An agent who is appointed by a woman to receive her get from her husband is called a receiving agent (sh'liach kabbalah). When the get reaches this agent's hand, the divorce is completed,1 as if it has reached the hands of the woman herself.
[The agent] must be appointed in the presence of two witnesses, and two witnesses must be present when the get is conveyed to the agent. Even if the second pair of witnesses is the same as the first pair, or one of them is from the first pair, they are acceptable as witnesses.
When does the above2 apply? When the get is lost or torn. If, however, the get is in the possession of the sh'liach kabbalah, there is no need for witnesses. This applies whether the get was given by the husband in private, or it was given in the presence of witnesses. The presence of the get in the possession of the agent is equivalent to its presence in the possession of the woman.3 Nevertheless, a priori, the get should be given only in the presence of witnesses who observe its transfer, as is the case with regard to [a get given to] the woman herself.4
A husband may not appoint an agent to receive a get for his wife.5 He may, however, appoint an agent to deliver a get to his wife. Such an agent is referred to as a delivery agent (sh'liach holachah).
Similarly, a woman may appoint an agent to fetch her get for her from her husband. Such an agent is referred to as an agent who fetches (sh'liach hava'ah). Neither a sh'liach holachah nor a sh'liach hava'ah need [be appointed in the presence of] witnesses.6
A woman is not divorced through the medium of a get sent by her husband or brought by a sh'liach hava'ah [whom she appointed] until the get reaches her hand.
Whenever the term agent is used with regard to a get without any further explanation, the intent is a sh'liach holachah or a sh'liach hava'ah.
Anyone is acceptable to act as an agent with regard to a divorce, whether as a sh'liach kabbalah, a sh'liach holachah or a sh'liach hava'ah,7 with the exception of five individuals: a gentile, a servant, a deaf mute, a mentally incompetent individual and a minor.8 If one of these individuals brings or receives [a get], the divorce is not effective.
Even women, relatives9 and individuals who are disqualified [from serving as witnesses] because of the violation of Rabbinic law are acceptable to serve as agents for a divorce.10 Individuals who are disqualified because of the violation of Scriptural law, by contrast, are not acceptable [to serve as agents] to deliver a get. If they bring it, the divorce is unacceptable.
When does the above11 apply? When the signatures on the get have been verified.12 If, however, we must rely only on the words of an individual who is disqualified because of the violation of Scriptural law, the divorce is void entirely.13
If the agent was a minor when he was given the get, and he attained majority when he brought it [to the woman], [or he was a] deaf mute and gained the ability to hear and speak, [or he was] mentally incompetent and gained competence, [or he was] a gentile and converted, or a servant and was freed, the divorce is void.14
If, however, the husband gives [an agent] a get while [the agent] is able to hear and speak, [or the agent then] becomes a deaf mute and afterwards regains his ability to hear and speak, or [the agent] was mentally competent, he lost his competence and then regained it when he brought it to the woman, the get is acceptable, for at the outset and at the conclusion, [the agent] was of sound mind.15
When a woman appoints an agent in the presence of witnesses and tells him: "Take my get and keep it for me in your possession," the person is a sh'liach kabbalah. It is as if she told him: "Receive my get for me."
A woman may appoint a sh'liach kabbalah to receive her get for her from an agent appointed by her husband.16
A girl below the age of majority may not appoint a sh'liach kabbalah. Although she may acquire property by virtue of her courtyard in the same manner as an adult woman17 [she does not have the privilege of appointing an agent]. The rationale is that [the appointment of] a sh'liach kabbalah requires witnesses, and witnesses may not testify with regard to a minor, because she is not of complete mental competence.18
[The following laws apply] when a woman has appointed a sh'liach kabbalah and her husband told him: "I do not want you to receive the get for her. Instead, here is her get. Bring it to her." The husband has this prerogative, and the person becomes a sh'liach holachah, rather than a sh'liach kabbalah.19
If, however, the husband tells [the woman's agent]: "Receive the get for her," "Here it is," or "Acquire it for her," he has not revoked the agency [with which] the sh'liach kabbalah [was charged]. But if [the husband] tells [the agent]: "Bring it to her," he has revoked the agency [with which] the sh'liach kabbalah [was charged] and has made him the agent of the husband.20 Similarly, if the husband said: "Bring it and give it to her," he has revoked the agency [with which] the sh'liach kabbalah [was charged].21
[In the following situation, although the get reaches the woman's hand, the divorce is not effective because of the confusion in the delegation of agency.] An agent appointed by a woman came to receive her get from her husband. The agent told the husband: "I am a sh'liach kabbalah."
The husband responded: "Bring the get [in the capacity] in which she appointed you"22 - i.e., he did not revoke his agency. Instead, it is as if he had said: "Whether she appointed you to be a sh'liach kabbalah or a sh'liach hava'ah, you remain in that capacity."
The agent brought [the woman] the get, but she told him: "I did not appoint you to be a sh'liach kabbalah, but rather to be a sh'liach hava'ah." Even if the agent gives her the get, the divorce is not effective, for in speaking to the husband, the agent revoked the agency that he was granted. It is as if he had told him: "I was never appointed a sh'liach hava'ah on her behalf."
[A different ruling applies in the following instance.] The agent told the husband, "I am a sh'liach hava'ah," and the husband told him, "Bring [the get in the capacity] in which she appointed you."
The agent brought [the woman] the get, but she told him: "I appointed you to be a sh'liach kabbalah." When the get is delivered to the woman, the divorce is effective, for he did not revoke the agency that he was granted. He merely reduced [her dependence on him]. For she appointed him [as an agent] to receive [the get], and he said: "I will merely bring it."23
[The following rules apply when] a husband sends a get to his wife, and when the agent attempts to give it to her, she refuses to take it and tells him in the presence of witnesses, "Hold the get in safekeeping,"24 or "You are an agent to receive it for me." Until the get is given to the woman, the status of the divorce is in doubt.25 Once it reaches her possession, the divorce is definitely binding.
When an agent brings a get, he must give it to the woman in the presence of two [witnesses].26 These two [witnesses] must read [the get] and then have it given in their presence.27 For the laws applying to the exchange between the agent and the woman are the same as those applying to her exchange with her husband, for the agent is taking his place.
Accordingly, if the agent gave [the get] to her without having it read by the witnesses who observed its transfer, and the woman took it and threw it into a fire, the status of the divorce is in doubt.28
When an agent transgresses and gives [a woman her] get in private, he should take it back from her and give it to her in the presence of two [witnesses].29 If he dies [and thus this is no longer possible], and the signatures of the witnesses on the get that the woman possesses have been verified, the divorce is acceptable.
Even when a get is delivered to the woman [for whom it is intended], it can be nullified [in the following instances]: The agent took the get, but the husband changed his mind before it reached the woman and told him or her: "The get that I sent you is void," he sent another agent to nullify [the get], or he told others, "The get that I sent to my wife is void."30
When [a husband] nullifies the get in the presence of other people,31 there must be at least two people present.32 If the get has already been delivered to the woman or to a sh'liach kabbalah, the husband can no longer nullify it.33 [This applies] even if he nullifies the get within a very brief time34 [after appointing the agent];35 since [the get] was nullified after being delivered to the woman, to [her] sh'liach kabbalah or to her courtyard, it is not void, and the divorce is effective.
Although [a husband] was seeking to appoint an agent to nullify [a get], or he was seeking two individuals so that he could nullify [the get] in their presence, and during the time he was searching for these individuals the get reached the woman's hand, and afterwards he nullified it, it is not void.36 Despite the fact that he was trying to nullify it before it reached her hand [the divorce is effective].
If [the husband] told ten men: "Write a get and give it to my wife,"37 he may nullify [the get] in the presence of one of the ten, although the others are not present. And he may nullify it in the presence of two other people [who were not involved originally].
If he sent the get via two [agents], he may negate one of the agents although the other is not present. Even when there are ten agents, when he negates [the agency] in the presence of one of them, the get is void.38
Similarly, when a person tells two [witnesses],39 "The get that I [am intending to] write for my wife is nullified," although he has a get written afterwards and gives it to her in the presence of two other [witnesses], the divorce is void. This is referred to as lodging an objection with regard to a get.40
Similarly, if [the husband] were to tell two [witnesses]: "Any get that so and so will write for me is nullified," "Any get that I will have written in the court of so and so is nullified," or "Any get that I will have written in the next twenty years is nullified," the get is nullified.
Similarly, if he told two [witnesses]: "Any get that I write for so and so, my wife, is nullified. And any statements that I make to nullify this objection are nullified," the get is void, although he had it written and given to her, despite the fact that he nullified his objection before having the get written.
How can the latter situation be corrected?41 The witnesses should tell [the husband] before the composition of the get: "Affirm in our presence that any statements that you have made that when verified would cause [this] get to be nullified, are themselves nullified."42 [The husband] must answer "Yes."
Afterwards, he should instruct them to write the get, sign it and give it to his wife. We do not let [the husband] leave until the get is delivered [to his wife], lest he go out and nullify [the get].43
Neither a person who lodges an objection [to a get], nor one who seeks to nullify such an objection needs [to have his statements affirmed by] an act of contract.
When a person has sent a get via an agent and [later] nullifies [the giving of] the get, he may divorce the woman with [this get] whenever he desires. He did not nullify the get as a get; he merely nullified the agency.
Therefore, if the get was in the possession of the husband and he nullified it - e.g., he said: "This get is nullified" - he may never use it for a divorce. It is like a broken shard, and if it is used for a divorce, the divorce is not effective.44
Similarly, if the get was entrusted to the agent, but the husband made an explicit statement, saying: "The get that I sent is nullified [and may not] serve as a get," he may never use it to effect a divorce.
Which wording can be used to nullify a get? [The husband] says: "It is nullified," "I cannot abide by it," "May this get not be effective," "[May it] not permit [her]," "[May it] not release [her], "[May it] not send [her] forth," "[May it] not divorce [her]," "May it be a shard," "May it be like a shard," or "Behold it is like a shard" - If he used any of these expressions or a similar one, he has negated it.45
If, however, [the husband] says: "This get is not a get," "It is unacceptable," "It is not effective," "It does not permit [her]," "It does not release [her], "It does not send [her] forth," "It does not divorce [her]," "It is a shard," his statements are not effective. This wording does not [indicate his desire to] nullify [the get]. Instead, they are statements of fact, and in this instance, statements of incorrect fact.46 It is as if someone said that a forbidden entity were permitted or that an impure object were pure.
If he says, "This get is nullified," [it is possible that] the implication is the use of the past tense, as in the phrase [Song of Songs 5:6]: "He turned away and was gone." Thus, there is a question concerning the matter.47 Therefore, if [a woman] has been divorced with this get [after such statements were made], the status of the divorce is in doubt.
[As reflected in the following instance, an explicit statement must be made to nullify the get: A man] sent a get to his wife [via an agent]. The agent returned to him and said: "I could not find her," or "She did not want to receive it." Although the husband answered: "Blessed be He who is good and does good," or made other statements that imply that he no longer wants to divorce her, and that he is happy that the get was not delivered, the get is not nullified. Instead, he may give it to her and the divorce will be effective. [For the get to be nullified,] he must explicitly say "Do not give it to her," or he should explicitly nullify it [using one of the above expressions].
A person who sent a get to his wife [via an agent] and then nullified [the get] in the presence of two other people,48 and similarly, a person who issued an objection [nullifying] a get, should be given stripes for rebelliousness, because he makes it possible for illegitimate children to be conceived.
Since a get reached [the woman], [it is possible that] she will marry on this basis. [Only] afterwards, when the witnesses in whose presence the husband nullified the get or issued an objection before the get was written appear [will she realize the difficulty]. Thus, a child [conceived in her second marriage] will be illegitimate.
When an agent brings a get and gives it to a woman, we do not suspect that the husband nullified it. Instead, he should give it to the woman under the presumption that it is acceptable, and the woman may marry on this basis. If it is discovered afterwards that [the husband] negated it, [the woman] must leave [her second husband], and any children conceived are illegitimate.
Similarly, when [a husband] has a get written and gives it to his wife, we do not suspect that perhaps he lodged an objection regarding this get. Instead, we operate under the conception that the get is acceptable, and the woman is allowed to marry on this basis.
Similarly, when an agent brings a get [that was sent by] a man who was sick or elderly, he may give it to the woman under the presumption that the husband is still alive. If, however, the husband was in his death throes when [the agent left], even when he gives the get to the woman the status of the divorce is in doubt. For the majority of those in their death throes will die, and a get given after death is not effective.49
Similarly, when a city is surrounded by an army50 and held under siege, a ship is in distress at sea,51 or a person is taken out to be judged [with regard to a capital case],52 we presume that any person in such a situation is alive. If a person in such a situation has sent a get [to his wife] via an agent, he may give it to her, and the presumption will be that the divorce is effective.
When, by contrast, a city has been conquered by an attacking army and [its wall] broken, a ship is lost at sea,53 a person is being taken out to be executed by a gentile court,54 or he is being dragged by a beast of prey, swept away by a river or an avalanche has fallen upon him, the stringencies applying to both the living and the dead, are followed.
If [a person in one of these situations gave] a get to an agent, the agent should not give it to the husband's wife.55 If, however, he gives it to her, the status of the divorce is in doubt.56 If it is known that the husband died before the get reached his wife, the divorce is void.
When a husband sends his wife a get, he is obligated to provide her with support and fulfill the other stipulations of the marriage contract, until the get reaches [his wife] or a sh'liach kabbalah she has appointed.57
A divorce is considered to be undesirable and detrimental for a woman. Therefore, an agent cannot be appointed for her without her consent. For an activity that is detrimental to a person cannot be performed on his or her behalf without his will (Gittin 62b).
See Hilchot Ishut 3:15, where the Rambam states: "For the only purpose witnesses would serve with regard to the agency... is to make known the truth of the matter."
According to the Rambam, the distinction between these agents and a sh'liach kabbalah appointed by the woman is that through the acceptance of the get the marriage bonds are annulled, and "no matters involving forbidden sexual relations [are established if] fewer than two witnesses are present (Yevamot 88a)." Since the sh'liach kabbalah is concerned only with receiving the get, his agency involves nothing else but the actual divorce. Hence, witnesses must be present to acknowledge the appointment of this agent. In contrast, the agency of a sh'liach holachah and a sh'liach hava'ah also involves transporting the get, an activity that is merely a preparatory step for the divorce. Hence, witnesses are not required for his appointment.
It must be emphasized that the Ra'avad and others offer a far more straightforward rationale clarifying the distinction between these agents. A sh'liach holachah and a sh'liach hava'ah each carry the get with them. Hence, they need no further proof of their agency. A sh'liach kabbalah, by contrast, does not have possession of the get before the divorce. Hence, his position must be strengthened by having his appointment observed by witnesses.
In practice, it has already become customary for the appointment of a sh'liach holachah to be certified by a written document. There are opinions that differ and require that the appointment of a sh'liach holachah also be observed by witnesses. (See Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 141:11, 30, 40.)
The Rambam's statements are intended to negate the opinion of his teacher, Rabbi Yosef Migash, who maintains that a servant may serve as a sh'liach holachah. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 141:31) quotes both views, but appears to favor the Rambam's view.
As can be seen in the various manuscript copies of the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Gittin 2:6), the Rambam changed his opinion regarding the acceptance of these individuals as agents when the veracity of the signature on a get has been established. The standard text of the Commentary on the Mishnah states that if the witnesses' signatures have been verified, the get is acceptable unless the person worships false gods or violates the Sabbath in public. This is also the view of other authorities and is the ruling favored by the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 141:33).
See also Chapter 12, Halachah 17. Based on the objections of the Ra'avad, the Kessef Mishneh modifies the Rambam's ruling slightly, explaining that the intent is that the woman may not remarry, and not that the get is void. If, however, she does remarry, her second husband is also required to divorce her.
The get she received from her first husband is not void, because it is possible that witnesses will come and verify the signatures on the get. In such an event, the divorce will be effective retroactively. Nevertheless, since those signatures have not been verified as of yet, her second husband must divorce her.
Rav David Arameah explains that the Rambam's intent is that the get is still viable, but it should be given to another agent to effect the divorce. Note the Maggid Mishneh and others, who question the source for the Rambam's ruling.
The fact that, in the interim, he was unfit to serve as an agent is of no significance. Note the Or Sameach, who on this basis questions what the law would be if the husband negates the agency and then desires to reestablish it. Must he reappoint the agent or not?
And thus, if a get were placed in her courtyard, the divorce would be acceptable. Moreover, the effectiveness of a courtyard in the acceptance of a get is associated with the concept of agency. (See Bava Metzia 10b and the gloss of the Maggid Mishneh on Chapter 5, Halachah 2.)
The Ra'avad disagrees with the Rambam and maintains that the rationale is that a minor is never empowered to appoint an agent. And thus, a woman below majority may not appoint a sh'liach hava'ah either. It must be noted that in Hilchot Sh'luchin V'Shutafin 2:2, the Rambam indeed states that in no instance may a minor appoint an agent. See the Lechem Mishneh and Rav Kapach, who emphasize that a special law applies with regard to an agent to receive a get, for he is considered to be the extension of the woman's hand. Note the Rambam's wording in Chapter 1, Halachah 1.
I.e., the husband's statements imply that he is unwilling to give the agent the get in his original capacity, but that he is willing to charge him with a different agency - bringing the woman the get as agent of the husband.
This ruling is not accepted by all authorities. The Rashba and Rabbenu Nissim differ, maintaining that in such an instance, the status of the divorce is in doubt. The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 140:6), while the other views are cited by the Ramah.
Although with regard to the transfer of a present the Rambam maintains that the expression "Give it to him" is equivalent to saying "Acquire it on his behalf" (Hilchot Zechiyah UMatanah 4:4), because the husband said "Bring it to her" it is clear that he desired the agent to serve in the capacity of a sh'liach holachah.
The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 140:8) explains that the phrase "in the capacity in which she appointed you" is of primary significance here. If the husband does not add that phrase and says merely: "Bring the get to her," he is appointing the agent to be a sh'liach holachah, and by taking the get the agent is accepting this appointment. Therefore, if the agent delivers the get to the woman, the divorce is effective.
By serving as a sh'liach hava'ah, the agent accepts far more responsibility and difficulty than by serving as a sh'liach kabbalah. If he served as a sh'liach kabbalah, the divorce would be completed after he received the get. As a sh'liach hava'ah, the agent must trouble himself to bring the get to the woman. As such, we assume that since the woman was willing to accept the agent as a sh'liach kabbalah, she is certainly willing to accept him as a sh'liach hava'ah.
Note the Lechem Mishneh and Rabbenu Nissim, who explain that it is possible that the husband relied on the words of the agent, or it is possible that he was concerned with the words of his wife. Indeed, with regard to questions of commercial law, there is an unresolved question in Bava Metzia 76a regarding this matter. Following this rationale, even if the get never reached the woman, as long as it reached the agent the status of the divorce is in doubt. This ruling is also cited by the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 140:9).
With this expression, the woman's intent is that the agent should begin acting as her agent and hold the get for her. For keeping the get as an entrusted article violates the instructions that her husband gave him (Rabbenu Nissim).
The Rambam rules that after the fact, a get given in private is acceptable. There are, however, geonim who hold that such a get is unacceptable (Chapter 1, Halachah 16). Since the status of an agent is weaker than that of the husband himself, a second transfer of the get is required in this instance a priori (Maggid Mishneh).
See Halachah 26. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 141:59) rules that at the outset, a husband should not nullify a get unless either the agent he appointed or his wife is present. Otherwise, it is possible that the woman may receive the get - and marry another man - before receiving notice that her get was nullified.
The rationale is that divorcing a wife is a very serious matter, and a man would not make such a decision unless he were resolute. Therefore, his change of mind is not considered to be a clarification of his original position (as in certain other instances - e.g., a retraction of a business commitment), but rather an entirely new decision. (Note the parallels to Hilchot Ishut 7:22, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 2:9 and Hilchot Sh'vuot 2:17.)
The fundamental principle involved is that Torah law depends on a person's acts and statements, not his feelings. Although it is obvious that the husband desired to nullify the get, since he was not able to take binding action the divorce is valid. (See also Halachah 25.)
The Ra'avad differs with Rambam and maintains that although a person may nullify the agency of one of the two (or ten), doing so does not nullify the agency of the other(s), and if they give the woman the get, the divorce is effective. Although the Rambam's opinion is also mentioned, it is that of the Ra'avad that is favored by the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 149:61).
In Hilchot Mechirah, Chapter 6, the Rambam explains the details of lodging an objection with regard to a sale. There he explains that when a person is compelled to make a sale against his will, he can nullify the transaction by issuing an objection stating that he was compelled to make this sale. With regard to an objection to a get, other authorities (see Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, Chapter 134) also mention the concept of compulsion. The Rambam, however, omits mention of the subject entirely.
As reflected in Halachah 27, our Sages considered lodging an objection to a get in a very negative light.
The situation mentioned by the Rambam in the previous halachah is not merely a theoretical question. In many instances, a husband who was compelled to divorce his wife would seek to have the get nullified so that their marriage could continue. Similarly, apostates and men whose feelings toward their wives have soured have sought to nullify their divorces in order to cause their wives difficulties.
Many of the other commentaries differ with the Rambam concerning this point. Some - e.g., the Rashba - are more stringent, for they maintain that the husband can word his objection to nullify even such a statement. They explain that to insure that the get is not nullified, the husband must also disqualify the testimony of any witness who heard his objections.
Others - e.g., Rabbenu Asher - are more lenient and maintain that all that is necessary is for the husband to say that all objections to the get are nullified. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 134:3) rules according to the Rashba. The Ramah maintains that Rabbenu Asher's ruling is halachically acceptable; however, he counsels following the Rashba's ruling to eliminate all doubts.
There are authorities who differ with the Rambam on this point, based on their version of Gittin 32b. According to these authorities, since the get was written according to law, it is always able to be used for a divorce and can never be nullified by the husband. In consideration of the opinion of these authorities, the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 141:66), when quoting this law, rules that the status of the divorce is in doubt.
The Rambam implies that the question is whether the word לטב implies a future tense - i.e., that his intent is to nullify the get - in which instance the divorce would not be effective. Or whether it implies the past tense, in which case, as in the previous halachah, the husband would be giving us incorrect information.
Rashi offers a slightly different interpretation of the passage in Gittin 32b that serves as the source for this halachah. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 141:63) quotes both opinions.
The primary reason for giving such a get - for the marriage is terminated with the husband's death regardless - is to free a childless woman from the obligations of yibbum and chalitzah. If the get was given before the husband's death, these rites are not necessary. Otherwise, they are. With the current advances in record keeping and communication, it is usually possible to eliminate the doubt mentioned in this halachah.
The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 141:69) states that this law applies only when a city is surrounded by the army of the ruling authority. If it is surrounded by an army from another country, we no longer operate under the presumption that the husband is alive.
In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Gittin 3:4), the Rambam defines a ship in distress as follows: "One that faces a tempest-torn sea that threatens to sink it. The sailors are unable to control its path as they desire.... Nevertheless, all the oars and the other instruments remain intact."
In his Commentary on the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam defines this as referring to a ship whose oars, steering mechanism and other navigational tools have been broken, and it is totally at the mercy of the waters.
The laws that apply when a ship has sunk are described in Chapter 13, Halachah 16.
The implication is that if the person was sentenced to death by a Jewish court, we presume that the sentence was carried out. (See Hilchot Terumot 9:2.) In contrast, there is a possibility that a gentile court will accept a bribe.
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