כ״ד באדר א׳ ה׳תשע״ו (March 4, 2016)

Gittin 83a-b: An Act of Severance

As we have learned, when a man writes a geṭ to divorce his wife, he can make the divorce conditional on a specific thing that the woman will do, but the divorce cannot allow him to retain any level of involvement in her life. Thus, if the husband makes the divorce conditional by saying, “This is your geṭ, on the condition that you do not go to your father’s house for the next thirty days,” the geṭ will be a good one, assuming that the wife fulfills the condition and does not go to her father’s house for thirty days. If, however, the condition was open-ended – the husband said that the geṭ was conditional on her refraining from going to her father’s house forever – then the geṭ cannot work, since the husband would still be in control of his wife’s activities even after the divorce.

The rishonim ask why we must view the condition of keeping the wife from going to her father’s house as being open-ended. Given the fact that her father may die or the house may be destroyed we should recognize the possibility of closure in this case, when it will become clear that the woman has fulfilled the condition, allowing the geṭ to take effect.

The general attitude taken in response to this question is that the condition not to enter the house remains even after her father’s death. This is the case because of the husband’s use of the term, le-olam – forever – or because the husband’s intent was to put a prohibition on the house (his statement is understood to mean that she cannot enter the house which today is owned or occupied by her father), or because we view the house as the patriarchal home, even after the father’s death. Similarly, the possibility that the house may fall or be destroyed is hardly something that we can be certain will happen, leaving the wife in a state of limbo, which we will not allow.

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