Suspicious Motives

Yevamot (2:9) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The Mishnah (2:9-10) discusses several cases where a woman was freed from marriage based on a single witness's testimony or required to divorce her husband based on a single person's judgment. In those cases, that individual is forbidden to marry the lady out of concern that he was previously dishonest so that he could marry her. One case is regarding the messenger that delivered a woman's get (divorce document). The Mishnah explains that the husband is overseas and the shaliach (messenger) brought the get to his wife in Eretz Yisrael. The messenger is required to declare that the get was both written and signed in front him. If he does, then he alone is believed, and the wife is divorced. The get is still valid even if the husband subsequently objects that the get was forged. The Mishnah rules the that shaliach cannot marry the divorcee.

The Gemara in the beginning of Gittin presents a debate regarding the requirement of declaring that the get was both written and sign in front of the shaliach. According to Raba, the concern was that those outside of Eretz Yisrael were not versed in the laws of writing a get and in particular that the get be written li'shma – for the purpose of this specific husband and wife. The shaliach's declaration was necessary to affirm that the get was valid. Rava however explains that ordinally, if the husband objected to the validity of the get, then Beit Din can simply substantiate the signatures on the get in response. This would be more difficult for a get that came from overseas. Consequently, the Chachamim were lenient such that if the shaliach declared that it was written and signed before him, he would be believed, and any future objections would be rejected. According to both understandings, if the shaliach delivered a get within Eretz Yisrael, then the shaliach's declaration is not required.

The Ritva however asks why the Mishnah only referred to the case where the shaliach came from outside Eretz Yisrael. If the shaliach delivered the get within Eretz Yisrael he would similarly be believed on his own. The Ritva answers that even though he is believed when he delivers the get, if the husband objects, then we accept it and the shaliach will stand in question (until the signatures are substantiated). That being the case, a shaliach delivering within Eretz Yisrael will be too scared to lie. Consequently, the Mishnah only addresses the cases where the shaliach came from overseas and would be trusted in the face of any protests.

The Ritva however continues, if a shaliach delivered a get within Eretz Yisrael, and declared that the get was both written signed before him, then he would be trusted despite the husband's objections. Consequently we find a case also within Eretz Yisrael where we should be concerned that the shaliach lied if he then married that woman. The Ritva admits that that would indeed be the ruling. The Mishnah taught however in broad terms regarding the law of a "shaliach from overseas". A shaliach within Eretz Yisrael that made the declaration would fall under that law.

The Meiri however argues that even if the shaliach delivered the get within Eretz Yisrael and made the declaration, he would still be able to marry the woman. The difference with a get delivered within Eretz Yisrael is that the shaliach would have been too scared to forge the document out of concern that the "witnesses" whose signature were presented in the document would come to Beit Din and testify that the get was forged. With a shaliach that came from overseas, the witnesses would not be available to falsify the document. Consequently, only regarding a shaliach that came from overseas would we be concerned that the shaliach forged the document if he subsequently married the woman.


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