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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin
MISHNAH. IF THE BEARER OF A GET LOSES IT. ON THE WAY, IF HE FINDS IT AGAIN IMMEDIATELY IT IS VALID, AND IF NOT IT IS NOT VALID.1 IF HE FINDS IT IN A HAFISAH OR IN A DELUSKAMA2 OR3 IF HE RECOGNISES IT, IT IS VALID.
GEMARA. Is there not a contradiction [between this Mishnah and the following]:4 'If a man finds bills of divorcement of wives or of emancipation of slaves or wills or deeds of gift or receipts, he should not deliver them,5 for I say that after they were written [the writer] changed his mind and decided not to give them'. I infer from this, do I not, that if he had said 'Give them,'6 they are to be given, even if a long interval had elapsed? — Rabbah replied: There is no difficulty. Here [in our Mishnah the reference] is to a place where caravans pass frequently, there [the other] to a place where caravans do not frequently pass.7 And even in a place where caravans frequently pass, [the Get is invalid] only if there are presumed to be two men named Simon ben Joseph in the same town. For if you do not [understand Rabbah thus], then there is a contradiction between this statement of Rabbah and another of his. For a Get was once found in the Beth din of R. Huna in which was written, 'In Shawire, a place by the canal Rakis', and R. Huna said: The fear that there may be two Shawires is to be taken into account;8 and R. Hisda said to Rabbah: Go and look it up carefully, because to-night R. Huna will ask you about it, and he went and looked up and found that we had learnt [in a Mishnah]: 'Any document which has passed through a Beth din is to be returned'.9 Now the Beth din of R. Huna was on a par with a place where caravans pass frequently, and Rabbah decided that the document should be delivered. From this we conclude that if there are known to be two men named Simon ben Joseph in the town it is [not to be returned], but otherwise it is.10 In the case of a Get which was found 'among the flax' in Pumbeditha, Rabbah acted according to the rule just laid down.11 Some say it was found in the place where flax was soaked, and although there were two persons of the same name known to be in the place, he ordered it to be returned because it was not a place where caravans passed frequently. Some again say that it was the place where flax was sold, and there were not two persons of the same name known to be there though caravans did pass frequently.
R. Zera pointed to a contradiction between the Mishnah and the following Baraitha, and also resolved it. We learn here: IF THE BEARER OF A GET LOSES IT ON THE WAY AND FINDS IT AGAIN IMMEDIATELY, IT IS VALID, AND IF NOT IT IS NOT VALID. This seems to contradict the following: If a man finds a bill of divorce in the street, if the husband acknowledges it he should deliver it to the woman, but if the husband does not acknowledge it he should give it neither to one nor to the other.12 It says here at any rate
that when the husband acknowledges it he should give it to the woman, even if a long time has elapsed? — R. Zera answered himself by saying that [in the Mishnah] here we speak of a place where caravans pass frequently and there [the other passage] of a place where caravans do not pass frequently. Some add [in quoting the answer of R. Zera]: And even [the Mishnah says] it should not be delivered only if there are presumed to be two men of the same name, which is the view of Rabbah. Some again report R. Zera as having said 'even though there are not presumed etc., he should not deliver,' and so as differing from Rabbah. We can understand why Rabbah did not raise the difficulty in the form in which it was raised by R. Zera: he thought there was more force in opposing one Mishnah to another.1 But why did not R. Zera raise it in the form in which it was raised by Rabbah? — R. Zera might answer: Does the [other Mishnah] state, 'If the husband has said, Give, it is to be given even after the lapse of some time'?2 possibly what it means is that if he has said 'give' it is given only in the recognised way, i.e. immediately.3 R. Jeremiah said: [The Get is delivered after a lapse of time only] if, for instance, the witnesses say, 'We have never signed more than one Get in the name of Joseph ben Simeon.' If that is so, what does [the Mishnah] tell us? — You might think that we [still do not declare the Get valid] for fear that the name may happen to be the same and the witnesses may happen to be the same. Now we know [that we disregard this possibility]. R. Ashi said: [The Get is delivered after a lapse of time only] if the bearer can say, 'there is a hole at the side of such-and-such a letter,' which is a precise distinguishing mark. And that is, provided he says, 'at the side of such-and-such a letter', which is a precise distinguishing mark, and not simply 'a hole'. [R. Ashi ruled thus] because he was not certain if the rule about distinguishing marks4 is derived from the Torah or was laid down by the Rabbis [on their own authority].5
Rabbah b. Bar Hanah lost a Get in the Beth Hamidrash. He said [to the Beth din]: If you want a distinguishing mark, I can give one, and if you want me to recognise it by sight, I can do so. They gave it back to him. He said: I do not know if they gave it back because I was able to give a distinguishing mark,6 and they thought that the rule about such marks7 was derived from the Torah, or because I was able to recognise it by sight. And for this only a Talmudical student would be trusted, but not any ordinary person.
AND IF NOT IT IS NOT VALID. Our Rabbis have taught: What is it that we call 'not immediately'? R. Nathan says: If he has allowed an interval to elapse long enough for a caravan to pass by and encamp. R. Simeon b. Eleazar says: [It is called 'immediately'] so long as someone stands there and sees that no-one passes there; some say, that no-one has stopped there. Rabbi says: [If he waits long enough] for the Get to be written. R. Isaac says: Long enough to read it. According to others, to write and to read it. Even if a considerable time did elapse, if there are [precise] distinguishing marks they are taken as evidence, e.g., if the bearer says that there is a hole at the side of such-and-such a letter. The general characteristics [of the Get], however, are no evidence, e.g., if he said that it was long or short. If the bearer found it tied up in a purse, a bag, or a ring,
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