeds of salvation are planted prior to a national tragedy, it can be adapted to this context. In other words, the means of breaking out of a failed marriage is studied prior to committing to one.

Another approach may be gleaned from the following Gemara (Kidushin 13a):

R’ Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: Anyone that does not know the nature [i.e. the laws] of gittin and kidushin – should not be dealt with [as a judge]. R’ Asi said in the name of R’ Yochanan that such judges are more destructive to the world than the generation of the flood.

The Gemara describes the vital importance that judges should be expertly knowledgeable in gittin and kidushin. Interestingly, Shmuel orders the two topics in the same manner as their masechtot. The Maharsha, notices this and questions the order in a similar vein as presented above. He answers that there are two important differences that made gittin a priority for the judges over kidushin. Firstly, the laws of gittin are more complicated than those of kidushin. More importantly, there are more dire consequences if a judge errs in cases of gittin as a married woman may be ruled as being divorced and as a result may unknowingly commit halachic adultery. Perhaps this logic then can also be applied to explain why the Masechet Gittin precedes Kidushin.

The Galanter Rebbe offers a different understanding that touches on our attitude to divorce. He explains that divorce is not and should not always be considered a viable option. Had Kidushin preceded Gittin then one may assume that marriage leads to divorce; it is a very valid possible direction. The reverse however is true. Great effort should be exerted in trying to preserve a marriage rather then hastily opting for a divorce. The Chachamim do not want Kidushin to lead to Gittin. That said, in certain circumstances when all options have been exhausted, tragically divorce may be the only option. In such a case, Gittin should be followed by Kidushin; the parties should be able to move from their unfortunate situation to the sanctity of another marriage once again.

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