Gittin 29

You should not raise this dilemma.

We learn from a mishnah that when an agent that has been appointed to deliver get from a locale overseas becomes ill and is unable to travel, the agent can go to a rabbinic court to appoint another agent to take his place. The mishnah shares the procedure for the transfer of agency and subsequent delivery of the bill of divorce:

The first agent says before the court, “It was written in my presence and it was signed in my presence.” The final agent does not need to say, “It was written in my presence and it was signed in my presence” upon delivery; rather, it is sufficient for them to say, “I am an agent of the court.”

The Gemara reports that the sages sent Avimei to ask Rabbi Abbahu, his father:

Can an agent of an agent also appoint another agent, or not? 

In other words, if the second agent becomes ill, are they also empowered to go to court and transfer the responsibility to deliver the get to a third agent? Or even more?

We’ve seen the rabbis entertain this kind of question before. In the opening of Tractate Yoma, the high priest is appointed a back-up wife should his own die ahead of Yom Kippur, and then there is a question of whether additional back-up wives are needed. In this case, Avimei declines to ask his father question, responding:

You should not raise this dilemma. 

At first glance, this seems out of character for the Talmud. Talmudic discourse is built around questions. What could possibly cause one talmudic figure to tell another not to ask a question? As it turns out, it’s because Avimei himself already has the answer, which is made clear by the language of the mishnah:

From the fact that the mishnah teaches “the final agent does not say,” we can infer that the second agent can appoint another agent.

If the mishnah wanted to limit the number of agents to two, it would have indicated this by stating that it is the second agent who says that they are the agent of the court. By putting the words in the mouth of the “final agent,” the mishnah allows for a third (or even a fourth) and grants permission for any agent to appoint another in their stead.

But Avimei actually has a question of his own that he suggests that he bring to his father on behalf of the sages:

Rather, when you raise the dilemma, this is what you should ask: “When the second agent appoints another agent, does he need to appoint him specifically in court, or can he do so even while not in court?”

And now it’s the sages’ turn:

They said to him: We do not raise this dilemma.

Why? Again, the answer comes from a close reading of the mishnah, which teaches that the final agent says, “I am an agent of the court,” — implying that this agent must also be appointed in court.

In the end, Avimei had no need to bring a question on this mishnah before his esteemed father.

If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you are near the halfway mark of the Daf Yomi journey. And even if you joined more recently, you may have quite a few sugyas under your belt. How many questions that you once would have had about a talmudic discussion can you now answer on your own? In what ways has our beloved text, with its uniquely talmudic modes of discourse, become more accessible to you?

As we forge onward in our Daf Yomi journey, please continue to pose questions to others when you have them, but when you notice you can answer them on your own, take a moment to rejoice as you declare, “I do not need to raise this dilemma!”

Read all of Gittin 29 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on June 14th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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