א׳ באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״ו (March 11, 2016)

Gittin 89a-b: A Rumor Circulated in the City

The Mishna on the last daf discusses how we are to deal with rumors about a woman’s marital status. According to the Mishna, if there are rumors that a woman has gotten married we must take such statements seriously, at least to the extent that we will obligate her to get a divorce before allowing her to marry someone else. If the rumors indicate that she was divorced, we will trust those rumors, as well, and treat her as a divorced woman.

In the Gemara on our daf, Ulla points out that this ruling does not apply to simple rumors, rather to rumors that have a solid basis. An example of that would be that there is a wedding hall prepared, with guests coming and going, and the guests say that they have come for a specific person’s wedding. A question that is raised by the rishonim is how the rumors of a divorce may be substantiated. Some suggest that this is just an example, and the intent of the Gemara is to teach that the community leaders are obligated to make inquiries to substantiate the rumors before acting on them. The Talmud Yerushalmi argues that we must distinguish between weddings, which often involve public festivities and divorces that are usually arranged privately. Since there is no possibility that we can find a parallel source for the rumors of a divorce, we are more open to accept what is considered “common knowledge” in the community.

What is clear in the Gemara is that we reject rumors that ascribe various negative attributes or behaviors to a given woman. Therefore, if there are unsubstantiated rumors that a woman got engaged, got married, committed adultery or has a checkered family background, we do not give credence to those rumors. The Meiri writes that in all such cases, not only will the refuse to accept those rumors itself, but it is obligated to tell anyone who asks that the rumors cannot be accepted as being true.

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