Gittin 65

An eruv made of figs and dates.

When an Israelite woman marries a priest, she becomes eligible to eat terumah, agricultural produce that is set aside and designated for consumption by priests. She retains this privilege as long as she is married. But once divorced from the priest, she loses the privilege. We learn in a mishnah:

If an Israelite woman said to her agent, “Receive my bill of divorce for me in such and such a place,” then even if he received it elsewhere she continues to partake of terumah until the bill of divorce reaches that place. Rabbi Elazar prohibits her from partaking of terumah immediately.

Our mishnah reports a dispute between the rabbis and Rabbi Elazar about when a woman can no longer eat terumah if she has sent an agent to a particular place to accept her bill of divorce on her behalf. The rabbis believe that she can still eat terumah until the agent receives the get in that specific place or until it is brought there by the agent if it was received in another location. Rabbi Elazer forbids her to eat terumah immediately.

In order to explain their difference of opinion, the Gemara references another debate which has some parallels:

One who says to their agent: “Establish an eruv of Shabbat boundaries on my behalf with dates,” and the agent established an eruv on his behalf with dried figs, or if they said to their agent: “Establish an eruv on my behalf with dried figs,” and the agent established an eruv on his behalf with dates — It is taught in one beraita: The eruv is a valid eruv. And it is taught in another beraita: The eruv is not a valid eruv.

In our mishnah, a woman appoints an agent to receive her get in a specific place and the agent receives it in another place. In this parallel debate brought by the Gemara, a person sends an agent to set up their Shabbat boundary with one kind of food and the agent does so with another. A get can be received anywhere, and an eruv can be established with a wide variety of foods. So even though the instructions were not followed to the letter in either case, in both scenarios the agents took actions that could potentially enact a valid divorce or build a valid eruv, respectively. 

In the case of the eruv, ultimately, Rabba resolves the conflict by attributing one tradition to the rabbis and one to Rabbi Elazar — just as in our mishnah. The rabbis, he says, believe that when a person gives instructions to an agent, they intend exact compliance; therefore, substituting figs for dates invalidates the eruv. Likewise, in the scenario found in our mishnah, they require that the get be brought to the place designated by the woman before it becomes operative.

Rabbi Elazar, on the other hand, holds that the language used in both cases is more of a suggestion than a stipulation. In other words, when charging an agent to create an eruv, a person doesn’t really care if it is made with dates or figs, and so, if the agent chooses to use a different type of food, it does not nullify the eruv. Similarly, the woman of our mishnah is merely suggesting where she thinks the agent might intercept her bill of divorce; therefore, she becomes prohibited from eating terumah as soon as the agent receives her get. 

In this case where the woman says to her agent, “Receive my bill of divorce for me in such and such a place,” the law follows the opinion of the rabbis — she can continue to eat terumah until the get is brought or received by her agent in the place that she designated, following the principle that in a debate between a plurality of rabbis and an individual opinion, we follow the majority. 

It’s worth noting that this debate about creation of an eruv through an agent that swaps dates with figs, which sounds like it comes straight from Tractate Eruvin, appears here on Gittin 65 and only on this daf. It does not appear anywhere else in the Talmud. That means that even if you have studied all of Eruvin, you haven’t yet learned all of the talmudic material on eruvs. And if you’re only partway through the Talmud, there may yet be more to discover. For some, this might be a source of frustration. For others, it’s motivation to turn the page and read on.

Read all of Gittin 65 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on July 20th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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