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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin

Folio 19a

R. Simeon's authority1  is good enough to follow in an emergency.2  But did not Resh Lakish say that R. Simeon declared [the Get] valid only if it was signed [the night] immediately [following] but not if it was signed ten days later? — On that point he [R. Joshua ben Levi] agreed with R. Johanan. But did not R. Johanan say that only two [of them sign] as witnesses and the rest [simply because he made it] a condition?3  — On that point he agreed with Resh Lakish.


GEMARA. DEYO: this is ink.9  SAM: this is paint.10  SIKRA: Rabbah b. Bar Hanah says: Its name is dekarta [red paint]. KUMUS: this is gum. KANKANTUM: Rabbah b. Samuel says: This is blacking used by bootmakers.

ANYTHING THAT IS LASTING. What do these words add [to the list]? — They add the content of the following [teaching] which R. Hanina learnt: If [the Get is] written with the juice of wine-lees11  or gall-nut [juice], it is valid.

R. Hiyya taught: If the Get is written with lead, with black pigment or with coal,12  it is valid.

It has been stated: If a man goes over red paint writing with ink on Sabbath, R. Johanan and Resh Lakish both agree that he is punishable on two counts, one for writing and one for effacing.13  If he goes over ink with ink or red paint with red paint, he is not punishable.14  If he goes over ink with red paint, some say he is punishable and some say he is not punishable. Some say he is punishable because he effaces [the previous writing], some say he is not punishable because he only spoils [the previous writing]. Resh Lakish inquired of R. Johanan: If witnesses are unable to sign their names, is it permissible to write the names for them in red paint and let them go over in ink? Does the upper writing count as writing or not? — He replied: It does not count as writing. But, said he, has not your honour15  taught us that in respect of Sabbath observance the upper writing is counted as writing?16  — He replied: Because we have a certain idea, shall we base our practice upon it?17

It has been stated: If the witnesses are unable to sign their names, Rab says that incisions are made for them on the sheet18  which they fill in with ink, and Samuel says that a copy is made with lead. 'With lead'? How can this be, seeing that R. Hiyya has taught that if the Get is written with lead, with black pigment or with coal it is valid?19  — There is no contradiction; the one case speaks of lead, the other of water in which lead has been soaked. R. Abbahu said that the copy is made with water in which ground gall-nuts20  have been soaked. But has not R. Hanina taught that if the Get is written with juice of wine-lees or of gall-nuts it is valid? — There is no contradiction: in the one case the sheet has been prepared with gall-nut juice, in the other not; gall-nut water does not show on gall-nut water.21  R. Papa says [that the copy may be made] with spittle, and so R. Papa actually showed Papa the cattle dealer. All this applies only to writs of divorce, but not to other documents;22  for a man who actually did this with another document was ordered by R. Kahana to be flogged.

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. That it may be written by day and signed by night.
  2. Supposing the husband has gone away or she has married again.
  3. And therefore it should he valid even according to the Rabbis.
  4. 'Ink',
  5. 'Paint'.
  6. Lit., 'red'.
  7. [G], 'gum'.
  8. Calcanthum, vitriol. These terms are explained infra.
  9. [Chiefly made in Talmudic days of soot hardened into a tough pitchy substance by means of olive oil or balsam-gum, and finally dissolved in liquid before use; v. Blau, Buchwesen, pp. 153ff.]
  10. [Orpiment; v. Krauss, op. cit. III, pp. 150 and 511.]
  11. [H] meaning uncertain: either rain water or juice of some fruit.]
  12. [So Jast. Rashi 'with coal or blacking used by bootmakers'. Here too the Hebrew terms [H] and [H] are of uncertain meaning, but the Syriac 'Shekiro' for vitriol is in favour of Rashi; Krauss, op. cit. p. 311.]
  13. The effacement of writing on Sabbath is an offence if it is done with the purpose of writing afresh, otherwise not.
  14. Because he neither writes nor effaces.
  15. Lit., 'our master'.
  16. When ink is written over red paint.
  17. I.e., shall we go so far as to permit a doubtful action on Sabbath, or similarly count such a signature as valid in the case of a Get?
  18. [H], a leaf of white papyrus. v, however Krauss, op. cit. III, pp. 146ff.]
  19. And therefore lead counts as writing, and so if it is gone over in ink, we have writing on top of writing, which is not permissible.
  20. [ [H] juice made from the rind of the ash-tree ([G]), a popular writing material prepared by the Romans, v. Kraus, op. cit. III, 148.]
  21. And therefore where the sheet has been prepared with gall-nut juice, it is permissible to make a copy with gall-nut water.
  22. For which it is necessary to find witnesses who can sign their names.
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Gittin 19b

It has been taught in accordance with Rab: If witnesses are unable to sign their names, incisions are made for them on the sheet which they fill in with ink. Said Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel: This applies only to writs of divorce; but in the case of writs of emancipation and other documents, if the witnesses are able to read and to sign, they sign, and if not they do not sign. How does 'reading' come in here? — There is an omission which is to be supplied as follows: 'If the witnesses are unable to read, the document is read to them and they sign, and if they are unable to sign etc.' Said Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel: 'This refers only to writs of divorce; but in the case of writs of emancipation and other documents, if they are able to read and sign, they sign, and if not, they do not sign.' Said R. Eleazar: What is the reason of R. Simeon [for ruling so]? In order that the daughters of Israel may not become 'deserted'1  wives. Raba said: The halachah is according to the ruling of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel. R. Gamda, however, said in the name of Raba that the halachah is not according to his ruling. According to whose ruling then is it? According to that of the Rabbis?2  Was not a man who actually followed this course with regard to another document ordered to be flogged by R. Kahana? — Explain [that as referring to the rule] about reading,3  Rab Judah used to exert himself4  so as to read [a document submitted to him] and [only then] sign. Said 'Ulla to him: This is not necessary, for R. Eleazar, the Master of the Land of Israel,5  used to have the document read to him and then sign. R. Nahman also had [the document] read to him by the scribes of the court judges and then signed. This procedure was correct for R. Nahman and the scribes of the court judges, because they were afraid [of him]6  but it would not be with R. Nahman and any other scribes, or with the scribes of the court judges and any other person.

When R. Papa was called upon to deal with a Persian document drawn up in a heathen registry, he used to give it to two heathens to read, one without the other, without telling them what it was for,7  and [if they agreed] he would recover on [the strength of] it even from mortgaged property. R. Ashi said: R. Huna b. Nathan has told me that Amemar has laid down that a Persian document signed by Israelite witnesses is sufficient warrant for recovering even from mortgaged property. But they are not able to read it? — [We speak of the case] where they are able. But the writing has to be such that it cannot be altered [without leaving a mark], and here it is not so?8  — [We speak of a sheet which has been treated] with gall-nuts. But the rule is that the gist of the document has to be repeated in the last line, and that is not the case here?9  — [We speak of the case where] it is repeated. But when all is said and done, what does this statement teach us? That [a document] may be written in any language? This we have already learned:10  If a Get is written in Hebrew and signed in Greek,11  or written in Greek and signed in Hebrew, it is valid. — If I had only that to go by, I should say that this is the case only with writs of divorce, but not with other documents. Now I know [that this applies to other documents also].

Samuel said: If a man gives his wife a blank sheet and says to her, 'This is thy Get', she is divorced, because we consider it possible that he may have written it with gall-nut water.12  An objection was raised [from the following]: [If a man said to his wife], 'Here is your Get', and she took it and threw it into the sea or the fire or destroyed it in any other way, and if he then in turn said that it was a sham promissory note13  or an amanah,14  she is none the less divorced, and he has no power to prevent her from remarrying.15  [Is not] the reason for this that there was some writing on the sheet, so that if there was no writing [she was] not [divorced]?16  — When Samuel said she is divorced, he meant, only after we have tested [the sheet] with violet water.17  If the letters come to light, then obviously there was writing, and if not, then there is nothing in it. And if the letters do come to light, what of it? It is only now that they come to light?18  Samuel also only said, 'we consider it possible.'19

Rabina said: Amemar has told me that Meremar has laid down in the name of R. Dimi that the two persons in whose presence the Get is delivered20  must read it. An objection was raised [from the following passage]: [If a man said to his wife] 'Here is your Get', and she took it and threw it into the sea or the fire or destroyed it in some other way, and if he then in turn said that it was a sham promissory note or an amanah, she is [none the less] divorced and he has no power to prevent her from remarrying. Now if you say that they [the witnesses to the delivery] are required to read it, can he possibly say this after they have read it? — The ruling is still necessary for the case in which after the witnesses have read it he takes it from them and puts it under his coat and takes it out again. It might be argued in that case that he has changed it [for some other document], but now I know [that this argument is of no avail].

A certain man threw a document to his wife and it fell between the jars. Afterwards a mezuzah21  was found there. Said R. Nahman: A mezuzah is not usually found among the jars.22  This reasoning holds good if only one was found, but if there were two or three we say that just as mezuzahs got there so a Get may have got there, and that the Get itself was removed by mice.

A certain man went to the synagogue and took a scroll of the Law and gave it to his wife saying. 'Here is thy Get'. Said R. Joseph: Why should we take any notice of it? Shall we say that the Get was written in gall-nut water [on the outside of the scroll]? Gall-nut water does not make any mark on [a sheet treated with] gall-nut

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Agunah, v. Glos.
  2. Who allow all documents to be signed by witnesses who cannot write.
  3. That provided they can sign their names, though they cannot read, they may still act as witnesses if the document is read to them.
  4. Being nearly blind, owing to old age.
  5. V. Nid. 20a.
  6. And therefore could be relied upon to read correctly. R. Nahman was himself the chief judge in Nehardea, having been appointed by the Exilarch, who was his father-in-law, v. infra 67b.
  7. Lit., 'talking, in his simplicity'.
  8. As this was not insisted on in the Persian courts.
  9. V. supra 11a.
  10. Infra 87b.
  11. I.e., in Greek script.
  12. And the writing has faded.
  13. Lit., 'persuasion', [H] (Cf. [G]). A bond which A gives B merely that the latter may make a show with it.
  14. A bond given for money which has not yet been borrowed but may be borrowed later, v. Keth. 19b.
  15. Tosef. Git. VI.
  16. As otherwise it would have been stated above, 'If he said that there was no writing on it'. This refutes Samuel.
  17. [H], decoction of the bark of the pomegranate tree. V. Jast. s.v [H].
  18. And when she was divorced there was no writing.
  19. I.e., the divorce is only a doubtful one, sufficient to prohibit her to a priest, but not to allow her to remarry.
  20. V. supra 5b.
  21. V. Glos.
  22. And therefore we presume that what he threw was a mezuzah and not a Get.
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