Drafting a Get in Keritut Syntax
Dedicated in memory of Rabbi Jack Sable z”l and
Ambassador Yehuda Avner z”l
By Debbi and David Sable
The Torah describes the process of divorcing a woman with a very dramatic qualifier – “keritut.” Broadly, this word can be understood as demanding finality. The get process cannot be temporary or inconclusive.
The most obvious (and unanimously accepted) definition of keritut surrounds the anatomy of the ma’aseh geirushin, the delivery of the get. The primary application of the principle appears in the gemara in Gittin (78b) surrounding an inconclusive delivery of the get. For example, a husband cannot deliver get that is still tethered to a string that he clutches. Since he can always retrieve the get by drawing the string, this delivery is never final, whereas the act of giving the get must be characterized by keritut.
A second possible application surrounds the halakhic process itself, known as the “challos.” The effect of the get or halakhic transformation process must be definitive and independent of external factors. For example, a husband cannot predicate a get upon a woman never visiting her father or never drinking wine. If there are post-get lingering limitations upon the woman (which if not adhered to will subvert the validity of the get), the get is not considered a conclusive and final get since it fails to meet the criteria of keritut.
In addition, a person cannot deliver a get and condition it upon the wife never marrying a specific person. R. Eliezer (cited in the mishna in Gittin 82b) famously argued that this get would be valid, but most opinions rejected his minority position. Since her future options remained limited by the delivery of the get, this get also fails to be complete and unconditional.
To summarize: The requirement of keritut for a get typically applies to the type of delivery or the finality of the get itself.
Several gemarot, however, imply that keritut ALSO qualifies the type of language used to draft the get.
Perhaps the clearest and most well-known expression can be detected in a gemara in Nedarim (5b) that suggests that abbreviated language – known as yadayim – would be unacceptable for a get. For example, a person must deliver a get whose text makes it clear that “this document” is effecting the get – he must employ the term “v’dein.” Even if it is clear that he intends to use the document, without direct attribution, the get is not considered keritut and is therefore invalid. This requirement of keritut does not relate to the act of delivery or to the process of the get, but rather to the actual syntax of the bill of divorce. Of course, this is only one opinion recorded in the gemara in Nedarim, but it certainly constitutes a dramatic expansion of the keritut requirement.
A second application of keritut to the syntax of a get can be found in an interesting Ritva in Kiddushin. The simple reading of the gemara in Gittin (21) implies that the actual names of the husband and wife are not Biblically required in a get. After all, the man deposits the bill of divorce to his wife, so names should not be necessary. However, the Ritva (Kiddushin 9) claims that without names, the language of the get is not inherently clear and cannot be considered keritut. Even though the context can help identify the participants, the language itself does not broadcast this information, and it therefore suffers a deficiency of keritut.
Perhaps the most obvious indicator that keritut shapes the language of the get itself is the inability to qualify a get. The gemara in Gittin (82a) disqualifies a get that was written with the caveat that the woman is still forbidden to marry a particular person. Just as the get cannot be delivered with that intent, the get may also not be written with that clause.
Many Rishonim assume that writing this exclusionary caveat in the get invalidates the get because the husband may not cancel this condition and may actually issue the get to his wife and limit her ability to marry other people. By writing the term “chutz” (“except for”) in the get, there is high likelihood that the get will indeed be delivered with this condition, and this type of get is invalid (at least according to the Chakhamim, who disagreed with R. Eliezer). As such, writing the term “chutz” in a get would be invalid mi-derabbanan, but certainly not fundamentally.
Tosafot(84b) s.v. “im,” however, disagree, claiming that if the term “chutz” is included in the syntax of the get, the get is fundamentally flawed since it was not drafted in a manner of keritut, as at least one person is omitted from the release of the get. Even if the word “chutz” were erased, the get would still be invalid, since the “writing process” was not defined as keritut! Tosafot claim that the syntax of the get must be defined by keritut. Even if the husband reverses his original plan and delivers the get intending a comprehensive release, the get is still invalid.
The ensuing gemara records a machloket between Rebbi and the Chakhamim about including conditions in the syntax of the get. The gemara debates the terms of the disagreement, but Rava claims that if the condition is included in the primary part of the get (the toref), all opinions would disqualify the get. Even if the husband MAY deliver the get contingent upon a certain condition, he cannot include it within the primary text of the get. The Tosafot Rid explains this very unusual limitation based on the principle of keritut. Since the text must be conclusive and final, it cannot include any contingencies – even those that can be verbally articulated at the point of issuing the get. Evidently the Tosafot Rid agreed with Tosafot that keritut governs the syntax of the ‘get.’ The text must be written in an absolute and unconditional manner!