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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin

Folio 89a

, she is regarded as divorced.'1  On what ground? Because the report2  is accompanied by its own neutralisation.

Raba said: If she was reported in the town to have misconducted herself,3  we take no notice, as we can put it down to mere looseness of behaviour which has been observed in her. [The same difference of opinion is found] between Tannaim: 'If she ate in the street, if she quaffed4  in the street, if she suckled in the street,5  in every case R. Meir says that she must leave her husband. R. Akiba says she must do so as soon as gossips who spin in the moon begin to talk about her. R. Johanan b. Nuri thereupon said to him: If you go so far, you will not leave our father Abraham a single daughter who can stay with her husband,6  whereas the Torah says, If he find in her some unseemly thing,7  and it further says, At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses shall a thing be established;8  and just as there the 'thing'9  must be clearly ascertained, so here it must be clearly ascertained.

Our Rabbis taught: [If the report is] that she was lain with we take no notice of it;10  [if that she is] a married woman, we take no notice; [if that she is] a betrothed woman, we take no notice; [if the name of] the man is not mentioned, we take no notice of it; [if the report is that she has been betrothed] in another town, we take no notice; [if that] she is a bastard, we take no notice; [if that] she is a bondwoman, we take no notice. [If there is report that] So-and-so sanctified his possessions or declared them common property, we take no notice. 'Ulla said: It is not sufficient that a mere rumour should have been heard; [we take notice] only if lights have been seen burning and couches spread and people entering and leaving, and then they said, So-and-so is being betrothed to-day. 'Being betrothed' 'you say? Perhaps even so she was not betrothed?11  — You should say: [People say that] So-and-so was betrothed to-day. So Levi also taught: 'It is not enough that a mere rumour should be spread; [we only take notice] if lights have been seen burning and couches spread and women spinning by lamplight and congratulating her and saying [to one another], So-and-so is being betrothed to-day.' 'Being betrothed' do you say? Perhaps after all she was not betrothed? — R. Papa said: You must say, [and what they say is], 'So-and-so has been betrothed to-day'. Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: It is not enough that there should be a mere rumour. If, however, lights have been seen burning and couches spread and people entering and leaving, then if they say something12  this is a report', but if they do not say something this is a qualification.13  How can this be, seeing that they have not said anything? — [The object of this statement is] to repudiate the view of Rabbah b. R. Huna who said that the 'qualification' referred to can be something said ten days later. [R. Johanan here] tells us that if [in such conditions] people said nothing at the time, this is a qualification of the report, but if they said something [of a qualifying nature] after ten days, this is no qualification. R. Abba said in the name of R. Huna: It is not sufficient to hear a mere rumour; we take notice only if on asking, Who told So-and-so, we are informed, So-and-so, and he again heard from So-and-so, and so on until our inquiries bring us to a reliable statement. But a reliable statement is valid evidence?'14  — The fact is that when R. Samuel b. Judah came, he said in the name of R. Abba who had it from R. Huna who had it from Rab: It is not enough that they should have merely heard a rumour; it is requisite that they should inquire, Where did So-and-so learn this, and they should be told, He heard it from So-and-so who heard it from So-and-so, and they have gone abroad.

Abaye said to R. Joseph: Do we suppress a report15  or not? — He replied: Since R. Hisda has said that [the Beth din takes no notice] till they hear it from reliable persons, we may infer that we do suppress a report.16  On the contrary, he rejoined; since R. Shesheth has said that even if spread only by women it is a report to be considered, we may infer that we do not suppress a report. He replied: It depends on the place. In Sura they suppress a report, in Nehardea they do not suppress a report.

A certain woman was reported to have become engaged to a Rabbinical student. R. Hama sent for her father and said to him, Tell me the facts of the case. He replied: He affianced her conditionally, [on condition, that is,] that he would not go to Be Hozai,17  and he went there. He thereupon said: Since at the time when the report was first spread there was no qualification, it is not in your power to add one now.18  A certain woman was reported to have been affianced with the flesh sticking to date stones by the well of Be Shifi. R. Idi b. Abin sent to inquire of Abaye what was to be done in such a case. He replied: Even those authorities who say that as a rule we should not suppress a report would here advise that it should be suppressed, because people will then say that the Rabbis examined her engagement gift and found that it did not contain the value of a perutah.19

A certain woman was reported to have become engaged

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And may marry anyone without a Get from the fiance.
  2. That she was betrothed.
  3. With a heathen or a slave, and so disqualified herself for marrying a priest.
  4. So Jast. Rashi: walks with outstretched neck.
  5. I.e. if she was reported to have done so before marrying a priest (Tosaf.).
  6. Because enemies may always spread false reports about her.
  7. Deut. XXIV, 1.
  8. Ibid. XIX, 15.
  9. The matter testified to.
  10. To prohibit her to marry a high priest.
  11. I.e., the report does not definitely say that she was betrothed.
  12. I.e., that she has been betrothed.
  13. Which deprives the report of its force.
  14. And more than a mere report.
  15. If after investigation we cannot confirm it.
  16. If there is a prima facie ground for considering it wrong.
  17. V. supra p. 413, n. 1.
  18. And she cannot become engaged again till she is divorced from the first.
  19. V. Kid. 2a. So that she never was really engaged to the first. Hence no harm can ensue from the suppression of the report.

Gittin 89b

to one of the sons of a certain man. Raba thereupon said: Even those authorities who hold that we should not as a rule suppress a report would advise that here we should suppress it, as people will only say that the Rabbis examined her engagement and found that it was contracted by a minor.

A certain woman was reported to have become engaged to a minor who looked like an adult. In connection with this R. Mordecai said to R. Ashi: In a similar case which occurred, they said that he had not yet attained to 'the divisions of Reuben',1  referring to the verse, Among the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.2

PROVIDED THE REPORT HAS NO QUALIFICATION. Rabbah b. R. Huna said: The 'qualification' they had in mind might be made ten days later. R. Zebid said: If there is room for a qualification,3  we suspect a qualification. R. Papa raised to R. Zebid an objection from the following: PROVIDED THE REPORT HAS NO QUALIFICATION? — He replied: It means, provided there is no room for a qualification. Said R. Kahana to R. Papa: Do you not concur with this, seeing that we have learnt,4  'If a woman [who heard from one witness that her husband had died] became betrothed and then her husband turned up, she is allowed to return to him'.5  Now is not the reason [for disregarding the report] because we say that the second betrothed her conditionally?6  — There is a special reason there, namely that the husband challenges the betrothal.7  If that is the case, then why cannot she return to him even if she married the second? — By marrying she committed an offence8  and therefore the Rabbis penalised her, but in becoming betrothed she committed no offence and therefore the Rabbis did not penalise her.

R. Ashi said: A report which has not been confirmed in the Beth din9  is no report. R. Ashi further said: We pay no heed to reports spread after marriage. This implies that we do pay heed to reports spread after betrothal? — R. Habiba said: We pay no attention to reports spread after betrothal either. The law is that we pay no heed to such reports.

R. Jeremiah b. Abba said: The disciples of Rab sent to Samuel saying: Would our Master be so good as to instruct us. If a woman was reported to have been engaged to one man, and then another came and betrothed her with full formality,10  what is to be done? He sent back reply: She must leave him, but I want you to ascertain the facts and inform me. What did he mean by saying, 'I want you to ascertain the facts'? Shall I say his object was that if it turned out that the first betrothal was not a valid one the report should be suppressed? How can this be seeing that Samuel was located in Nehardea, and in Nehardea it was not the custom to suppress a report?11  — His object must therefore have been that if it turned out that the first betrothal was a valid one she would not require a Get from the second. In this he joined issue with R. Huna, who said that if a married woman put out her hand and took the betrothal money from another, she thereby became engaged. [This again is based] on the dictum of R. Hamnuna who said: If a woman says to her husband, You have divorced me, her word is to be accepted, since the presumption is that a woman would not be so brazen as to say this in front of her husband [if it was not true].12  And the other [Samuel]? — [He can reply:] R. Hamnuna would maintain this only where she speaks in the presence of the husband, but if he is not present she would certainly be impudent enough to say this.

Suppose they could not ascertain the truth of the matter, what [was to happen]? — R. Huna said: The first would have to divorce her and the second could then marry her; but it would not be right for the second to divorce her and the first to marry her. What is the reason? Because people might say that here is a man who is taking back a woman who has been betrothed to him and divorced.13  R. Shinnena14  the son of R. Idi, however, said that it is allowable also for the second to divorce her and the first to marry her, because people would merely say that the Rabbis had examined the betrothal [of the second] and found it invalid.15

Suppose she was reported [to have become betrothed] to both one16  and the other, what is to be done? — R. papa said: In this case also the first must divorce her and the second can then marry her. Amemar, however, said that she is allowed to marry either,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., to years of discretion. People would conclude that in spite of his appearance he was not yet grown-up, and therefore the suppression of the report would do no harm.
  2. Jud. V, 15. The verse is rendered thus: 'Among the divisions of Reuben it is only the grownups who are rational'.
  3. I.e., if the circumstances were such that the report might have been qualified, though it actually was not.
  4. Yeb. 92a.
  5. Here apparently is a case of a report without qualification that a woman is engaged being disregarded.
  6. Viz., on condition that her husband had divorced her, and although this qualification was not actually added to the report, there was room for it, and therefore we allow it to neutralise the report.
  7. He is there to say that he never divorced his wife in the first instance, and therefore the betrothal to the second was invalid.
  8. Although in such a case the Rabbis permitted her to marry, yet they expected her to make further inquiries, and if after she married the first husband turned up, they penalised her, v. Yeb. 87b.
  9. And found to have some substance.
  10. Lit., 'betrothed according to the Torah'. I.e., in the presence of witnesses.
  11. And though in Sura, the place of Rab, it was the custom, Samuel would naturally rule according to the custom of his own place.
  12. V. supra 64b.
  13. After having become the wife of another man, in violation of Deut. XXIV, 2.
  14. Al. Shisha.
  15. And so no scandal would arise,
  16. The betrothal to the second was also based on mere report.