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Gittin 30

Money matters.

Sometimes when a couple are at the precipice of a divorce, there is a sense — often felt more by one spouse than the other — that if they would just prove themselves a little more, or express their love a little better, or acknowledge their mistakes a little more fully, then perhaps the relationship might be salvageable. Interestingly, we find a situation like this on today’s daf. The Gemara relates: 

A certain man said: If I do not appease my wife within 30 days, let this be a bill of divorce.

Basically, a man writes a conditional bill of divorce and hands it to agents with the stipulation that if he cannot appease his wife within 30 days, the bill will come into effect. And what happened?

He went to appease her, but she was not appeased. 

The husband may have thought that if he proved himself a little more, or expressed his love a little better, or acknowledged his mistakes a little more fully, then his marriage might be salvageable. Yet his wife was evidently unconvinced. So what happens?

The Gemara brings two versions of a statement made by Rav Yosef that links this case to one where the husband sought to appease his wife by giving her a substantial amount of money. According to the first version, even if he did give her money but she was not appeased, then the couple are divorced. This is because the condition set by the husband at the outset — that his wife be appeased — was fulfilled and the divorce came into effect. 

The second version posits that the wife ought to have been appeased by the husband’s money. The wife’s refusal to do so is considered unreasonable and thus the husband’s original condition is invalidated. In that case, the couple remains married. 

The meta question behind Rav Yosef’s position is whether circumstances beyond one’s control have legal standing when it comes to bills of divorce. In the second version, the husband did all he did to appease his wife and still was unable to do so. If the bill of divorce is considered invalid in that case, that suggests circumstances beyond one’s control can effect the the validity of a divorce. The first version suggests the opposite. 

The Gemara leaves this larger question unresolved, but that is not the punchline. Instead, it is the naive belief of the husband that the only way to improve his marriage is to throw money at it. One might wonder how Jewish marriages might have been different if Rav Yosef had not asked whether the husband paid his wife a lot of money, but rather if he had loved his wife a little more more or acknowledged his mistakes more fully?

Perhaps Rav Yosef was speaking of a specific situation, or maybe he was reflecting on the expectations of his time. Still, it should be said that while money matters in relationships, they are about much more. If a couple is experiencing strains, they should seek professional support to explore the deeper issues — rather than just think that gifting each other money or other objects will resolve the problems that they have.

Read all of Gittin 30 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on June 15th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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