July 10, 2024
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The Get Ceremony Between Husband and Wife or Their Proxies

סדר מתן הגט מהבעל לאשתו או באמצאות שליחים

(Gittin 23)

Ideally, the get ceremony should be conducted with the husband and wife in the same room. Present at the ceremony is a court of three members, chaired by the mesader haget who acts as the officiating rabbi. Present also are the scribe and two witnesses.

In order to make sure that all the requirements of a valid get are met, the officiating rabbi asks many questions of each of the participants in the ceremony. The thrust of these questions is to ensure that at every stage of the ceremony, the following requirements for a valid get are fulfilled: that the husband and the wife are giving and receiving the get of their own free will; that the scribe is writing the get and the witnesses are signing the get with the husband and wife getting divorced in mind; that the husband has not and will not revoke the get before it is delivered to the wife; that the husband has instructed the scribe to write the get that the witnesses have read and understood the contents of the get and that the witnesses have seen the writing, signing and delivery of the get.

Once the officiating rabbi is satisfied that the husband is giving the get of his own free will, he requests the husband to revoke any statement he may have made in the past nullifying any get he might give in the future.

Then the attending scribe picks up his pen and paper and gives them to the husband as a gift. This is done in order to comply with the halachic requirement that the get be written with pen and paper belonging to the husband. It also avoids any delay tactics on the part of the husband, who may claim that he forgot to bring pen and paper with him.

The husband now hands the pen and paper to the scribe and instructs him, in the presence of the witnesses, to write a get for him and his wife. The scribe then confirms to the witnesses that he has been so instructed by the husband and that he is writing the get with this husband and this wife in mind. He then writes the get while the witnesses watch.

When the get is written, it is given to each witness to read and to sign in the presence of each other and in the presence of all the other participants in the ceremony. The witnesses articulate that they are signing the get with this husband and this wife in mind. The officiating rabbi then checks that the get has been properly written and properly signed and again asks all the participants the questions recited above.

The rabbi then invites additional people into the room so that the get can be delivered in the presence of 10 people, which makes the divorce public knowledge, thereby, making it more difficult for anybody to challenge the authenticity of the get.

The rabbi then asks the wife to state whether she consents to the get. The husband and wife then stand facing each other, in the presence of the rabbi and the other two members of the court and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the get. These same witnesses will now attest to the delivery of the get.

The rabbi then explains to the husband that the main purpose of the witnesses is to testify to the delivery of the get and he requests the husband to instruct the witnesses to watch the delivery.

The wife then cups her hands together and stretches them out towards the husband. The scribe folds the get, hands it to the rabbi who, in turn, hands it to the husband. The husband then places the get in the cupped hands of the wife. While doing so, the husband says, “This is your get, please accept it, you are divorced from me as of this moment and you are free to marry another man.” The wife encloses the get in her hand, raises the get upwards with both her hands, then places it in her pocket or pocket book, paces up and down with it and then returns it to the officiating rabbi. The rabbi then reads the get aloud and warns all present that nobody may now challenge the get.

The rabbi then informs the wife that she may marry again after 92 days, but that she may not marry a Kohen. The rabbi then rips the get in two places and files it with the beit din. In lieu of the get, the wife receives a get certificate, which is signed by the rabbi and the witnesses and testifies to the fact that she received a valid divorce.

Sometimes, circumstances prevent the husband and wife from both being in the same place when the get is given. This may occur when a spouse lives overseas, is incarcerated or when the presence of both spouses in the room may jeopardize the consummation of the get.

In such cases, the husband may appoint an agent to deliver the get to his wife, wherever she may be. Such an agent is known as a שליח להולכה—shaliach halacha. The agent must be appointed by the husband before a court of three members in the presence of four witnesses. Two of these witnesses attest to the appointment of the agent and the other two witnesses attest to the writing and signing of the get and its delivery to the agent.

After the officiating rabbi asks all of the questions enumerated above, to ensure that the requirements for a valid get are fulfilled, and after the get is written by the scribe and signed by the witnesses in the presence of the husband—all as described above—the husband delivers the get to the agent in the presence of the members of the court and the four witnesses, with instructions to deliver it to his wife.

Following the delivery of the get to the agent, a proxy is written in court appointing the agent as a shaliach halacha. The two witnesses that attest to the appointment of the agent, sign the proxy and, in turn, the signatures of the three members of the court attest their signatures.

The agent then travels with the get and the written proxy to the beit din where the wife lives and delivers the get to the wife in the presence of two witnesses. When delivering the get, the agent tells the wife that he is delivering the get in the name of her husband and that this get permits her to marry another man. The wife may not, however, marry the agent who delivered the get.

If the husband cannot find an agent who agrees to travel with the get to the country where the wife resides, the husband may appoint an agent who resides where the wife lives. The get and the proxy are then sent by mail to the agent for delivery to the wife in her home beit din.

Finally, if the wife does not want to be personally involved in the get ceremony, she can appoint an agent to accept the get.

Such an agent is called a לקבלה שליח—shaliach lekabbalah. The get ceremony can be conducted between the two properly appointed agents on behalf of the husband and the wife respectively. Then, as soon as the shaliach lekabbalah receives the get from the shaliach lehalacha in beit din in the presence of two witnesses, the divorce is effective.

Raphael Grunfeld, a partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, received semicha in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Harav Hagaon Dovid Feinstein, zt”l. This article is an extract from Raphael’s book “Ner Eyal: A Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zeraim,” available for purchase at www.amazon.com/dp/057816731X  or by emailing Raphael at [email protected].

This article is intended as a general background on Gittin. For any practical questions regarding Gittin, please consult your posek.

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