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Introduction to Masechet Gittin

In memory of my father and my teacher Rav Yosef ben Rav Menachem Mendel and Peshi a鈥漢.

Our masechta primarily deals with how a get (divorce) is performed. The circumstances under which a divorce is permitted or even required are discussed in other masechtot in this seder (especially in Ketubot).

In Devarim 24, we learn:

讻旨执讬志讬执拽旨址讞 讗执讬砖讈 讗执砖讈旨指讛 讜旨讘职注指诇指讛旨 讜职讛指讬指讛 讗执诐志诇止讗 转执诪职爪指讗志讞值谉 讘旨职注值讬谞指讬讜 讻旨执讬志诪指爪指讗 讘指讛旨 注侄专职讜址转 讚旨指讘指专 讜职讻指转址讘 诇指讛旨 住值驻侄专 讻旨职专执讬转只转 讜职谞指转址谉 讘旨职讬指讚指讛旨 讜职砖讈执诇旨职讞指讛旨 诪执讘旨值讬转讜止變 讜职讬指爪职讗指讛 诪执讘旨值讬转讜止 讜职讛指诇职讻指讛 讜职讛指讬职转指讛 诇职讗执讬砖讈志讗址讞值专變 讜旨砖讉职谞值讗指讛旨 讛指讗执讬砖讈 讛指讗址讞植专讜止谉 讜职讻指转址讘 诇指讛旨 住值驻侄专 讻旨职专执讬转只转 讜职谞指转址谉 讘旨职讬指讚指讛旨 讜职砖讈执诇旨职讞指讛旨 诪执讘旨值讬转讜止 讗讜止 讻执讬 讬指诪讜旨转 讛指讗执讬砖讈 讛指讗址讞植专讜止谉 讗植砖讈侄专志诇职拽指讞指讛旨 诇讜止 诇职讗执砖讈旨指讛變 诇止讗志讬讜旨讻址诇 讘旨址注职诇指讛旨 讛指专执讗砖讈讜止谉 讗植砖讈侄专志砖讈执诇旨职讞指讛旨 诇指砖讈讜旨讘 诇职拽址讞职转旨指讛旨 诇执讛职讬讜止转 诇讜止 诇职讗执砖讈旨指讛 讗址讞植专值讬 讗植砖讈侄专 讛只讟旨址诪旨指讗指讛 讻旨执讬志转讜止注值讘指讛 讛执讜讗 诇执驻职谞值讬 讬职讛止讜指讛 讜职诇止讗 转址讞植讟执讬讗 讗侄转志讛指讗指专侄抓 讗植砖讈侄专 讬职讛止讜指讛 讗直诇止讛侄讬讱指 谞止转值谉 诇职讱指 谞址讞植诇指讛變聽{}聽聽聽聽

A man takes a woman [into his household as his wife] and becomes her husband. She fails to please him because he finds something obnoxious about her, and he writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house; she leaves his household and becomes [the wife] of another man ; then this latter man rejects her, writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his household; or the man dies who had last taken her as his wife. Then the first husband who divorced her shall not take her [into his household] to become his wife again, since she has been defiled 鈥攆or that would be abhorrent to God. You must not bring sin upon the land that your God is giving you as a heritage.

Divorce is an action which can cancel a prohibition (of relations with a married woman) which was created by an action. In other words, this woman was forbidden to all men except her husband because of the act of kiddushin (betrothal). Once the act of divorce is effected, she is now permitted. It is important to note that she may not be permitted to all men, since there are certain categories of erva (forbidden relationships) that are created by marriage and remain after its dissolution (such as the mother or daughter of the ex-wife, the brother of the ex-husband, and the sister of the ex-wife in her lifetime) as well as the prohibition for a kohen to marry a divorcee, and the prohibition for a couple to remarry if the wife had married anyone else in the interim.

Recall that there are two stages in Jewish marriage: kiddushin (erusin) and nissuin. In Talmudic times, these two stages could take place up to a year apart; today, they are both performed at the same time, and merely separated by the reading of the ketuba and/or a speech. Even an 鈥erusin-only鈥 relationship requires a get for its dissolution.

It is important to note the far-reaching ramifications of remarriage without a halachically-approved get. Children of the second marriage might be considered mamzerim, and not be able to marry Jews of 鈥渞egular鈥 lineage. Because of this, our masechta spends a great deal of time discussing the precise details of the get.

In the first chapter of Hilchot Girushin, Rambam lays out the essential features of a get:

讗值讬谉 讛指讗执砖旨讈指讛 诪执转职讙旨指专侄砖讈侄转 讗侄诇旨指讗 讘旨执讻职转指讘 砖讈侄讬旨址讙旨执讬注址 诇指讛旨 讜旨讻职转指讘 讝侄讛 讛讜旨讗 讛址谞旨执拽职专指讗 讙旨值讟. 讜址注植砖讉指专指讛 讚旨职讘指专执讬诐 讛值谉 注执拽旨址专 讛址讙旨值专讜旨砖讈执讬谉 诪执谉 讛址转旨讜止专指讛 讜职讗值诇旨讜旨 讛值谉.

) 砖讈侄诇旨止讗 讬职讙指专值砖讈 讛指讗执讬砖讈 讗侄诇旨指讗 讘旨执专职爪讜止谞讜止.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨职讙指专值砖讈 讘旨执讻职转指讘 讜职诇止讗 讘旨职讚指讘指专 讗址讞值专.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执讛职讬侄讛 注执谞职讬址谉 讛址讻旨职转指讘 砖讈侄讙旨值专职砖讈指讛旨 讜侄讛直住执讬专指讛旨 诪执拽旨执谞职讬指谞讜止.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执讛职讬侄讛 注执谞职讬指谞讜止 讚旨指讘指专 讛址讻旨讜止专值转 讘旨值讬谞讜止 诇职讘值讬谞指讛旨.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执讛职讬侄讛 谞执讻职转旨指讘 诇执砖讈职诪指讛旨.

) 讜职砖讈侄诇旨止讗 讬执讛职讬侄讛 诪职讞只住旨址专 诪址注植砖讉侄讛 讗址讞址专 讻旨职转执讬讘指转讜止 讗侄诇旨指讗 谞职转执讬谞指转讜止 诇指讛旨 [讘旨执诇职讘址讚].

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执转旨职谞值讛讜旨 诇指讛旨.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执转旨职谞值讛讜旨 诇指讛旨 讘旨执驻职谞值讬 注值讚执讬诐.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执转旨职谞值讛讜旨 诇指讛旨 讘旨职转讜止专址转 讙旨值专讜旨砖讈执讬谉.

) 讜职砖讈侄讬旨执讛职讬侄讛 讛址讘旨址注址诇 讗讜止 砖讈职诇讜旨讞讜止 讛讜旨讗 砖讈侄谞旨讜止转职谞讜止 诇指讛旨.

讜旨砖讈职讗指专 讛址讚旨职讘指专执讬诐 砖讈侄讘旨址讙旨值讟 讻旨职讙讜止谉 讛址讝旨职诪址谉 讜址讞植转执讬诪址转 讛指注值讚执讬诐 讜职讻址讬旨讜止爪值讗 讘旨指讛侄谉 讛址讻旨诇 诪执讚旨执讘职专值讬 住讜止驻职专执讬诐:

A woman may be divorced only by receiving a bill [of divorce]. This bill is called a get.

The Torah establishes ten principles as fundamental [for a divorce to be effective]. They are:

a) That a man must voluntarily initiate the divorce;

b) That he must effect the divorce by means of a written document and through no other means;

c) That this document must communicate that he is divorcing [his wife] and releasing her from his domain;

d) That it should utterly sever the connection between the husband and his wife;

e) That [the get] should be written for the sake [of the woman being divorced];

f) That once [the get] is written, there should be no action [necessary] except its transfer to the woman;

g) That he should actually transfer [the get] to her;

h) That he should transfer [the get] to her in the presence of witnesses;

i) That he should actually transfer it to her for the sake of divorce;

j) That the husband or his agent should be the one who gives it to her.

The other requirements of a get – e.g., dating it, having it signed by witnesses and the like – are all Rabbinic institutions.

FREE WILLratzon:

In the Torah, we read 讗执诐志诇止讗 转执诪职爪指讗志讞值谉 讘旨职注值讬谞指讬讜 鈥 if she does not find favor in his eyes. This implies that she can only be divorced of his free will, and that the husband may not be coerced into writing a get for his wife. However, the rabbis have the authority to coerce the husband to grant a divorce. Rambam (Hilchot Girushin 2:20) explains:

砖讈侄讗值讬谉 讗讜止诪职专执讬谉 讗指谞讜旨住 讗侄诇旨指讗 诇职诪执讬 砖讈侄谞旨执诇职讞址抓 讜职谞执讚职讞址拽 诇址注植砖讉讜止转 讚旨指讘指专 砖讈侄讗值讬谞讜止 诪职讞只讬旨指讘 讘旨讜止 诪执谉 讛址转旨讜止专指讛 诇址注植砖讉讜止转讜止 讻旨职讙讜止谉 诪执讬 砖讈侄讛只讻旨指讛 注址讚 砖讈侄诪旨指讻址专 讗讜止 注址讚 砖讈侄谞旨指转址谉. 讗植讘指诇 诪执讬 砖讈侄转旨职拽指驻讜止 讬执爪职专讜止 讛指专址注 诇职讘址讟旨值诇 诪执爪职讜指讛 讗讜止 诇址注植砖讉讜止转 注植讘值专指讛 讜职讛只讻旨指讛 注址讚 砖讈侄注指砖讉指讛 讚旨指讘指专 砖讈侄讞址讬旨指讘 诇址注植砖讉讜止转讜止 讗讜止 注址讚 砖讈侄谞旨执转职专址讞值拽 诪执讚旨指讘指专 讛指讗指住讜旨专 诇址注植砖讉讜止转讜止 讗值讬谉 讝侄讛 讗指谞讜旨住 诪执诪旨侄谞旨讜旨 讗侄诇旨指讗 讛讜旨讗 讗指谞址住 注址爪职诪讜止 讘旨职讚址注职转旨讜止 讛指专指注指讛. 诇职驻执讬讻指讱职 讝侄讛 砖讈侄讗值讬谞讜止 专讜止爪侄讛 诇职讙指专值砖讈 诪值讗址讞址专 砖讈侄讛讜旨讗 专讜止爪侄讛 诇执讛职讬讜止转 诪执讬旨执砖讉职专指讗值诇 讜职专讜止爪侄讛 讛讜旨讗 诇址注植砖讉讜止转 讻旨指诇 讛址诪旨执爪职讜止转 讜旨诇职讛执转职专址讞值拽 诪执谉 讛指注植讘值专讜止转 讜职讬执爪职专讜止 讛讜旨讗 砖讈侄转旨职拽指驻讜止 讜职讻值讬讜指谉 砖讈侄讛只讻旨指讛 注址讚 砖讈侄转旨指砖讈址砖讈 讬执爪职专讜止 讜职讗指诪址专 专讜止爪侄讛 讗植谞执讬 讻旨职讘指专 讙旨值专值砖讈 诇执专职爪讜止谞讜止.

Because the concept of being compelled against one’s will applies only when speaking about a person who is being compelled and forced to do something that the Torah does not obligate him to do – e.g., a person who was beaten until he consented to a sale, or to give a present. If, however, a person’s evil inclination presses him to negate [the observance of] a mitzvah or to commit a transgression, and he was beaten until he performed the action he was obligated to perform, or he dissociated himself from the forbidden action, he is not considered to have been forced against his will. On the contrary, it is he himself who is forcing [his own conduct to become debased].

With regard to this person who [outwardly] refuses to divorce [his wife] – he wants to be part of the Jewish people, and he wants to perform all the mitzvot and eschew all the transgressions; it is only his evil inclination that presses him. Therefore, when he is beaten until his [evil] inclination has been weakened, and he consents [to the divorce], he is considered to have performed the divorce willfully.

 

According to Torah law, the wife does not have to consent to the divorce. However, Rabbeinu Gershom Me鈥檕r haGola (960-1040) established a cherem on any husband who divorces his wife against her will.

THE DOCUMENTshtar

The Torah states 讜职讻指转址讘 诇指讛旨 住值驻侄专 讻旨职专执讬转只转 鈥 and he writes for her a bill of divorcement. The essence of the get id the written declaration by the husband that he is sending his wife away (鈥測ou are hereby sent away,鈥 鈥測ou are hereby in your own domain,鈥 鈥測ou are hereby permitted to any man鈥 etc.) and releasing any legal hold he may have on her. From the words 讜职砖讈执诇旨职讞指讛旨 诪执讘旨值讬转讜止 鈥 and he sends her from his house 鈥 we learn that the expression must specify that she is being sent away, and not vice versa. A statement such as 鈥淚 am no longer your husband鈥 would therefore not be valid; while it does include the concept of severing the marital bond, he is removing himself from her, rather than the other way around.

The get document has two parts:

  • Toref (鈥渞evelation鈥): Includes the date, names of the two parties and where they live, the place where the get was written, AND the essential declaration of divorce (Note that today we do not include the places of residence)

  • Tofes (鈥渇orm鈥): The standard text, which elaborates on the nature and ramifications of divorce

While a get may be written in any language, common custom is for it to be written in Aramaic, using ktav Ashurit (the same letters used in Torah scrolls, mezuzot and tefillin). It is traditionally written in twelve lines (the gematria of the word 讙讟 3+9). Note the cuts in the document; this is done after the ceremony to prevent the document from being reused.

____讘砖讘转 讘 ____ 讬讜诐/讬诪讬诐 诇讬专讞 ____ 砖谞转 _____ 诇讘专讬讗转 讛注讜诇诐 诇诪谞讬谉 砖讗谞讜 诪谞讬谉 讻讗谉 讘诪转讗 ____ 讚讬转讘讗 注诇 谞讛专 ____ 讜注诇 诪讬 诪注讬谞讜转 讗谞讗 ___ 讘谉 ___ 讛诪讻讜谞讛 ___ 讛注讜诪讚 讛讬讜诐 讘____ 诪转讗 讚讬转讘讗 注诇 谞讛专 ____ 讜注诇 诪讬 诪注讬谞讜转 爪讘讬转讬 讘专注讜转 谞驻砖讬 讘讚诇讗 讗谞讬住讗 讜砖讘拽讬转 讜驻讟专讬转 讜转专讜讻讬转 讬转讻讬 诇讬讻讬 讗谞转 讗谞转转讬 ___ 讘转 ____ 讛注讜诪讚转 讛讬讜诐 讘____ 诪转讗 讚讬转讘讗 注诇 谞讛专 _____ 讜注诇 诪讬 诪注讬谞讜转 讚讛讜讬转 讗谞转转讬 诪谉 拽讚诪转 讚谞讗 讜讻讚讜 驻讟专讬转 讜砖讘拽讬转 讜转专讜讻讬转 讬转讬讻讬 诇讬讻讬 讚讬转讬讛讜讬讬谉 专砖讗讛 讜砖诇讟讗讛 讘谞驻砖讬讻讬 诇诪讛讱 诇讛转谞住讘讗 诇讻诇 讙讘专 讚讬转讬爪讘讬讬谉 讜讗谞砖 诇讗 讬诪讞讗 讘讬讚讬讻讬 诪谉 讬讜诪讗 讚谞谉 讜诇注诇诐 讜讛专讬 讗转 诪讜转专转 诇讻诇 讗讚诐 讜讚谉 讚讬 讬讛讜讬 诇讬讻讬 诪谞讗讬 住驻专 转专讜讻讬谉 讜讗讙专转 砖讘讜拽讬谉 讜讙讟 驻讬讟讜专讬谉 讻讚转 诪砖讛 讜讬砖专讗诇 ____ 讘谉 _____ 注讚 ____ 讘谉 ____ 注讚

On the __________ day of the week, the __________ day of the month of __________ in the year __________ after creation of the world, according to the calendaric calculations that we count here, in the city __________, which is situated on the__________ river, and situated near springs of water, I, __________ the son of __________, who today am present in the city __________, which is situated on the__________ river, and situated near springs of water, willingly consent, being under no duress, to release, discharge, and divorce you [to be] on your own, you, my wife __________, daughter of __________, who are today in the city of __________, which is situated on the__________ river, and situated near springs of water, who has hitherto been my wife. And now I do release, discharge, and divorce you [to be] on your own, so that you are permitted and have authority over yourself to go and marry any man you desire. No person may object against you from this day onward, and you are permitted to every man. This shall be for you from me a bill of dismissal, a letter of release, and a document of absolution, in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.

_________ the son of _________ 鈥 witness

_________ the son of _________ 鈥 witness.

 

While the get may be written on almost anything that is not connected to the ground, it is usually written on paper. Care must be taken that the letters are written so that they cannot be erased without leaving an impression (to avoid forgery).

INTENTlishma:

The Torah states 讜职讻指转址讘 诇指讛旨 住值驻侄专 讻旨职专执讬转只转 and he writes her a bill of divorcement. The get must be written specifically for the divorce of this woman. If the document was written for one wife, it cannot be used to divorce another wife with the same name.

DELIVERY:

The Torah states 讜职谞指转址谉 讘旨职讬指讚指讛旨 讜职砖讈执诇旨职讞指讛旨 诪执讘旨值讬转讜止變 鈥 he hands it to her, and sends her away from his house. This teaches that the divorce takes effect when the get is given to her for the sake of divorce. However, the document does not have to placed directly in her hand; it can be placed in her domain (such as her house or courtyard) or given to her agent. The husband can also appoint an agent to give her the document. This leads to several possibilities:

Husband

Wife

In person

In person

In person

Agent

Agent

In person

Agent

Agent

This is based on the halachic principle of 砖诇讜讞讜 砖诇 讗讚诐 讻诪讜转讜 – a person鈥檚 agent is like him, himself.

WITNESSES eidim:

Based on the halachic principle of 讗讬谉 讚讘专 砖讘注专讜讛 驻讞讜转 诪砖谞讬诐 鈥 no matter concerning erva (marital relationship) can be resolved by less than two witnesses (daf 2b), there must be at least two witnesses to the divorce proceedings. They are an integral part of the validity of the get process. Additionally, the divorce document, like any other record of transactions, needs witnesses to have legal status. The status of these witnesses is subject to a tannaitic debate between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazar. Rabbi Meir鈥檚 opinion is 注讚讬 讞转讬诪讛 讻专转讬 – the witnesses who sign are the ones who have the power to sever. In other words, the witnesses needed for the divorce are the ones who sign the get. He also requires witnesses for the act of delivery of the get, since that it what changes the woman鈥檚 status. Rabbi Elazar holds 注讚讬 诪住讬专讛 讻专转讬 鈥 the witnesses to the delivery are the ones who have the power to sever. In his opinion, the witnesses needed for the divorce are the ones who observe the delivery of the get. However, the practice of having the witnesses sign the get was instituted for practical reasons 鈥 if the witnesses who observed the get delivery were no longer available, their signatures would prove that the woman was legally divorced. The major ramifications of this dispute are discussed on daf 86b, with the conclusion that we follow Rabbi Elazar鈥檚 opinion.

CONDITIONS – tenaim:

As with other contractual transactions, conditions may be attached (in certain circumstances) to a get. The conditions need not be written into the text of the get and can be verbally stipulated when the get is transmitted to the woman. However, the condition may not be one that requires the wife to do something, or refrain from something, for the rest of her life. This is because a life-long condition 鈥渂inds鈥 the wife to the husband forever 鈥 so she is not 鈥渟evered,鈥 which is the essential part of the get. For example, the husband can issue a get on the condition that his wife travels someplace within 1 year. If she goes there within that year, she is divorced; if she doesn鈥檛, she is still married. However, he cannot issue a get on the condition that she never travels there.

It is interesting to note that the conditional get has historically been used in times of war to prevent aguna issues. This example was issued during WWII for Jewish soldiers from Palestine who joined the British army, and was composed by Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog zt鈥漧. In the event the soldier was declared missing during the war, the divorce would become effective.

Other Types of Gittin

  • For a yevama: If a woman鈥檚 husband dies without children, she needs either yibum (marriage to one of his brothers) or chalitza (which allows her to marry anyone else). If she undergoes yibum, that marriage is dissolved by an ordinary get. If a potential yabam issues a get prior to the yibum-marriage, by Torah law the get has no standing. By Rabbinic law, however, that get prohibits any of the other brothers from marrying her and she must undergo chalitza (Yevamot 50a).

  • For a slave: If a master frees a non-Jewish slave or maidservant, a get shichrur (document of manumission) is issued. The laws of the get procedure are similar to the standard get.

Content of the Masechta

Chapter/

Dapim

Title

Content

I:

2a-15a

讛址诪旨值讘执讬讗 拽址诪旨指讗

Gittin sent via agents

Comparison of get and get shichrur

II:

15a-24a

讛址诪旨值讘执讬讗 讙旨值讟

Agency

Writing the get

III:

24a-32a

讻旨讎诇 讙旨值讟

The requirement of lishma

Presumption of existence

IV:

32a-48b

讛址砖旨讈讜止诇值讞址

Rabbinic ordinances for tikkun olam

Emancipation of slaves

V:

48b-62a

讛址谞旨执讬讝旨指拽执讬谉

Collecting payment of the ketuba

Destruction of the Bet HaMikdash (agada)

VI:

62b-67b

讛指讗讜止诪值专

Appointing an agent

VII:

67b-77a

诪执讬 砖讈侄讗植讞指讝讜止

Who is fit to grant a divorce

Stipulations and conditions

VIII:

77a-82a

讛址讝旨讜止专值拽

How the get must be transmitted

Disqualified gittin

IX:

82a-90b

讛址诪职讙指专值砖讈

Qualifications and limitations added to a get

Signatures of the witnesses

When divorce is permitted or encouraged

Gitta Jaroslawicz-Neufeld

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