ה׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ו (January 15, 2016)

Gittin 34a-b: Disclosure of Intent

Our Gemara tells the story of a man named Gidel bar Re’ilai who sent a messenger with a geṭ to be delivered to his wife. As the messenger approached his wife, he found that she was in the middle of weaving. This process, which involved working the loom with both of her hands, did not allow her to accept the geṭ, and she asked him to return the following day. When the messenger shared this with Gidel bar Re’ilai, Gidel responded with a hearty, “Barukh ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv! Blessed is He who is good and who does good to others.” Does such a statement affect the status of the undelivered geṭ? Abaye believes that it does not – gilui da’ata be-gita lav milta he – and that sharing one’s thoughts about a divorce has no significance; Rava rules that the geṭ is no longer valid – gilui da’ata be-gita milta he – and that there is significance to sharing one’s thoughts about a divorce.

The Ri”d explains the disagreements between Abaye and Rava as being based on the question of how to apply devarim she-ba-lev einam devarim – that thoughts that have not been clearly stated (i.e. they remain “in your heart”) are not significant. Abaye believes that this is a typical case of devarim she-ba-lev; according to Rava, the statement made by Gidel bar Ri’elai is a clear enough statement that it is no longer considered devarim she-ba-lev. Rav Uziel Moshe Rothstein in his Nahalat Moshe suggests that even Abaye would accept this level of gilui da’ata in most cases; it is only with regard to giṭṭin – where the act was begun with a clear, directive statement – that only a straightforward statement will suffice.

Our Gemara concludes that this is one of the few cases in the Talmud in which the halakha follows Nahmani – Abaye. While Rashi explains that Abaye was called Nahmani by his adoptive father, Rabba, as a nickname, the Ge’onim suggest that Abaye’s real name was Nahmani and that Rabba could not call him by that name because it matched his own father’s name, a situation that could lead to problems of honoring one’s parents. He therefore called him Abaye – a diminutive of Aba – father – meaning “little father”, a nickname that became accepted by all.

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