Friday, August 15, 2008

Validity of Signatures

The Mishna had stated: The witnesses sign the get to benefit the public.

The Gemora asks (Daf Yomi: Gittin 36a) : Do the witnesses only have to sign on the Get because of “Tikun Ha’Olam” – “benefiting the world?” This is a Torah law! This is evident from the verse, “And it should be written in a document and signed!”

Rabbah says: The Mishna’s statement is needed according to Rabbi Elozar, who holds that the witnesses for the giving of the document cause the document to take effect. Even according to him, Chazal instituted that witnesses should also sign the Get because of tikun ha’olam. This is because there are times when the witnesses of the giving of the Get might have died or went overseas (and at least the witnesses signed will be able to contradict the ex-husband in case he claims that he did not divorce her).

Rav Yosef says: Even according to Rabbi Meir (who holds that the witnesses for the giving of the document cause the document to take effect), they decreed that witnesses should specify their names in a Get, due to tikun ha’olam. This is as the braisa states: Originally, people would sign, “I, So-and-so (without writing his name), have signed as a witness.” If there was a different document with the same handwriting that was verified to be authentic, this document would also be valid. If not, it is not valid. Rabban Gamliel said: They made a great decree when they instituted that witnesses should specify their names in a Get, due to tikun ha’olam.

The mefarshim ask on the Rambam in Hilchos Edus (3:4), who states that the requirement for witnesses to sign on a document is only mi’divrei sofrim (a Rabbinical obligation). The Gemora expressly states that this is a Biblical requirement!?

The Megillas Sefer answers that when the Gemora states that it is Biblically required, it is not being completely accurate, for the verse where this obligation is derived from is a verse in Yirmiyah. The Gemora only meant to ask that from the Mishna it would seem that the witnesses sign only because of Rabban Gamliel’s decree, when in truth, this was established generations beforehand!

The Pnei Yehoshua answers that it is only a Biblical requirement according to Rabbi Meir, who holds that the witnesses who sign the document are those who render it effective. However, the Rambam rules in accordance with Rabbi Elozar, who holds that the witnesses who observe the delivery of the document are those who render it effective. Therefore, the Rambam writes that the signatures are only a Rabbinical requirement.

The Nesivos Hamishpat, Chasam Sofer and others answer that the Rambam is only referring to proof documents, since the witnesses are obligated to testify in Beis Din so that the judges will have the ability to cross examine them. Testimony is valid only from the mouths of the witnesses, but not on the basis of any documents or writings. However, regarding a document that is made to affect something, either a marriage, divorce, sale etc., the Rambam will agree that the signatures of the witnesses are Biblically required.

Reb Chaim Brisker adds that a document, like a get, which later will be used as proof that the woman got divorced can still be Biblically valid. For once the document rendered an effect, it is as if it has been investigated in Beis Din, and would not any longer be disqualified because of the rule that testimony must come from their mouths and not from their writings.

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Disgraced but did not Respond

The Gemora cites a braisa (Daf Yomi: Gittin 36b) : Those who are insulted, but do not insult back, and those who hear their shame, but do not respond, and those who do God’s will out of love and are happy even while they suffer, concerning them it is written: But they who love Him shall be as the sun going forth in its might.

The Chidah in his seforim relates the following incident several times: There was once a very wealthy and powerful man who humiliated a torah scholar. The Rav of the city told the Torah scholar that he should forgive the man. The scholar told him that he immediately forgave him, for it is written in the Zohar HaKadosh that the sins of the Jewish people cause the Shechinah much pain, Heaven forbid, and if he would not forgive him, it would be regarded as a grave sin for the wealthy person. He, therefore, immediately forgave him, for this way, the Shechinah will not be pained.

The Chidah concludes that he wrote this over numerous times, for it is of tremendously important and extremely precious and words of mussar, such as these, must be constantly reiterated in order to inspire people to fear Hashem properly!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Idolatrous Name

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel (Daf Yomi: Gittin 34b): The Jews from abroad sent to Rabban Gamliel the following inquiry: If a man comes here from Eretz Yisroel whose true name is Yosef, but who is known here as Yochanan, or whose name is Yochanan, but who is known here as Yosef, how can he divorce his wife? Rabban Gamliel thereupon stood up and decreed that they should write in the get, “This man So-and-so or by whatever names he is known,” “This woman So-and-so or by whatever names she is known,” in order to benefit the public.

They asked Rabbeinu Tam regarding a Jew who worships idols and he divorced his wife with a get which had only his Jewish name written on it, and not his idolatrous name. What is the status of such a get?

He answered: Heaven forbid to even mention an idolatrous name on a get which is written according to the law of Moshe and all of Israel!

The Ra”dach in his response explains that his idolatrous name is not regarded as his name at all, and if that would be the only name written on the get, it would be as if the get would be written without the name of the divorcing husband.

However, Reb Yosef Engel notes that from the language of Rabbeinu Tam, it would seem that there is a different explanation. It is on account of the sanctity of the get that his idolatrous name cannot be written.

And the Rad”vaz in his response writes like that as well. He says that any holy scroll, such as a Sefer Torah, Tefillin, or Mezuzah, where there lies an obligation that it should be written lishmah, and also a get has sanctity, for it is also has a requirement to be written lishmah.

He concludes that the matzah which is being baked to be eaten on Pesach night also possesses sanctity, for it is required to be baked lishmah.

It is possible that this could explain the custom of many righteous people to kiss the matzah before they eat it on the night of the seder.

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A Show of Intent

Giddul bar Re’ilai (Daf Yomi: Gittin 34a) sent a get to his wife. The agent went and found her sitting and weaving. He said to her, “Here is your get.” She said to him, “Go away now and come again tomorrow.” The agent returned to Giddul and told him what happened. Giddul exclaimed, “Blessed be He Who is good and does good!”

Abaye said: Blessed be He Who is good and does good, but the get itself is not cancelled. Rava, however, said: Blessed be He Who is good and does good, and the get is cancelled.

The Gemora explains the point at issue between them. It is the revealing of intention in respect of a get. Abaye holds that the revealing of intention (without verbalizing it) in respect of a get makes no difference (and therefore, the get is still valid). Rava maintains that it does make a difference.

The Tosfos R”id explains that the dispute is based upon the following: Do we consider his show of intention as merely “words of the heart” (thoughts), and therefore, it would not be regarded as words? Or perhaps, his display of intent is more than merely a thought, but rather, it is regarded as if he spoke it out!

Accordingly, he adds that if it would be clear beyond a shadow of a doubt as to what his intent was, even Abaye would concede that the get is void, for throughout halachah, we always say that when someone’s thoughts are clear to everyone, it is not regarded as thoughts, but rather as words. Our Gemora is discussing a case where it is not so clear as to what he was thinking, and therefore, Abaye and Rava disagree.

The Chasam Sofer understood the Gemora differently. He explains that even in our Gemora, it is definitely clear as to what the husband is thinking. He wants to cancel the get. Nonetheless, Abaye holds that it still remains only a thought, and to rescind his verbal instruction from before, it is necessary to verbalize it. Thoughts, even thoughts that are clear to everyone, are not sufficient to cancel his previous order.

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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!?]

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Story from the Daf

When Rabbi Yehoshua from Sosnovitz was a nine year old boy, his father took him to the Rav of the city to be tested on his learning. The Rav asked him to say over the first Mishna in the fourth perek of Gittin (Daf Yomi: Gittin 32a) . The child explained the Mishna as follows: Rabban Gamliel decreed regarding the beards. The Rav realized that the boy couldn’t even translate the words of the Mishna correctly, let alone, explain it properly! Yet, he was hesitant to inform the father of this, for he thought that it would cause him too much pain.

Reb Yehoshua’s father returned and asked the Rav for his assessment of his child. The Rav just related to him the boy’s translation of the Mishna, so the father could ascertain for himself. When the father heard this explanation, he proclaimed, “I didn’t know that my son was on such a lofty level!”

Many years later, when Reb Yehoshua became well known as one of the righteous men in the generation, there was an edict issued from the government that all Jews are required to shave off their beards. They came to Reb Yehoshua for his advice and to beseech him to pray on their behalf that the decree should be nullified. Reb Yehoshua responded: “When I was a child, I explained the Mishna to mean that Rabban Gamliel decreed regarding the beards. The meaning is that Rabban Gamliel decreed that no nation will have the ability to interfere with the beards of the Jewish people. There is nothing at all to be concerned about.” It was only a short time afterward that the decree was rescinded!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Taste of the Manna

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 31a) states that one can separate both terumah gedolah and terumas ma’aser with a thought and one does not need to physically or orally designate the terumah.

Tosfos writes that on Shabbos, it is still forbidden to mentally separate terumah, for through that, he renders the produce usable (it is regarded as “fixing” on Shabbos).

Based upon this, the Pnei Dovid answers the following contradiction: It is written [Shmos 16:23] regarding the manna: Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Shabbos to God. Bake whatever you wish to bake, and cook whatever you wish to cook. Rashi comments: Whatever you wish to bake in an oven, bake everything today for two days, and whatever amount of it you need to cook in water, cook today. Yet, it is written [Bamidbar 11:8]: The people walked about and gathered it. Then they ground it in a mill or crushed it in a mortar, cooked it in a pot and made it into cakes. And there Rashi comments: The manna did not actually enter the mill, the pot, or the mortar, but its taste changed to that of ground, crushed, or cooked food. And this is actually how the Gemora in Yoma (75a) explains it as well! It wasn’t actually baked, but rather, if they wanted it to taste as if it was baked, then it would! Seemingly, Rashi is contradicting himself!?

He answers that there is a distinction between the weekdays and Shabbos. During the weekdays, they could mentally decide on how the manna should taste, and so it happened. However, on Shabbos, this would be forbidden, for it would be regarded as “fixing” the food! They therefore had to bake it from beforehand if they wanted it to taste baked on Shabbos.

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Holy Thoughts

The Gemora states (Daf Yomi: Gittin 30b - 31a) that one can separate both terumah gedolah and terumas ma’aser with a thought and one does not need to physically or orally designate the terumah.

There are certain mitzvos which require one to contemplate the mitzvah, such as loving HaShem, fearing HaShem and other such mitzvos. There is even a situation where if one sought to perform a mitzvah and he could not complete it because of extenuating circumstances, it is considered as if he performed the mitzvah. Thus, thoughts play an important part in serving HaShem.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner writes in Nefesh HaChaim that one who entertains immoral thoughts is worse than the Roman general Titus, who defiled the Holy of Holies, because a gentile does not have the capability of reaching high spiritual levels, whereas a Jew has the ability to reach very high spiritual levels, and improper thoughts defile the spiritual Holy of Holies. This idea should teach us that not only do we have to be pure in our actions but we must also keep our thoughts pure and holy.

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