Insights to Bava Basra 48


Forced Get

Rav Huna holds that if one is coerced to sell property, the sale is never the less binding. [The reason for this is that a person will feel that he has no choice, and he might as well give up the property and take the money.] The Gemora says that all sales are done under duress and nevertheless, they are binding. [People only sell when they need money but they really have no desire to sell.

The Gemora asks on this logic. There might be a difference when the coercion is not internal, but coming from someone else.

Perhaps it is from the following braisa: It is written regarding a sacrifice: He shall bring it. This teaches us that we force him to fulfill his obligation. Perhaps, you might think that he brings the korban even against his will. The Torah writes: Of his will. This teaches us that we compel him to bring the sacrifice until he says that he is willing to bring it. [This shows that one can be forced by others to do something willingly, and is therefore a source for the law that a forced sale is a sale.]

The Gemora rejects this proof: Perhaps there it is different, for everyone wishes to receive atonement (and he is really willing to bring the korban).

Rather, it may be proven from the latter part of that braisa, which states: And the same is true regarding a letter of divorce and the emancipation of slaves. We compel him to give the get (in cases where he is required to do so) until he says that he is willing to give it. Evidently, the divorce and emancipation is valid even though, in his heart, he is not truly willing. This proves that words that are only in the heart are not regarded as words.

The Gemora rejects this proof: Perhaps there it is different, for he has a mitzvah to listen to the Chachamim (to issue a divorce or to free his slave).

Similarly, the Rambam discusses a case when a person is obligated to divorce his wife due to the ruling of Beis Din. When he refuses, he is beaten until he says that he is willing.

The Rambam asks: How can a get that is given by force be ruled to be valid? A coerced get is not valid at all!?

He explains that it is only considered “forced,” if a Jew is compelled to do something that the Torah does not obligate him to do. However, if he is compelled to do something that the Torah instructs him to do, this is not considered “forced.” The explanation is as follows: A Jew wants to perform all the mitzvos and distance himself from all sins, but his evil inclination convinces him to do otherwise. When he is beaten, his evil inclination is broken and when he says that he is willing, it is his actual intent and the get is valid.

Compliance with the Rabbis

Mar bar Rav Ashi says: In a case of kiddushin, this is certainly invalid. Being that he acted improperly, Chazal act improperly with him and take away the kiddushin (Chazal have the power to deem any type of kiddushin invalid). [They accomplished this by transforming retroactively the money of the betrothal given to the woman at her first marriage into an ordinary gift. Since the hefker of money comes within the authority of Beis Din, they are thus fully empowered to cancel the original betrothal, and the divorcee assumes, in consequence, the status of an unmarried woman who is permitted to marry any stranger.]

Ravina said to Rav Ashi: This is a satisfactory explanation where betrothal was effected by means of money; what, however, can be said in a case where betrothal was effected by cohabitation?

Rav Ashi replied: The Rabbis have assigned to such cohabitation the character of a promiscuous cohabitation. (From the moment a divorce is annulled in such a manner, the cohabitation, it was ordained, must assume retroactively the character of a promiscuous cohabitation, and since her original betrothal is thus invalidated, the woman resumes the status of the unmarried and is free to marry whomsoever she desires.)

The Rashba asks: Why don’t we apply this rule in the case in Yevamos where a man fell into water that has no end? There, we rule that the wife will remain an agunah because the husband might have exited the water from a place that was not visible to us. Why don’t we say that the Chachamim revoked the original kiddushin from him, and she may remarry another man?

He answers: It is only applicable in certain cases. If, for example, there was a get, except that it was written with a condition, and an uncertainty arose regarding the condition, the Chachamim can revoke his kiddushin. Another example where the Chachamim would revoke the kiddushin is where one witness is testifying on the woman’s behalf (that her husband died). However, when there is no get and no witness, the Chachamim did not go ahead and revoke a kiddushin.

The Gemora in Yevamos (110a) records an incident in Narsh where a girl was married off when she was a minor. When she became an adult, they sat her by a Chupah (wedding canopy, in order to validate the first marriage), and someone else snatched her away before the “wedding” (and made her his wife)! Rav Bruna and Rav Chananel, students of Rav, were present when this happened, and they did not even require her to have a get from the second “husband” (as his kiddushin is invalid).

Rav Ashi explains that being that the wife snatcher acted improperly, the Chachamim therefore acted improperly with him and removed the validity of his kiddushin. (This is following the opinion of Rav, who maintains that for the marriage of a minor to become valid, she must have marital relations with her husband when she becomes an adult, and if not the marriage is invalid.)

The Chachamim were empowered to remove the kiddushin in this case because he acted improperly in the beginning of the kiddushin.

Reb Yosef Engel in Gilyonei Hashas cites a Teshuvos haRashba who writes that we only apply the principle of “Since he acted improperly, the Chachamim acted improperly with him” in places that are specifically mentioned in Chazal. The Sages did not annul the marriage in every case where one acts with trickery. This can be proven from a Gemora in Kiddushin (58b). The Gemora states: One who instructs his fellow to marry a woman for him (as an agent), and the agent goes ahead and marries her for himself, she is married to the second one. We do not say that since he acted improperly, the Chachamim invalidated his marriage.

This can also be proven from the fact that even if one betroths a woman who is subject to a negative prohibition, kiddushin, nevertheless takes effect. This is also true if someone marries a woman who is a secondary ervah to him. Obviously, sometimes this principle is applied, and sometimes, it isn’t.

The Chasam Sofer asks: Why, in these cases (where he betroths a woman subject to a negative prohibition, or a secondary ervah) do we not say that the Chachamim revoked his kiddushin?

He answers, based upon Tosfos, who says that it is for this reason that the groom tells the bride that he is betrothing her according to the laws of Moshe and all of Israel. The kiddushin is only effective if Israel, i.e. the Chachamim consent to the marriage. However, one who is violating the Torah, or the sages, is obviously not marrying with such a stipulation and therefore, the marriage can still be effective. [According to the Chasam Sofer, not every marriage has that stipulation attached to it.]

The Shiltei Giborim states that this principle applies by a get as well. Anyone who divorces a woman does so in implicit compliance with the ordinances of the Rabbis, and the Rabbis may, in certain cases retroactively revoke the divorce.

Based upon this, the Taamei Yaakov answers the following famous question on Rabbeinu Gershom’s decree: Since the Torah expressly permits one to divorce his wife without her consent, how can this be banned? The Taz lais down a rule that the Rabbis do not have the authority to prohibit something which is explicitly permitted by the Torah!?

He answers that since the Rabbis forbid giving a get in such a manner, it is automatically nullified, for one’s betrothal and divorce can only be effective if he is compliance with the Rabbis’ ordinances. In these cases, the Rabbis did not consent to such a get.

[I am uncertain as to how this answers the question. Granted, the get will be ineffective since it is prohibited to give a get without the woman’s consent; but how did the Rabbis have the authority to issue such a decree? If the Torah expressly permits it, they cannot forbid it!?]

Path to Sanctity

The Gemora states: Whoever betroths a woman in Jewish marriage, betroths her subject to the will of the Rabbis.

The baalei mussar say: One who wants to sanctify and purify himself in his service to his Creator, should do so subject to the will of the Rabbis. He should go to the Rabbis and the righteous people of his generation, and they shall guide him in his quest. One who tries to forge a path himself is apt to stumble and make mistakes; nothing substantive will result from it.

Self-imposed O’nes vs. External O’nes

By: Reb Avi Lebowitz

Rav Huna says that if one is forced into selling something and receives money for it, the sale is binding. The Gemora explains the rationale is that everyone who sells items that are dear to them only does so under pressure and financial difficulty, yet the sale is binding, so this type of force is no different.

To that the Gemora responds – ודלמא שאני אונסא דנפשיה מאונסא דאחריני, meaning that there is a difference between a self imposed o’nes and an external o’nes. When one is forced due to financial pressures, he is making a decision under the circumstances. Although he would prefer to never be in such a predicament, nevertheless, he is making a conscious decision under the circumstances – this decision is regarded as ratzon. But if one is being coerced or forced by someone else, we don’t consider his decision to be b’ratzon, so it is possible that the sale isn’t binding (which is the opinion of Rav Bibi, unlike R’ Huna who holds that so long as he receives something in return, it is binding).

This concept if very important to distinguish between what we can call an internal o’nes and an external o’nes. This issue arises in two places, but the distinction is exactly the same.

The Rambam in Yesodei Hatorah (perek 5) holds that if one’s life is being threatened unless he serves avodah zarah he is obligated to forfeit his life. But if he doesn’t do so, he is still considered an o’nes and not killed for serving avodah zarah. Yet, the Rambam writes (halachah 6) that if one is deathly ill and uses avodah zarah as a means to heal himself, he is liable for whatever punishment is normally associated with the act that he committed.

Why is it considered o’nes when he is forced by others, but not when he is ill?

The Ohr Sameach makes the distinction that is hinted to in our Gemora (but doesn’t mention the Gemora). Based on our Gemora the distinction is clear. When someone else is threatening to kill him, the decision that he makes is not considered “ratzon,” because he doesn’t at all want to do what he is being forced to do. But when he is ill and uses avodah zarah to save his life, he is deciding to benefit from avodah zarah. Surely, he is faced with extenuating circumstances, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is making a conscious decision and is therefore liable for it.

The Rama writes in Hilchos Brachos (204:8) that if one is being forced to eat non-kosher food, even though he is enjoying the taste he doesn’t make a brocha since he is considered an o’nes. But the Shulchan Aruch writes in the very next halachah that one who eats non-kosher because they are ill and they need it for medicinal purposes, makes a brocha on the food.

The Taz (12) struggles with this and elaborates about it (siman 196:1). But based on our Gemora the distinction is simple. One who is being forced to eat non-kosher by someone else is not making a decision to eat non-kosher, and would not eat it if not for being forced at gun point. Therefore, we don’t consider this eating b’ratzon, and it is not worthy of a brocha. But, one who is ill, although he has severe circumstances, he is making a decision to eat the non-kosher food under the circumstances (and being that his life is threatened it is permitted for him to eat it), so we consider this to be a decision made b’ratzon and worthy of a brocha.