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GITTIN (Heb. גִּטִּין; "divorces"), sixth tractate of the order Nashim in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Gittin is placed before Kiddushin because of the custom of arranging the tractates in the order of their length, Gittin containing nine chapters and Kiddushin only four. From a statement of Rashi (Git. 71b, s.v.ta'ama) and others, it seems that there was a different order of chapters, the present seventh chapter, according to Rashi, preceding the sixth. But from the geonim, tosafot (to Git. 62b, s.v.haomer), and Naḥmanides (in his novellae at the end of chapter 6) it appears that the present order is correct. The entire tractate deals with bills of divorce, with few digressions on other topics. The first chapter deals with the bringing of a bill of divorce (get) from outside Ereẓ Israel, the bearer of which has to testify that "it was written and signed in my presence." The question of the borders of Ereẓ Israel is dealt with in this connection. The first Mishnah of the second chapter, in fact, is a continuation of the first chapter and deals with the same topic. A similar phenomenon also occurs at the beginning of the seventh chapter; its first two mishnayot are a direct continuation of the theme of *agency in the writing and delivery of a get dealt with in the sixth chapter. The second chapter discusses the materials used for writing a get and the persons who may write and deliver it. The third chapter contains a group of halakhot based upon the principle that a previous condition may be presumed to exist: e.g., "If a man brings a get and has left the husband aged or sick, he may deliver it on the presumption that he is still alive" (3:3); the possibility of his death and the consequent invalidity of the get, necessitating a levirate marriage if he is childless, is ignored.

The fourth and fifth chapters cite a series of halakhot enacted for "general welfare" or in the interests of peace; e.g., "Scrolls of the Law, *tefillin, and *mezuzot should not be bought from gentiles at more than their value, for the general good" (4:6), i.e., so that gentiles should not be encouraged to steal such religious requisites from Jews; similarly, "one does not prevent the gentile poor from gathering gleanings, the forgotten sheaf, and the corner of the fields in the interest of peace" (5:8). The sixth chapter discusses agency and clarifies the difference between an agent for the delivery of a get, in which case the woman is not divorced until the get reaches her, and an agent for the reception of the get, where the agent represents the wife with the result that she is divorced as soon as the agent receives the get. The seventh chapter deals with the laws of conditional divorces. The eighth chapter, which derives from the Mishnah of R. Meir ("the whole of this chapter is R. Meir" – tj, 8:5, 49c), contains a list of invalid divorces; should the woman remarry on the strength of them, she would need to receive a divorce from both husbands (a formula repeated in mishnayot 5–9). The ninth chapter contains parts of formulae of bills of divorce (9:3), from which it may be inferred that in early days there was no fixed formula (cf. also Tosef., Git. 9:6; Kid. 5b) and that divorces were written in Aramaic or Hebrew. The tractate concludes with a dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel about the grounds on which a man is permitted to divorce his wife. "Bet Shammai says, 'a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her,' while Bet Hillel says, 'even if she spoilt his food.'" According to Akiva, he may even divorce his wife if he finds another more attractive. This additional opinion is not a third one but an explanation of the words of Bet Hillel (see also Halevy, Dorot, 1, pt. 3 (1923), 569), and the radical wording is apparently intended to reject the views of Christians, who forbade divorce entirely (Mark 10:2–12, et al.).

The Tosefta, which in the printed edition contains seven chapters (the Mss. have nine like the Mishnah), supplements the Mishnah and gives the continuation of the development of the halakhah. Thus Mishnah 7:8 teaches: "(If the husband said) 'This is your get if I do not return within 12 months,' and he died within 12 months, it is not valid" – for the get only becomes effective at the end of 12 months and a divorce cannot be effected after death. To this the Tosefta (7:11) adds: "but our rabbis permitted her to marry." The Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds remark: "who are meant by 'our rabbis'? *Judah Nesiah …," Judah (ii) the son of Gamaliel and the grandson of Judah ha-Nasi redactor of the Mishnah (76b; tj, 7:3, 48d). This is one of three instances in which Judah Nesiah is called "our rabbi," although in general "our rabbis" refers to the generation of quasi-tannaim following Judah ha-Nasi (see Epstein, Tannaim, 231). Tosefta 5:4–5 affords information about cooperation between Jews and gentiles in the field of social welfare. In a city containing Jews and gentiles the communal leaders collect from both in the interest of peace. The gentile poor are supported together with the Jewish poor, in the interest of peace. Eulogies are delivered over them; when in mourning they are comforted; and their burial is undertaken in the interest of peace.

From the tractate it is possible to prove that there existed a kind of official recognition by the government of Jewish civil jurisdiction and that government sanctions were invoked to execute the decisions of the Jewish courts. Thus the Mishnah (9:8) teaches: "A bill of divorce given under compulsion is valid if ordered by a Jewish court, but if by a gentile court it is invalid; but if the gentiles beat him and say, 'Do what the Jews bid thee,' it is valid." Thus even a bill of divorce arranged by gentiles can also be valid, i.e., if the Jewish court requests the gentile court forcefully to compel the husband to give a divorce. So too in the Jerusalem Talmud (9:10, 50d) "and if gentiles compel on the initiative of (the bet din of) Jews, it is valid." The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds explain and clarify the subjects raised in the Mishnah; e.g., Mishnah 4:2 cites a *takkanah of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder that for the general good the husband is forbidden to annul a bill of divorce that has been handed over to a messenger but has not yet reached the wife. According to Simeon b. Gamaliel in a baraita (33a), should the husband disobey the takkanah and annul the divorce, the annulment is of no effect, and the divorce is valid. On this, the Talmud asks: "And is it possible that where a divorce has been annulled according to Torah law, we should, to uphold the authority of the court, allow a married woman to remarry?" To this the Babylonian Talmud replies: "Yes. When a man betroths he does so on the conditions laid down by the rabbis, and in this case the rabbis annul his betrothal." The Jerusalem Talmud (4:2), however, holds that the rabbis do have the power to annul Torah law, even without the premise that all who betroth do so on the conditions laid down by the rabbis.

Aggadic sayings are sometimes interwoven with the halakhah. Mishnah 5:6 quotes various takkanot in connection with the law of buying land from the sicaricon (i.e., those usurping the owner's land by decree of the Roman government), the purpose of these takkanot being to normalize economic conditions and the purchase of property. In connection with this, the Talmud (55b ff.) cites a collection of interesting aggadot relating to events connected with the destruction of the Temple and its causes (67b ff.). The beginning of the seventh chapter enumerates a long list of popular remedies, and the passage includes the story of *Asmodeus (Ashmedai) and his demons.

Mishnah 5:8 lays down, "in the interest of peace," the order in which men are called to the public reading of the Pentateuch: "A priest reads first, after him a levite, and after him an Israelite." The Babylonian Talmud (60a) completes the order in which Israelites are called to the reading of the law. From this list the degree of importance of the functionaries in Jewish society can be inferred: "First scholars appointed parnasim over the community, then scholars fit to be appointed parnasim over the community, then the sons of scholars whose fathers have been appointed parnasim over the community, after them heads of synagogues and the general public." The Babylonian Talmud (67a) quotes a baraita specifying the distinctive merits of scholars: "Meir was wise and a scribe; Judah was wise when he desired to be; Tarfon was like a heap of nuts; Ishmael was like a well-stocked shop; Akiva was like a storehouse with compartments; Johanan b. Nuri was like a basket of fancy goods; Eleazar b. Azariah was like a basket of spices; the Mishnah of Eliezer b. Jacob is scant but clear. Yose always had his reasons; Simeon used to grind much and produce little … and what he discarded was only the bran" (cf. arn1 18, 68). The following dicta and apothegms are worthy of note: *dina de-malkhuta dina, "the law of the government is binding" (a halakhic rule of great importance in the Diaspora; 10b); "a man should not terrorize the members of his household" (6b); "The words of the Torah abide only with one who sacrifices himself for their sake" (57b); "If a man divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears" (90b). In the Soncino translation of the Talmud tractate Gittin was translated by M. Simon (1936). For the commentators, editors, and translations of the tractate, see *Talmud.


Ḥ. Albeck (ed.), Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, 3 (Seder Nashim, 1954), 265–72.

[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]