Today’s section deals with R. Yose the Galilean’s opinion that one cannot write a valid divorce document, a get, on something that is alive.
This baraita contains the midrash whereby R. Yose the Galilean explains why one cannot use something that has the “breath of life” in it as a get. The Torah calls a get “a sefer” or “scroll.” A scroll in rabbinic times was always made of parchment—animal skin. But the rabbis allow one to write on other materials as well, including paper (as we do today), earthenware and a variety of other materials. The midrash says that these materials are included from the word “and he wrote to her” which are read to imply that he can write on anything. However, if this is true, why would the Torah call the divorce document a “scroll”? The answer is that a get must be written on something that has some similarities to a scroll. It cannot be alive, nor can it be written on something that eats. This is how R. Yose the Galilean derives his exclusion of animals from being material upon which a get may be written.
The other rabbis allow one to write a get on an animal. So how then do they interpret the word “sefer” from the Torah? The answer is that had the Torah written “And he wrote for her in a scroll” then R. Yose the Galilean would have been correct. But the Torah just says, “a scroll” which they creatively read as if it says “sippur” which means “story.” He doesn’t write “in a scroll” rather he “writes a story.”
This section continues to deal with the issue of the get. To recall—the rabbis don’t read the word “sefer” as being restricted to a book. The person can write the get on any material he so choose, even an animal. While R. Yose the Galilean had an interpretation of the word “and he wrote,” the rabbis who disagree with him do not. That is where our section picks up.
The rabbis use the word “and he writes” to teach that divorce is only done through writing and not through any other means. We might have thought that since the Torah compares marriage with divorce (see Deuteronomy 24:2) just as she can be betrothed through money, so too she can be divorced through money. Therefore, the word “and he writes” is read as emphasizing that she is divorced by a written document and not by money.
The previous comment now begins a sort of “midrashic chain” whereby each position must derive each halakhah from some place in the Torah and each position must use each word of the Torah available. R. Yose the Galilean agrees that a woman can be divorced only through writing and not through money. But the word “And he writes” was already used up by another midrash. So where does he derive this halakhah from? From the words “a scroll of divorce.” The word used for divorce can also mean “cutting off.” Thus to R. Yose the Galilean a scroll severs the bonds of marriage but nothing else does.
The rabbis now need a halakhah to be attached to the word “sefer keritut” which we have translated as “a scroll of divorce.” The word “keritut” can also mean to “sever.” The rabbis read this word to mean that divorce must completely sever the ties between the husband and wife. He cannot make the divorce contingent upon her refraining from doing something such as drinking wine or going to her father’s house. Note that these might be things that caused him to want to divorce her in the first place. She drank wine and he was bothered by that. He didn’t like her father, or her going to visit her father’s house. The rabbis rule that the husband cannot control her in divorce in any way—even in the ways that led him to want to divorce her.
However, he may make the get contingent upon a temporary condition—that she not do such an act for thirty days. Since this condition will disappear, the divorce is valid.
How does R. Yose the Galilean derive the halakhah that divorce must sever the ties when he has already used up the word “keritut” for a different halakhah? The answer is that he derives it from the plural form. The Torah calls the get a “sefer keritut” which is the plural (or some sort of expanded form) of the word for “karet”—to sever. This allows him to use the word twice.
Of course, this chain has to end at some point (I would hope). So the Talmud ends by stating that the other rabbis do not derive any meaning from the double form. Otherwise they would have to find a new halakhah and the argument would continue.
Today’s section begins with a new mishnah.
Whereas the previous mishnayot discussed one who supports his skhakh on trees, this mishnah teaches that one can use trees as walls for a sukkah.
R. Aha b. Jacob says that in order for a partition to count (for any halakhic matter requiring a partition) the partition needs to be able to withstand a normal wind. We shall now explore how this relates to our mishnah.
The Talmud uses the above mishnah to raise a difficulty on R. Aha b. Jacob. The mishnah allows one to use a tree as a wall. But trees sway with the wind—they are not able to withstand a normal wind.
The Talmud now offers a series of contextualizations to reconcile the mishnah with R. Aha b. Jacob’s statement. First of all, the trees we are talking about are solid trees, not bushes, which are also called “trees” by the rabbis.
But even solid trees have swaying branches that don’t stand up to a normal wind.
The Talmud answers this by supposing that he plaited the branches so that they wouldn’t move with the wind.
But now that we’ve come this far in understanding the mishnah—that it refers to solid trees whose branches have also been made solid by being plaited—why do we even need the mishnah? Obviously these trees can be used as walls!
The answer is that without this mishnah we might have thought that since at least on Shabbat or Yom Tov one cannot use a tree, that we wouldn’t let him use it as a wall. Therefore, the mishnah must teach us that he can use it as a wall, even on Shabbat or Yom Tov.
The Talmud now uses another baraita as a difficulty on R. Aha b. Jacob. This baraita says that one can use a tree or other types of partitions as a “corner-piece.” This corner-piece when placed in the four corners around a well, would allow people to draw from the well on Shabbat. These four fictitious walls create a private domain in which one is allowed to carry. So here to we see that one can use a tree as a partition.
The answer here is the same as that above—in order for the tree to count as a valid partition he must solidify the branches. If the branches sway the tree cannot be used.
Today’s section continues to deal with the issue of whether a partition that sways to and fro counts as a partition.
The Talmud raises yet another difficulty from a baraita that seems to allow one to consider a tree to be a partition. In this case, the issue is carrying under the tree during Shabbat. As long as the tree’s branches are within three handbreadths of the ground, one may carry underneath it.
Again, as it we saw in yesterday’s section, the resolution is that he made the tree’s partition more solid by plaiting it with shrubs and trees. Without having done so, the Talmud rules that he would not be able to consider the branches to be a partition.