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Extempore Effusions on Gittin chapters 8 and 9

Chapter 8 הזורק גט לאשתו

If you throw your Get into the yard
Where your wife stands (she should be on guard)
Or into her lap
Or the basket she strapped
To her arm, she’s divorced. That’s not hard.

If you throw a Get into the bed
Where your wife lies (it falls near her head)
Is it valid? It is
If it’s her bed, not his.
But is her bed not his, since they’re wed?

An “old Get” is one that’s outdated
For Hillel, I fear, it is fated
To be rendered not good
But says Shammai it should
Be fine, though inscribed ere they mated.

A kingdom considered unfit
You can’t write a Get unto it.
This includes all of Rome
Though Jews called it their home,
Gittin cannot be in Latin writ.

First dismiss her, then say, “What the hell,
I’ll sleep with her in a motel.”
Does she need one more Get?
Does the first one hold yet?
Can we say their divorce is still swell?

Chapter 9 – המגרש את אשתו

Said a man to his ex, “You are free
To marry all men except me
And except my friend Ed
If you land in his bed,
This divorce holds no weight.” Can that be?

Eliezer died. Four sages came
To address a point made in his name
Akiva and Tarfon
Yossi on his car phone
Elazar – we accept just his claim.

You’re divorced, dear, so long as you wed
My relative, dear cousin Fred –
You’re divorced if you fly
Or go up to the sky
Does the Get hold if that’s what he said?

“You’re divorced. But you can’t marry Dad
Or your father, my brother, that lad
Who works as a slave,
Or that non-Jewish knave.”
Well of course she can’t. What, are you mad?

Water with red heifer dust—
If an animal drinks it, it’s bust.
But a dove can drink it
Doves will suck, but not spit
And is Kartzit a creature we trust?

If two Gittin are on the same page
Side-by-side, so it’s quite hard to gauge
Because one’s signed in Greek
One in Hebrew, this wreaks
Havoc. Who signed which Get at which stage?

Beat a man ‘til he lets his wife go—
Is that Get OK? Do we say no?
A Get by coercion
Is not fine if Persian
Or Roman courts leveled the blow.

If a rumor is heard in the town
That a woman’s been sleeping around.
Do we say she can’t wed
Any priest in her bed—
Promiscuity surely abounds.

Hillel says: If you wife burns your soup
You can tell her: You must fly the coop!
If you find someone nice
Whom you’d rather call wife
Oh how low do we then let you stoop?

On the last page of Gittin it’s said:
Woe unto the first wife that you wed
If she then is let go
Even God cries, oh no
Doleful tears on the altar are shed.

Ilana Kurshan

Ilana Kurshan is the author of If All the Seas Were Ink, published in 2017 by St. Martin’s Press. She has translated books of Jewish interest by Ruth Calderon, Benjamin Lau, and Micah Goodman, as well as novels, short stories, and children’s picture books. Her book Why Is This Night Different From Other Nights was published by Schocken in 2005. She is a regular contributor to Lilith Magazine, where she is the Book Reviews Editor, and her writing has appeared in The Forward, The World Jewish Digest, Hadassah, Nashim, Zeek, Kveller, and Tablet. Kurshan is a graduate of Harvard University (BA, summa cum laude, History of Science) and Cambridge University (M.Phil, English literature). She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five children.
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