Gittin 24


The third chapter of Tractate Gittin begins with a mishnah that teaches the following:

Any bill of divorce that was not written for the sake of a (specific) woman is invalid. 

How so? If a man was passing through the marketplace and heard the sound of scribes dictating (to their students): The man so-and-so divorces so-and-so from the place of such and such, and the man said: This is my name and that is the name of my wife, and he wishes to use this bill for his divorce, the bill is unfit for him to divorce with it.

In this case, a man is walking through the market and overhears a scribe instructing his students how to write a bill of divorce. Amazingly, the made-up names the scribes are using to practice their skills are the man’s own name and the name of his wife. Yet even so, the bill cannot be used to effect an actual divorce because it was not prepared specifically for his wife. The fact that it includes her name is purely coincidence.

Now the mishnah brings a second case.

Moreover, if one wrote a bill to divorce his wife but reconsidered, and a resident of his town found him and said to him: “My name is as your name, and my wife’s name is as your wife’s name” — the bill is unfit to divorce with it. 

In the second case, a man writes a bill of divorce but then changes his mind. Another man then comes along and, despite the fact that his name is the same as the bill writer’s name and his wife’s name is the same as the bill writer’s wife’s name, the document cannot be used for the second man’s divorce. 

Naturally, the Gemara wonders why we need both cases. Don’t they both involve a document that contains the names of a husband and his wife but was not originally written for them? Yes, comes the reply, but there’s a difference. The first case deals with a document that wasn’t ever meant to be used — it was created as part of a training exercise. The second involved an actual document. Both cases are required so we understand that even a document intended for actual use must be drafted with a specific couple in mind. 

The mishnah then presents two additional scenarios. 

Moreover, if one had two wives and their names were identical, and he wrote to divorce the older, he may not divorce the younger with it.

Moreover, if he said to the scribe: “Write for whichever that I will want and I will divorce her with it” — this bill is unfit to divorce either wife with it.

The novelty of the third case is clear. In this case, the document was drafted to be used by a specific husband. It is only the specific wife that is unclear. Here too, the mishnah teaches us, the divorce document is invalid. 

But what does the fourth case add? Isn’t it obvious by now that a get created without a specific recipient in mind is invalid? No, says the Gemara, we need this case too, because it makes clear that one must declare for whom a get is intended before it is written. One cannot declare it retrospectively.

By now, we’ve seen this sort of exercise many times. When multiple cases are described in a mishnah, the Gemara will often inquire what each one adds to our understanding — but not always. In this instance, however, it’s hard to imagine how the Gemara could do otherwise. Each new case is introduced by the word “moreover” — yater miken in the original, which might be literally translated as “even more than this.” It’s almost as if the mishnah is signaling the Gemara to ask what more we learn from each additional case. Moreover, if you’ve been on the Daf Yomi journey for a while, you’re likely not surprised that the Gemara would head in this direction.

Read all of Gittin 24 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on June 9th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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