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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin
on account of the danger of the woman becoming a 'deserted wife', those [same] Rabbis made a concession1 [by allowing one bearer to suffice]. You call this a concession? It is rather a hardship. since if you require that the Get should be brought by two [bearers], there is no danger of the husband coming and challenging it2 and getting it declared invalid; but if only one is required, he will be able to do so? — No. You know what a Master has told us:3 ['On the question] how many persons must be present when he [the bearer] gives [the writ] to her [the wife], there was a difference of opinion between R. Johanan and R. Haninah, one holding that [at least] two were required, and the other that [at least] three.' This being so, [the bearer] will make sure [of the husband's intentions] from the first, and [the husband] will not come [and invalidate the Get] and bring himself into trouble later.4
Since Raba's reason is that it is not easy to find witnesses to confirm the signatures, why does not he also require two [bearers]. so as to bring this document into line with all others [which may require such confirmation]? — One witness is sufficient where the question at issue is a ritual prohibition. But presumably the rule that one witness is sufficient where the question at issue is a ritual prohibition applies for instance to the case of a piece of fat of which we do not know whether it is permitted or forbidden, there being no prima facie ground for declaring it prohibited. Here, however, since there is prima facie ground for assuming the prohibition regarding a married woman, the question becomes one of prohibited sex relationship, and for disproving such a relationship the evidence of two witnesses is required? — By rights no witnesses should be required for confirming [the signature on] other documents5 either, as may be inferred from the dictum of Resh Lakish, that signatures of witnesses to a document are just as reliable as if their evidence had been sifted in the Beth din. It is the Rabbis who on their own authority insisted [on two witnesses for this], and here on account of the danger of the woman becoming a 'deserted wife', these [same] Rabbis made a concession. You call this a concession? It is rather a hardship, since if you require that the Get should be brought by two bearers, there is no danger of the husband coming and challenging it and getting it declared invalid; but if only one is required, he will be able to do so? — No. You know what a certain Master has told us: ['On the question] how many persons must be present when he gives her the Get, there was a difference of opinion between R. Johanan and R. Haninah, one holding that [at least] two were required and the other [at least] three.' This being so, the bearer will make sure of the husband's intentions, and [the husband] will not come [and invalidate the Get] and bring himself into trouble later.
Why did not Raba give the same reason that Rabbah gave? — He will tell you: Does the Mishnah then require him to declare, 'In my presence it was written in her name, in my presence it was signed in her name'? And Rabbah? — He might retort that by rights the formula ought to run thus, and the reason why it does not is because if you give the bearer too many words to say, he will leave out some. As it is he may leave something out? — He might omit one word out of three,6 he will hardly omit one word from two.7
Why did not Rabbah give the reason which Raba gave? — He will tell you: If this were the reason the Mishnah should require the bearer to declare simply, 'In my presence it was signed' and no more, the fact that he has also to say, 'In my presence it was written' shows that 'Special intention' is required. And Raba? — He might retort that by rights the formula should run thus, but if it did the impression might be created that the confirmation of signatures to documents in general requires only one witness. And Rabbah? — He might rejoin that the two cases8 are not similar. There the formula is, 'We know [this to be So-and-so's signature],' here it is, 'In my presence etc.'; there a woman is debarred,9 here a woman is not debarred;10 there the party concerned11 is debarred, here the party concerned is not debarred.12 And Raba? — He could rejoin that here also if [the bearer] says 'I know etc.' his word is accepted, and since this is so there is a danger13 of creating the impression that confirmation of signatures to documents in general requires only one witness.
According to Rabbah, as we have seen, the reason [for requiring the declaration] is that [Jews outside the Land of Israel] are not familiar with the rule of 'special intention'. [Assuming that this is so,] who is the authority that requires the Get to be both written
and signed with special reference to that woman? It cannot be R. Meir, for he requires only that it should be signed, but not that it should be written with this intention, as we learn:1 'A Get must not be written on something still attached to the soil. If it was written on something still attached to the soil, then torn off, signed and given to the woman, it is valid.'2 Nor again can it be R. Eleazar, for [as we know] R. Eleazar requires that it should be written but not necessarily that it should be signed with 'special intention'.3 Nor can you maintain that after all it is R. Eleazar, and that in saying that 'special intention' is not required, he means 'not required by the Torah', but he admits that it is required by the Rabbis. This cannot be; for there are three kinds of Get [which the Rabbis have declared invalid, though they are not invalid according to the Torah], and R. Eleazar does not include among them one which has not been signed with 'special intention', as appears from the following Mishnah:4 Three kinds of Get are invalid, but if a woman marries on the strength of one of them, the child is legitimate. [One,] if the husband wrote it with his own hand but it was attested by no witnesses; [a second,] if there are witnesses to it but no date; [a third,] if it has a date but the signature of only one witness. These three kinds of Get are invalid, but if the woman remarries on the strength of one of them, the child is legitimate. R. Eleazar says that even though it was not attested by witnesses at all, so long as he gave it to her in the presence of witnesses it is valid, and on the strength of it she may recover her kethubah from mortgaged property, since signatures of witnesses are required to a Get only as a safeguard.5 Are we to say then that after all R. Meir is the authority, and that he dispenses with 'special intention' only as a requirement of the Torah but not as a requirement of the Rabbis? How can this be, in view of what we have been told by R. Nahman, that R. Meir used to rule that even if the husband found a Get ready written on a rubbish heap
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