Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Compliance with the Rabbis

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 33a) asks: Since the get may be annulled in accordance with Biblical law, how can we allow a married woman, owing to the authority of Beis Din, to marry anyone in the world?

The Gemora answers: Yes! Anyone who betroths a woman does so in implicit compliance with the ordinances of the Rabbis, and the Rabbis have in this case retroactively revoked the original betrothal. (They accomplished this by transforming retroactively the money of the betrothal given to the woman at her first marriage into an ordinary gift. Since the hefker of money comes within the authority of Beis Din, they are thus fully empowered to cancel the original betrothal, and the divorcee assumes, in consequence, the status of an unmarried woman who is permitted to marry any stranger.)

Ravina said to Rav Ashi: This is a satisfactory explanation where betrothal was effected by means of money; what, however, can be said in a case where betrothal was effected by cohabitation?

Rav Ashi replied: The Rabbis have assigned to such cohabitation the character of a promiscuous cohabitation. (From the moment a divorce is annulled in such a manner, the cohabitation, it was ordained, must assume retroactively the character of a promiscuous cohabitation, and since her original betrothal is thus invalidated, the woman resumes the status of the unmarried and is free to marry whomsoever she desires.)

The Rashba asks: Why don’t we apply this rule in the case in Yevamos where a man fell into water that has no end? There, we rule that the wife will remain an agunah because the husband might have exited the water from a place that was not visible to us. Why don’t we say that the Chachamim revoked the original kiddushin from him, and she may remarry another man?

He answers: It is only applicable in certain cases. If, for example, there was a get, except that it was written with a condition, and an uncertainty arose regarding the condition, the Chachamim can revoke his kiddushin. Another example where the Chachamim would revoke the kiddushin is where one witness is testifying on the woman’s behalf (that her husband died). However, when there is no get and no witness, the Chachamim did not go ahead and revoke a kiddushin.

The Gemora in Yevamos (110a) records an incident in Narsh where a girl was married off when she was a minor. When she became an adult, they sat her by a Chupah (wedding canopy, in order to validate the first marriage), and someone else snatched her away before the “wedding” (and made her his wife)! Rav Bruna and Rav Chananel, students of Rav, were present when this happened, and they did not even require her to have a get from the second “husband” (as his kiddushin is invalid).

Rav Ashi explains that being that the wife snatcher acted improperly, the Chachamim therefore acted improperly with him and removed the validity of his kiddushin. (This is following the opinion of Rav, who maintains that for the marriage of a minor to become valid, she must have marital relations with her husband when she becomes an adult, and if not the marriage is invalid.)

The Chachamim were empowered to remove the kiddushin in this case because he acted improperly in the beginning of the kiddushin.

Reb Yosef Engel in Gilyonei Hashas cites a Teshuvos haRashba who writes that we only apply the principle of “Since he acted improperly, the Chachamim acted improperly with him” in places that are specifically mentioned in Chazal. The Sages did not annul the marriage in every case where one acts with trickery. This can be proven from a Gemora in Kiddushin (58b). The Gemora states: One who instructs his fellow to marry a woman for him (as an agent), and the agent goes ahead and marries her for himself, she is married to the second one. We do not say that since he acted improperly, the Chachamim invalidated his marriage.

This can also be proven from the fact that even if one betroths a woman who is subject to a negative prohibition, kiddushin, nevertheless takes effect. This is also true if someone marries a woman who is a secondary ervah to him. Obviously, sometimes this principle is applied, and sometimes, it isn’t.

The Chasam Sofer asks: Why, in these cases (where he betroths a woman subject to a negative prohibition, or a secondary ervah) do we not say that the Chachamim revoked his kiddushin?

He answers, based upon Tosfos, who says that it is for this reason that the groom tells the bride that he is betrothing her according to the laws of Moshe and all of Israel. The kiddushin is only effective if Israel, i.e. the Chachamim consent to the marriage. However, one who is violating the Torah, or the sages, is obviously not marrying with such a stipulation and therefore, the marriage can still be effective. [According to the Chasam Sofer, not every marriage has that stipulation attached to it.]

The Shiltei Giborim states that this principle applies by a get as well. Anyone who divorces a woman does so in implicit compliance with the ordinances of the Rabbis, and the Rabbis may, in certain cases retroactively revoke the divorce.

Based upon this, the Taamei Yaakov answers the following famous question on Rabbeinu Gershom’s decree: Since the Torah expressly permits one to divorce his wife without her consent, how can this be banned? The Taz lais down a rule that the Rabbis do not have the authority to prohibit something which is explicitly permitted by the Torah!?

He answers that since the Rabbis forbid giving a get in such a manner, it is automatically nullified, for one’s betrothal and divorce can only be effective if he is compliance with the Rabbis’ ordinances. In these cases, the Rabbis did not consent to such a get.

[I am uncertain as to how this answers the question. Granted, the get will be ineffective since it is prohibited to give a get without the woman’s consent; but how did the Rabbis have the authority to issue such a decree? If the Torah expressly permits it, they cannot forbid it!?]

3 comments:

Rabbi Dovid Elias (Montreal) said...

It would seem that his question is that if such a get would be effective min haTorah, how could the Rabbanan rule that it should not be valid.

Sam said...

how about kiddushin by shtar? We can't label this a gift as in kesef, or promiscuous as in biah. So how can one undo kiddushei shtar retroactively?

Avromi said...

Yasherkoach! I actually was wondering the same thing, but now you gave me the push to go and find the tirutz. I'm surprised that it is not discussed at greater length.

The Ritva in Kesuvos (3a) states that the Chachamim can be mafkir the shtar as well, which will also revoke the kiddushin.