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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin
[They are permitted] only if an adult is standing by them [and telling them to write for such-and-such a purpose]. Said R. Nahman to him: If that is so, then if a heathen [writes] while a Jew stands by him, [the Get] ought still to be valid? And should you say that this actually is so, has it not been taught that a heathen is not qualified [for this purpose]? — A heathen will follow his own idea.1 Later R. Nahman corrected himself, saying: What I said was all wrong. For since [the Mishnah] expressly disqualifies a heathen from being the bearer [of a Get],2 we may infer that he is qualified to write one. But is it not taught that he is disqualified? — That is in accordance with the view of R. Eleazar, who said that the witnesses to delivery make [the Get] effective and [consequently] that it must be written with 'special intention'3 and certainly the heathen will follow his own idea.
R. Nahman said: R. Meir used to say that even if [the Get] was found on a rubbish heap and was then signed and given to the wife, it is valid.4 Raba raised an objection to this: [The Scripture says], 'he shall write for her', [which we interpret to mean] 'expressly for her name' — Does not this refer to the actual writing of the Get? — No: it refers to the signing by the witnesses, Raba raised another objection: [We have learnt that] 'any Get that is not written expressly for the woman [to be divorced] is invalid'? — Read 'that is not signed expressly.' He again raised an objection: [It has been taught] When he writes, it is as if he writes it expressly 'for her name.' Does not this mean that if he writes the substantive part 'for her name' it is reckoned as if he had written the formal part also 'for her name'? — No: what it means is that if he has it signed expressly 'for her name', it is as if he had written it also expressly 'for her name'. Or if you prefer I can answer that these teachings follow R. Eleazar who says that the witnesses to delivery make [the Get] effective.
Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel that [a deaf-mute etc. is qualified to write] only if he leaves the formal part a blank. So too said R. Haga in the name of 'Ulla: [A deaf-mute etc. is qualified to write] only if he leaves the formal part a blank. [The Mishnah thus] follows R. Eleazar. R. Zerika, however, said in the name of R. Johanan: This is not Torah.5 What does he mean by saying, 'This is not Torah'? — Said R. Abba: Here [the Mishnah] makes known to us that there is no force in [the ruling that the Get should be written with] 'special intention', and it follows the view of R. Meir who said that it is the signatures of the witnesses which make [the Get] effective. But did not Rabba b. Bar Hana say in the name of R. Johanan that [the Mishnah] follows Rabbi Eleazar? — Two Amoraim6 report R. Johanan differently.
MISHNAH. ALL [PERSONS] ARE QUALIFIED TO ACT AS BEARERS OF A GET EXCEPT A DEAF-MUTE, A LUNATIC, AND A MINOR, A BLIND MAN AND A HEATHEN. IF AFTER BEING ENTRUSTED [WITH THE GET BUT BEFORE DELIVERING IT] THE MINOR BECAME OF AGE OR THE DEAF-MUTE RECOVERED HIS SPEECH OR THE BLIND PERSON HIS SIGHT OR THE LUNATIC HIS REASON OR THE HEATHEN BECAME A PROSELYTE, [THE GET] IS [STILL] INVALID. BUT IF THE BEARER [BEING ORIGINALLY] OF SOUND SENSES BECAME A DEAF-MUTE AND THEN RECOVERED HIS SPEECH, OR [BEING] WITH SIGHT BECAME BLIND AND RECOVERED HIS SIGHT, OR [BEING] SANE BECAME INSANE AND RECOVERED HIS REASON, [THE GET] IS VALID. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IS THAT ANY BEARER WHO COMMENCES AND FINISHES [HIS MISSION] IN FULL POSSESSION OF HIS MENTAL FACULTIES7 IS QUALIFIED.
GEMARA. We understand a deaf-mute, a lunatic, and a minor being disqualified, because they do not know what they are doing; also a heathen, because in any case he himself cannot release.8 But why should a blind person be disqualified? — R. Shesheth says: Because he does not know from whom he takes [the Get] and to whom he delivers it. R. Joseph strongly demurred to this. In that case, [he said,] how is it permitted to a blind man to associate with his wife, or to any men to associate with their wives at night time? Is it not by recognising the voice? So here, [a blind person] can recognise the voice! No, said R. Joseph; the fact is that here we are speaking of [a Get brought from] foreign parts, [the bearer of which] has to declare, 'In my presence it was written and in my presence it was signed', and a blind man cannot say this. Said Abaye to him: If that is so, then a person who becomes blind [after receiving the Get] ought to be qualified, and yet [the Mishnah] states expressly that IF [BEING] WITH SIGHT HE BECAME BLIND AND RECOVERED HIS SIGHT [THE GET] IS VALID, which shows [it is valid] only if he recovered his sight, but if he did not recover his sight that he is not qualified? — He is qualified even if he does not recover his sight. Since, however, the Mishnah employed the formula, 'OR [BEING] SANE HE BECAME INSANE AND RECOVERED HIS REASON' — which was necessary in that case because the reason [why it is valid] is because he recovers his reason, but if he does not recover it, [the Get] is not valid — it uses a similar wording in the next clause: 'BEING WITH SIGHT HE BECAME BLIND AND RECOVERED HIS SIGHT. Said R. Ashi: There is an indication of this in [the language of] the Mishnah itself, since it says: THIS IS THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE; ANY BEARER WHO IS IN FULL POSSESSION OF HIS MENTAL FACULTIES AT THE BEGINNING AND END [OF HIS MISSION] IS QUALIFIED, and it does not say, 'anyone who is qualified at the beginning and end [of his mission].' This shows [that what was said above about the bearer who becomes blind, is correct].9
A question was put to R. Ammi: May a slave be made an agent on behalf of a woman to receive her writ of divorce from her husband? — He replied: Since the [Mishnah] declares a heathen disqualified,10
we may infer that a slave is qualified. R. Assi said in the name of R. Johanan: A slave cannot be appointed an agent by a woman to receive a Get on her behalf from her husband, because he does not come within the [provisions of the Jewish] law in regard to divorce and marriage. R. Eleazar strongly demurred to this. Your reason, [he said,] is [that the slave cannot be an agent to do for another] a thing which he cannot do for himself. This would imply that he can be an agent for a thing which he can do for himself. How does this square with the fact that a heathen or a Samaritan can give terumah for himself, as we have learnt: 'If a heathen or a Samaritan gives terumah from his own produce, what is so given is genuine terumah,1 and yet we also learn [in another place]: 'If a heathen gives terumah from the produce of an Israelite even with the latter's permission, what is so given is not regarded as terumah'?2 The reason is, is it not, that Scripture says, you also shall give your heave-offering,3 and we take the superfluous word 'also' to indicate that just as you are Israelites, — so your agents must be Israelites?4 — In the school of R. Jannai they replied: No! [The proper inference from the word 'also' is]: Just as you are sons of the Covenant, so must your agents be sons of the Covenant.5
R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: A slave cannot he made an agent by a woman to receive a Get on her behalf from her husband because he does not come within [the provisions of the Jewish] law in regard to divorce and marriage, and [this] in spite of the fact that we have a teaching: [If a man says to his female slave], 'You are a slave, but your child is free', if she was pregnant at the time she acquires freedom for it [the child].6 What is the point of [quoting]: 'if she was pregnant, she acquires freedom for it'?7 — When R. Samuel b. Judah came [from Palestine], he said: R. Johanan said two things. [One was the dictum regarding a Get quoted above]. The other was this: It seems a reasonable view that a slave can receive a writ of emancipation on behalf of another slave from the master of that slave but not from his own master.8 And if someone should whisper in your ear9 that there is a halachah laid down which contradicts this, [viz.] 'If she was pregnant, she acquires freedom for it,'10 reply to him that two great authorities in their generation, R. Zera and R. Samuel b. Isaac, explained the matter. One said that this [teaching] follows the opinion of Rabbi who said that if a man emancipates the half of his slave, the slave acquires [freedom in regard to the one half], and the other said [in further explanation] that the reason of Rabbi [for applying this to the present case] is that he looks upon the embryo as part of the mother, and therefore the master [in freeing the child] as it were made her owner of one of her own limbs.
MISHNAH. EVEN THE WOMEN WHOSE WORD IS NOT ACCEPTED AS EVIDENCE11 IF THEY SAY THE HUSBAND [OF A CERTAIN WOMAN] IS DEAD ARE ACCEPTED AS BEARERS OF HER GET. NAMELY, HER MOTHER-IN-LAW, HER MOTHER-IN-LAW'S DAUGHTER, HER HUSBAND'S OTHER WIFE,12 HER HUSBAND'S BROTHER'S WIFE, AND HER HUSBAND'S DAUGHTER.13 WHY IS A GET DIFFERENT FROM [A REPORT OF] DEATH? BECAUSE THE WRITING AFFORDS PROOF. A WOMAN MAY BE THE BEARER OF HER OWN GET,14 ONLY SHE IS REQUIRED TO DECLARE,15 'IN MY PRESENCE IT WAS WRITTEN AND IN MY PRESENCE IT WAS SIGNED.'
GEMARA. [How can you say this] seeing that it has been taught: Just as these women's word is not accepted as evidence that her husband is dead, so they are not accepted as bearers of her Get? — R. Joseph replied: There is no contradiction. The one rule is for Eretz Yisrael, the other for outside Eretz [Yisrael]. In Eretz Yisrael, where we do not rely upon her [word],16 such a woman is permitted to bring the Get: outside Eretz [Yisrael], where we should have to rely upon her [word],17 she is not permitted to bring it. Said Abaye to him: On the contrary, the opposite is more reasonable: in Eretz Yisrael, where if the husband comes and challenges [the Get] we take note of his objection,18 it could be argued that the woman has been deliberately trying to make mischief, and therefore she should not be trusted, but outside, where if the husband comes and challenges [the Get] we do not pay any attention to him,19 she should be trusted.20 It has been taught in accordance with the view of Abaye: R. Simeon b. Eleazar says in the name of R. Akiba: That a woman may be trusted to bring her own Get may be established a fortiori. For since those women whose word [the Rabbis] declared to be inacceptable as evidence that her husband is dead can be trusted as bearers of her Get, does it not follow that she herself whose word is accepted as evidence that her husband is dead should be trusted to bring her own Get?
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