Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Rav Chisda attempts to bring a proof that Beis Din has the authority to make a condition that will uproot something from the Torah. He cites the following braisa: If a husband annulled his letter of divorce (that was sent to his wife in the hands of an agent), it is annulled (even though he nullified it in front of a Beis Din in the absence of his wife or the agent); these are the words of Rebbe. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said: He may neither annul it nor add a single condition to it, since, otherwise, of what avail is the authority of the Beis Din (since Rabban Gamliel the Elder ordained that such an annulment must not be made, since the woman in her ignorance of it might marry again and thus unconsciously give birth to illegitimate children). Now, even though, the letter of divorce may be annulled in accordance with Biblical law, we allow a married woman, owing to the authority of Beis Din, to marry anyone in the world.

Rabbah rejects this proof and states: 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.)

As I was saying the Daf, I was asked the following question: If the Rabbis revoked the marriage retroactively, would she be permitted to marry a Kohen?

Since we are presently located in Marshall, Indiana, we do not have all the necessary seforim to discuss this in depth, but here is a brief synopsis of the topic matter.

Tosfos in Gittin (33b) goes to such an extent as to say that she was not considered a married woman, and if someone had cohabited with her during the time that she was "married," he would not be liable for cohabiting with a married woman, since the Rabbis revoked her marriage retroactively.

The Ramban in Kesuvos (3b) writes that there would be a Rabbinical prohibition retroactively, and she would be regarded as a divorcee, and hence, she would be forbidden to a Kohen.

Some say that she is forbidden to a Kohen because it "smells" like a get.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger discusses the following case: If she was a daughter of a Yisroel who married a Kohen, and therefore ate terumah during her "marriage," would it be regarded retroactively as if she ate terumah as a zar?


Michael Sedley said...


I recently discovered your blog and am enjoying it - keep up the good work.

You raised an interesting question about whether a woman could marry a Cohen if her marriage was retroactively dissolved.

On Monday the Rav at the Shiur I was attending asked a related question, which he said was discussed by the Rishonim, but he didn't have time to go into it - couldn't we use this Halacha to Matir mamzerim.

For example, if a Mamzer was born (maybe one of the cases discussed in the perek where the wife assumed that her first husband was dead), couldn't the husband write a get, send it by shaliach, and then before the get is delivered nullify the get. Wouldn't this retroactively nullify the original marriage and matir the child who is a Mamzer?

Have you seen any Reshonim who discuss this solution?

Kol tov,

Avromi said...

Thank you, I will try.

I have heard similar issues discussed in the past, but I don't have the Rishonim here available to see precisely where.

This is all based on the fact that it is retroactive. Like I wrote in the post, not all Rishonim agree to this.

There are many acharonim that prove that it must be mikan u'l'haba, not l'mafrea; Keren orah, shita Mekubetzes, and others.

Btw, in your example, why would we have thought to tell the husband to do that beforehand?

Anonymous said...

This could also be used to matir an egunah, no?

Just make the original marriage null and void. And, since bais din was about to let her get married anyway, there would not seem to be a concern that they were somehow destroying the original relationship with this action, because they're doing it anyway.

Michael Sedley said...

Thanks for your response,

In my example, why couldn't the husband write the Get _After_ returning and finding his wife had remarried?

For example, a husband (Reuven) returns after many years to find that his wife had thought him to be dead, and remarried to Shimon. If the wife has a son with Shimon, the son suddenly finds himself to be a Mamzer.

If Reuven were to write a get, send it to his wife by Shaliach, and then cancel the get before it is delivered, according to the Halacha brought down by Rabbah (?), the marriage would retroactively be canceled, i.e., Reuven was never married to the woman, therefore she has a valid marriage with Shimon and the son would not be a Mamzer.

If we accept the concept of a retroactive nullification of a wedding (I realize that is a big “if”), this would seem like a way to solve a possible case of mamzerim.

BTW - I have added a link to you on my blog:
Hope that this is OK.

Kol tov,


Avromi said...

I hear you.

And yes, thank you; it's much appreciated.