Today we start the ninth chapter of Tractate Gittin, which continues the Talmud’s discussion of details related to the written bill of divorce. The mishnah that opens our chapter asks about the case of a conditional divorce. If a man divorces his wife but only on condition that she not marry one specific man, does the divorce take effect?
You are hereby permitted to any man except for so-and-so, Rabbi Eliezer permits it. And the rabbis prohibit it.
Rabbi Eliezer seems to think that a man can effectively divorce his wife and limit who she can subsequently marry, but the rabbis reject this idea. After divorce, a man has no claim on his ex-wife’s life or marriage prospects. By imposing such a claim, the man is not actually divorcing his wife, and the couple remain married.
We have already seen the Talmud discuss the kinds of claims that a man can make on an ex-wife, specifically those relating to breastfeeding and childcare for the children they share. But the rabbis here insist that a man cannot impose a claim on his ex-wife’s future relationship prospects, even if there’s some guy out there that he really doesn’t like — and perhaps even if he has good reason to dislike him.
Assuming the law follows the majority, the mishnah next asks how the couple can be effectively divorced in such a case.
What should he do? He should take it from her and hand it to her again, and say to her: “You are hereby permitted to any man.” If he wrote it inside (the bill of divorce), even if he then erased it, it is invalid.
The mishnah’s answer depends on whether the condition was just said verbally while the man was handing his ex the get, or was actually written into the text of the bill of divorce. If it was only a verbal statement, then the rabbis require a do-over of the handover. But if the condition was written into the bill of divorce, the document is invalid.
It is clear the mishnah assumes that Rabbi Eliezer loses the debate. And in fact, in later rabbinic discussions, the statement that the mishnah requires the man to make in a do-over — ”You are hereby permitted to any man.” — actually becomes the central statement of the rabbinic divorce document.
The Talmud next does two interesting things with the assumption of Rabbi Eliezer’s defeat. First, it tries to find a way to harmonize the two opinions or to limit the dispute to only a very narrow case. This is a classic talmudic move. But the second thing that the Talmud does is far less common — it makes a series of posthumous refutations of Rabbi Eliezer. But for those, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s daf.
Ultimately, the rabbis both try to understand and really take exception to Rabbi Eliezer’s position. They insist in all kinds of ways that a man’s act of divorce cannot impose limits on his ex-wife’s marital prospects. There cannot be an asterisk — verbal or written — when a man says: “You are hereby permitted to any man.” And the fact that Rabbi Eliezer thinks that there could be is worthy of rebuttal — in his lifetime and after his death.
Read all of Gittin 82 on Sefaria.