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The Multiple Ways of Fulfilling Maamar – Gefet 33

On our daf, the gemara quotes a braita which describes the way that a yevama is betrothed, and asks exactly how this works. As we saw on the previous dapim, betrothal of a yevama is called “ma’amar” in the gemara, and our braita also opens like this:

ת”ר: כיצד מאמר? נתן לה כסף או שוה כסף. 


Rashi clarifies that there is a difference between regular betrothal of a woman which can be done with money, and betrothal of a yevama. He explains:

נתן לה כסף או שוה כסף  ואמר לה התקדשי לי במאמר יבמין ואף על גב דיהב לה מידי לאו קידושין גמורים הן כקידושי תורה שהרי אין קידושין תופסין באשת אח והתורה לא התירתה לו ליעשות כאשה נכרית אלא כסדר המצוה וביאה הוא דכתבה בה רחמנא.


As opposed to regular betrothal where money is one of the ways to enact a valid betrothal, with regards to betrothal of a yevama, as far as Rashi is concerned, money cannot create “full betrothal”. Rashi explains that although on the one hand, the yevama is allowed to marry the husband’s brother, since this is a special exception to the prohibition of marrying one’s sister-in-law because of “עריות”, money cannot enact the full betrothal here. Rather it is only through full marital relations, which is the essence of the mitzvah, that the betrothal will be complete. This explanation of Rashi (which the acharonim discuss at length) can help to understand the special name, “ma’amar” that Chazal use to describe the betrothal of the yevama. 


Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, who was one of the students of the Maggid of Mezeritch, wondered about this strange term, and suggested a different explanation for why Chazal use the term “ma’amar” for the betrothal of the yevama, and not the regular term “kiddushin”:

מפני מה נקראים קדושי יבמה מאמר ולא נקראים קדושין כמו כל קדושי אשה ומהו הלשון מאמר. ואמר הרב ז”ל שנוכל לומר כי נראה למה נקראין קדושין שהוא לשון הקדש. כי מקודם שקידשה היתה מותרת לכל אדם ואחר שקידשה זה נאסרה לכל העולם כהקדש שאסור לכל. נמצא בזה שאירס אותה אוסרה לכל העולם. אשר לזה נקראת הארוסין בל’ קדושין שנאסרה משעת קדושין לכל העולם. אבל ביבמה לא שייך לקרא בלשון הקדש בשם קדושין כי בלאו הכי היתה מקודם ג”כ אסורה לכל העולם מחמת איסור אשת איש. ותיכף כשמת בעלה הראשון נזקקה לאחיו ואסורה ג”כ לכל העולם מחמת הזיקוק ולא היתה שום עת שהיתה מותרת לכל העולם ולזה אין שייך לקרא בלשון הקדש. והטעם שנקרא בלשון מאמר. ידוע שהיבום הוא כדי להקים לאחיו שם בישראל וזהו בחי’ תחיית המתים. ותחיית המתים היא ע”י מאמר מחיה מתים במאמרו. ולזה נקראים קדושי יבמה מאמ”ר. כי תחיית המתים נקראים מאמר.


Kiddushin describes the moment where the woman’s status changes: from someone who was permitted to the whole world, she becomes like hekdesh which is forbidden to all. In contrast, the yevama is a woman who is forbidden to all, even before she becomes betrothed to the yavam. Therefore, it is not appropriate to refer to her betrothal in this way. Rabbi Aharon of Karlin suggests that Chazal’s choice of the word “ma’amar” hints to the ressurection of the dead which will occur through Hashem’s speech. This idea emphasizes the depth of our masechet, which contains within it a type of resurrection of the dead. When the yavam betroths his brother’s widow, the name of the dead is reestablished, as if he has come back to life. 


The sugiya continues and attempts to understand how betrothal of the yevama can be done with a document: 

ובשטר כיצד? בשטר כיצד? כדאמרן: כתב לה על הנייר או על החרס, אף על פי שאין בו שוה פרוטה, הרי את מקודשת לי! אמר אביי, ה”ק: שטר כתובת יבמין כיצד? כתב לה: אנא פלוני בר פלוני קבילית ית פלונית יבמתי עלי לזון ולפרנסה כראוי, ובלבד שתהא כתובתה על נכסי בעלה הראשון, ואי לית לה מראשון – תקינו לה רבנן משני, כדי שלא תהא קלה בעיניו להוציאה. 


The sugiya cries out against this question and does not understand why this should be a document that is different from a regular betrothal document, written in the way described by the gemara:  “כתב לה על נייר או על חרס: הרי את מקודשת לי”. Even if the material of the document is not worth a peruta, and therefore this is not betrothal done with something worth money – still it is valid as the paper or potsherd has the status of a legal document which can also enact a valid betrothal. 


Abayei explains the question: “בשטר כיצד” does not refer to the document of betrothal, but rather to the ketuba document, which according to the basic law, should be liened to her first husband’s property, and only when he has no assets is it liened to the property of the brother. Rashi explains the reason for this: 

ולא על של יבם מאי טעמא כדאמר בהחולץ (לעיל /יבמות/ דף לט) אשה הקנו לו מן השמים.


In other words, since marrying the yevama was not a choice initially made by the brother, but rather something dictated by Hashem in the aftermath of his brother dying childless, he does not have these obligations towards her, and the property of his brother, who chose to marry her, is what is liened to her ketuba. Abayei determines that in the event that the dead brother does not own assets, the rabbis decided that the property of the yavam will be liened to the ketuba so that he will not be quick to divorce her. 


Tosfot discusses the way in which the gemara describes the regular betrothal which happens through a document, where the words “הרי את מקודשת לי” are written on paper or a potsherd. They write: 

אר”ת כר’ אליעזר אתיא דלרבי מאיר דאמר עדי חתימה כרתי לא מהני דדבר שיכול להזדייף הוא דבשטר קידושין נמי בעי ר’ מאיר עדי חתימה כדמוכח בפ”ב דקידושין (דף מח.) ובפ”ק דקידושין (דף ט. ד”ה כתב) פירשתי.


Rabbeinu Tam, in his short words, brings us into one of the most complicated sugiyot which goes through the entire Masechet Gittin, which we will get to b’ezrat Hashem. This is what the gemara presents as the dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazar regarding whether it is the witnesses as to the giving of the get or the witnesses who sign the get, which enact the divorce. Rabbeinu Tam determines that our sugiya, which describes the document as written on paper or a potsherd, must be according to the opinion of Rabbi Elazar who holds that it is the witnesses as to the giving of the get who enact the divorce. 


Rabbi Meir, as the gemara explains, holds that the ones who turn the document into a valid document are the witnesses who sign it, while Rabbi Elazar holds that the document becomes valid through the witnesses watching and seeing the moment of the giving of the document – from the one who wrote it to the receiver (man to the woman). The practical difference which Tosfot in our sugiya point to is whether or not the document can be written on material on which it can be easily forged. According to Rabbi Elazar, the document is an important object, however, what enacts the divorce are the witnesses who see the act of giving. Therefore, there is no problem that the document itself be written on something that can be forged, since in any case, the document itself cannot be used in the future as a proof, as there aren’t witnesses who are signed on it. In the event that someone will want to prove what was on the document, when it was given, etc, he will need to find the witnesses who were present at the moment of the giving, and their words will determine what happened, not the document itself, whose job is done after it is given. In contrast, Rabbi Meir holds that the document cannot be written on something which can be forged, as the signatures of the witnesses who sign the document are what turn it into an object which can be used in the future as an independent proof (the rishonim in Masechet Gittin argue as to whether this is le’chatchila or just bedieved). In any case, it is important to make sure that the document itself is not made in a way that it can be forged in the future. 


What is the meaning and root of this fundamental dispute? We will suggest three different answers:

  1. Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazar argue as to why witnesses are needed when performing an act using a document. Rabbi Meir holds that the role of the witnesses is only to turn the document into a document, meaning, the document without signatures of witnesses, is just paper. From the moment that it is signed by witnesses, this paper becomes a document which has legal power, and can transfer ownership of objects, can cause a woman to be betrothed or divorced, etc. In contrast, Rabbi Elazar holds that there are legal actions which, although are done using a document, what gives them validity is what is referred to as “עדות לקיום הדבר”, meaning, two kosher, living witnesses, who are present during the giving, and they are what turn this moment into a moment with legal significance, and allow the document to transfer ownership, change personal status, etc. 
  2. Both Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazar hold that in order for the paper to turn into a valid document with legal power, there must be witnesses in the background. Their argument discusses where these witnesses need to be and why they are needed: Rabbi Meir holds that the witnesses need to sign the document so that the basic document can serve as a proof, and of course can also be a document which can change legal status. It can perform these changes on condition that it can also be used in the future as a proof. In contrast, Rabbi Elazar thinks that witnesses are needed only in the moment when the paper acts as a legal document, and therefore, it is enough that they see the giving of the document, and through this give it its legal power. 
  3. Both Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazar think that the paper does not need witnesses in order to turn it into a legal document, but still hold that there must be witnesses in the background. Their argument revolves around the question of what is the role of witnesses “לקיום הדבר” and when they are required: according to Rabbi Meir the meaning of  “עדות לקיום הדבר” means testimony that in the future can be used to clarify what happened (a similar idea can be found in the words of the קצות החושן, and through this, the gap between witnesses who see and witnesses “לקיום הדבר” gets smaller). Therefore, the witnesses need to sign the document. In contrast, Rabbi Elazar holds that  “עדות לקיום הדבר” means checking the seriousness and sureness of the decision of the husband, and therefore it is enough for them to be there when the document is given (this understanding appears in the writings of Reb Chaim). 


Either way, the assumption which is present in the words of Tosfot is that the dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazar which deals with the laws of the divorce document, is also relevant to the laws of the betrothal document. This assumption is backed by the sugiya in Kiddushin 48, to which Tosfot themselves send us, but which is deepened and explained by Tosfot on Kiddushin 9:

ואף על גב דאמר בגיטין בסוף פרק שני (דף כב: ושם) לא הכשיר ר’ אלעזר אלא בגיטין אבל בשטרות לא ה”מ בשטרות העומדות לראיה דבעינן ראוי לעמוד ימים רבים אבל זה שאינו עשוי אלא לקדש בו אשה ולקנות בו שדה כעין גיטין הוה שעשוי לגרש בו את האשה לפי שעה ואף על פי שהשטר של קנין יכול להועיל לראיה כמו כן הגט יכול להועיל כדאמר בפ’ הכותב (כתובות פט:) ובפ”ק דב”מ (דף יט.) וכ”ת ליקרעיניה בעינא לאינסובי ביה אלמא אף על פי שהיא צריכה לראיה עיקרו לא לכך נעשה.


In Masechet Gittin 22b, the amoraim argue as to the extent of the dispute between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Elazer – is it only with regards to gittin, or perhaps applies also to other documents. Tosfot explain that even an amora who thinks that the argument is limited to gittin, will include in this dispute betrothal and documents of owner transfership, and only comes to exclude documents which are meant to serve as a proof for a transaction or debt that was created (such as loan documents etc.).

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni is the Ramit and Deputy Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Drisha in Kfar Etzion. Rabbanit Shimoni has learned at Migdal Oz, Matan, and the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halakhic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She holds a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and a BEd in Torah Shebe’al Peh and Jewish Thought from Herzog College. She is currently studying towards an MA in Jewish Thought Education at Herzog College. Rabbanit Shimoni taught gemara and halakha at Pelech High School and served as a ramit for shana bet at Migdal Oz. She directs Meshivat Nefesh, the online responsa program of the rabbaniyot of Beit Hillel. She is also a plastic artist and member of “A Studio of Her Own.
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