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Daf 19a - Does a Get Need to Abide by the Standards of Sefer?

  • Rav Moshe Taragin


This week’s shiurim are dedicated by Abe Mezrich



Does a Get Need to Abide by the Standards of Sefer?  Sources and questions:

a. Mishna (19a), gemara... Rav Kahana

Tosafot (21b) s.v. al aleh

Sifri, Ki Tetze "sefer... shel kayama" - see website;

Gemara (21b) "Rebbi Yossi HaGelili... mishna"


b. Gemara 20b "Harei zeh gitekh... sefarim"

Tosafot s.v. sefer

Tosafot s.v. Ha-Rosh

Tosafot Sota (18a) s.v. katura "ve-khein gabei get... kofrin"


c. Mishna (21b)

Rabbenu Kraskass s.v. ein kotvin...le-yad


d. Menachot (32b) "Amar Rav Yehuda...mi-sefer"

Rashi s.v. katva, ketiva

Menachot (34a) "Tanu rabanan yakhol... ka mashma lan"

Rashi s.v. le-halan, she-ne'emar

Tosafot s.v. ne'emar, kamah


1. What is the reason that a 'get' must be written with 'permanent' ink?  Which reason does the Sifri invoke?

2. How do the different reasons affect the scope of the mishna?  (Focus on Tosafot 21b.)

3. How might the Rabanan who argue with Rebbi Yossi HaGelili understand the gemara (20b) regarding multiple pages?

4. How does the Yerushalmi explain the disqualification of writing a 'get' on land or items attached to land? 



SHIUR #4: Daf 19a

     The mishna in Gittin (19a) introduces the rules governing the actual composition of a 'get.'  These rules include the materials which may be used, the exact method of writing and several laws governing the actual letters themselves.  The next few shiurim will address these various halakhot; as these halakhot are scattered over the next 2-3 dapim, these shiurim will require analyzing some gemarot out of their textual sequence. 

     The first law which the mishna describes concerns the type of ink which may be used.  The mishna appears flexible as long as the dye is permanent (mitkayem).

     Tosafot (21b) extend the requirement of the mishna beyond the materials used for ink.  According to Tosafot, the material UPON which the 'get' is written must also be permanent (mitkayem).  This ruling is based upon a Tosefta in Gittin (perek 2) and is echoed by the Ramban (in his commentary to Gittin 20b).  Yet the Rambam in Geirushin 4:1-3 omits this rule - even though he adopts the mishna's criterion of permanent ink.  Why might Tosafot and the Ramban extend the principle to the parchment upon which the 'get' is composed? 

     This question pertaining the scope of the mitkayem rule might reflect a more fundamental issue: the nature of this halakha.  The mishna doesn't present a source for the rule of mitkayem.  Ostensibly, we would attribute this clause to the requirement to perform an act of ketiva (writing). If a durable dye is used we would consider a halakhic act of writing as having occurred.  By contrast, if ink which fades is employed then no ketiva has been performed.  As the Torah commands 've-katav,' that the 'get' be manufactured by an act of writing, we would easily understand the clause of mitkayem.  If this is true, that the need for permanent ink is based upon the halakhic definition of writing, we might not extend this criterion to the parchment.  Writing without a durable ink cannot be considered ketiva; writing upon a temporary background could still be considered ketiva.

     The Sifri in Parashat Ki Tetze suggests a different basis for the mitkayem law.  As the Torah refers to a 'get' as 'sefer,' the document must bear at least minimal resemblance to a 'book.' Only lasting materials can form an item with the identity of a book.  If we adopt this reason, we could easily justify the extension to parchment.  A book must be formed with permanent materials - both permanent ink and permanent 'background.'

     This analysis - whether mitkayem is derived from ketiva or the status of the 'get' as sefer - forces a closer reading of a subsequent gemara (21b).  The gemara elaborates upon the dispute between Rabbi Yossi Haglili and the Chakhamim regarding writing a 'get' upon foodstuffs or living organisms.  According to the former, these materials are invalid since 'get' is deemed a 'sefer.' A book is not written upon animate items nor is it written upon food.  In their rejection of Rabbi Yossi Haglili's stringent stance, the Chakhamim seem to REINTERPRET the term sefer.  They explain that the Torah does not identify a 'get' as sefer; rather it informs us that a 'get' must narrate a story (of the upcoming divorce).  They understand the term sefer as 'sefirat devarim' (the recounting of a story) and not literally as sefer.  Does this gemara not suggest that according to the Chakhamim a 'get' need not maintain the status of sefer - hence it can be written upon food or live animals?  If so, can we possibly invalidate a 'get' written on non-durable items because it doesn't fulfill the standards of sefer!!?

     In truth, there are at least two other gemarot which imply that even the Chakhamim might endorse some limited version of sefer in the case of 'get.'  Indeed, they might not take it as literally as Rabbi Yossi who disqualified a 'get' written on animate items.  The Chakhamim divert the word sefer to refer to the telling of a story.  They might, however, still demand some characteristics of sefer - such as permanent materials. 

     The first gemara which suggests that the Chakhamim partially accept the requirement of sefer appears on (20b).  Several halakhic texts are only valid if written on one physical piece of parchment.  A mezuza, for example, cannot be written on two different pieces of parchment which are subsequently attached (we are careful to write the entire text of the mezuza on one COLUMN).  Similarly, the text of a sotah must be transcribed upon one piece of parchment before it is erased.  The gemara in Sotah (18) derives the latter halakha from the use of the word 'sefer' regarding a sotah text.  This word connotes one singular item rather than multiple ones.  The aforementioned gemara in Gittin claims a similar requirement for 'get' - since the Torah employs the singular terminology of sefer, a 'get' must be produced upon one parchment and not upon two.  Doesn't this gemara suggest some nature of sefer to 'get' even according to the Chakhamim?

     Truth be told, there are two Rishonim who might explain this rule in a manner that maintains the Chakhamim's denial of any 'sefer' status to 'get.'  The Tosafot Harosh in Gittin makes a slight emendation to the gemara: two different parchments are invalid because the story is incomplete, as it is based on two separate installments.  Even if we deny the status of sefer to a 'get,' we still require it to narrate the separation between these two people.  This narration must be continuous and not separated into segments.  The Rosh evades the notion of sefer, imputing the gemara's rule to the integrity of the STORY which the 'get' recounts. 

     Tosafot in Sotah implicitly suggest a different reading of our gemara.  Tosafot claim that if a man delivers multiple COMPLETE 'gets' to his wife, (each of which was written properly) she would not be divorced since this violates the one-sefer rule.  By stretching the rule to multiple but complete documents, Tosafot effectively redefine the rule.  Had the rule addressed the internal integrity of the document it would not apply to multiple complete documents.  Evidently, the rule governs the mode of delivery.  The transfer must be distinct, singular and precise.  Handing over either multiple complete documents or multiple fragments are disqualified for the same reason: multiple netinot (deliveries) have been executed, rather than one precise transfer.  By redefining the disqualification as pertaining to netina, Tosafot in Sotah dodge the conclusion that sefer does indeed apply to 'get' (according to the Chakhamim who argue with Rabbi Yossi Haglili). 

     Of course, if neither of these reinterpretations are employed then the gemara will ultimately mandate some aspect of sefer.  Rabbi Yossi Haglili endorsed the sefer concept more emphatically.  Not only must it bear a slight resemblance to sefer, but the materials must allow it to achieve the identity of a sefer.  A 'get' is not just a document but must take the form of an actual book.  Hence, it cannot be written on animate objects or foodstuffs.  The Chakhamim reject this identification; the word sefer obligates that a 'get' narrate the ongoing divorce (the purpose of this narration will be developed in future shiurim).  Still, they demand certain resemblances to sefer, and therefore the 'get' must be contained on one parchment and not written on different backgrounds which are subsequently attached.  In addition, we might invalidate a 'get' written with delible ink or on non-durable material, simply because these materials don’t resemble a book whatsoever. 

     A third halakha which might evoke the applicability of 'sefer' to 'get' appears in the gemara (21b).  The mishna invalidates a 'get' written upon something attached to the ground but does not explain the basis for this rule.  Many Rishonim suggest that an as an attached item cannot be delivered, the execution of 've-natan lah' is impaired.  A 'get' must be physically delivered to a woman or to her chatzer.  Abstract kinyanim which do not entail a literal transfer are not effective.  Although this explanation is quite logical, one might question the mishna's employment of the term 'ein kotvin' - one cannot write upon attached items.  This phrase poses a problem, for according to this explanation the flaw in the 'get' surrounds the actual delivery, not the composition.  Should not the mishna have written 'ein notnin' - one can't issue a 'get' which was written upon items attached to land?  In addition, we might expect the mishna or the ensuing gemara to explain why a person cannot write upon mechubar (attached to land), subsequently detach and then physically transfer!! Though an earlier gemara addresses this issue (a topic we will discuss in future shiurim IY"H), we might expect our mishna or gemara to be more forthcoming in providing this information. 

     The Yerushalmi offers an alternate reason for disqualifying a 'get' written upon mechubar.  As something attached cannot be considered a 'sefer,' one cannot compose a 'get' upon mechubar - even with intention to subsequently detach.  A 'get' must be a sefer from its inception, and the writing cannot be considered valid if the identity of 'sefer' were absent.  This explanation also highlights a possible status of 'sefer' for 'get.'  How dominant this factor is within the sugya on (21b) - especially according to the Bavli, which doesn't cite this reason - will be addressed in future shiurim.

     An intriguing Rashi in Menachot might yield a fourth example of the status of ‘get’ as a 'sefer,' which even the Chakhamim accept.  The gemara in Menachot (32b) says that if someone writes a mezuza as an 'iggeret' (a letter rather than something more formal) then it is invalid.  The gemara explains that we compare the word 'ketiva' written by mezuza (U-kitavtem) to the word ‘ketiva’ written elsewhere.  The gemara is vague about two items:

1) What exactly does the gemara intend by the term 'iggeret'?

2) What is the source for the disqualification?  Where else (aside from mezuza) does the Torah employ the word ketiva in a case where iggeret would be invalid? 

Rashi addresses each vagary.  The gemara refers to someone who wrote a mezuza without 'sirtut' (carving or indenting lines above each line of text to straighten the text).  A mezuza would be invalid if its sirtut were omitted just as - according to Rashi's explanation - a 'get' would be invalidated by the absence of sirtut.  Based upon this Rashi, all gittin are written with sirtut.  According to Rashi's reading, he defines a document without sirtut as an iggeret and deems it invalid for both mezuza and 'get.'  Does the term iggeret signify the lack of 'sefer' qualities?  Can we claim that a 'get' without sirtut cannot be deemed a sefer and can be classified only as an iggeret - which would be invalid? In fact, a similar gemara in Sotah (17b) disqualifies a sotah text written as iggeret (which Rashi defines in Sotah (17b) as lacking sirtut), because the Torah employs the term sefer to describe the sotah text.  Could the same identity as sefer in the case of 'get' be responsible for disqualifying a 'get' written without sirtut? It should be noted that Tosafot raise serious concerns with both of Rashi's comments.  They are unsure whether a 'get' truly requires sirtut (and hence the gemara might have been alluding to some other factor with the ambiguous term 'iggeret').  In addition, they argue, the term 'sefer' doesn't at all apply to 'get' and hence cannot serve as the basis for whatever halakha the gemara attempts to derive in the case of mezuza.


Next week's shiur: Ketav al Gabei Ketav


1) Gittin (19a) mishna... Rav Cahana;

(20a) Amar Rav Chisda (first one)... lo;

Shabbat (104b) mishna, gemara ketav... muvchar;

Tosafot Gittin (19a) s.v. deyo;

Rashba Gittin (20a) s.v. Rav Chisda

2) Yerushalmi Gittin (2;3) Taman taninan... kotev;

Ramban (19a) s.v. deyo

3) Gittin (9b) Eidim... lahem;

Rashi s.v. mekar'in;

Tosafot s.v. mekar'in


1) How do Tosafot and the Rashba differ in their resolution to the contradiction between (19a) and (20a)?

2) How do the Bavli and the Yerushalmi differ?  How do they understand the problem of ketav al gabei ketav?

3) What aspect does the Ramban introduce into our sugya?

4) Explain Rashi (9b) in light of our sugya on (19a).