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Steinsaltz

as, if not for the fact that the Samaritan was one devoted to the meticulous observance of mitzvot [ḥaver], the Jew would not have allowed him to sign the document before him. Therefore, one may rely on this Samaritan in this particular case. The Gemara asks: If so, that the mishna is referring to that case, then even other documents should be valid as well, if a Jew signed after the Samaritan.

Rather, this is not the case with regard to other documents, as we say that the fact that the Jew signed last does not prove that this Samaritan was a ḥaver, as perhaps in signing last he was leaving space above his signature for one who was older than he is in deference to the elder, and instead, a Samaritan came and signed the document. The Gemara asks: Here too, in the case of a bill of divorce, perhaps he was leaving space above his signature for one who was his elder. Why, then, are bills of divorce and bills of manumission valid while other documents are not?

Rav Pappa says: That is to say, in explanation of the difference between bills of divorce and manumission and other documents, that the witnesses of a bill of divorce and a bill of manumission may not sign one without the other; rather, each witness signs in the presence of the other. A Jew would be aware that a Samaritan was signing with him, and he would not sign unless he knew that the Samaritan was a valid witness. However, with regard to other documents, witnesses are not required to sign such documents in each other’s presence. Therefore, the signature of the Jew indicates nothing about the fitness of the Samaritan witness.

The Gemara asks: What is the reason that the witnesses must sign a bill of divorce and a bill of manumission together? Rav Ashi says: It is a rabbinic decree issued due to a case where the husband says: All of you are witnesses on this bill of divorce. In that case, if any one of them fails to sign the bill of divorce, it is invalid. Therefore, the Sages decreed that the witnesses must sign a bill of divorce together in all cases.

§ Since the Gemara mentioned the halakha stated by Rabbi Elazar, it analyzes the matter itself. Rabbi Elazar says: They deemed a bill of divorce valid only when just one witness is a Samaritan. The Gemara asks: What is he teaching us by this statement? We already learned in the mishna: Any document that has a Samaritan witness on it is invalid except for bills of divorce and bills of manumission. This indicates that those are valid only if they have the signature of one Samaritan witness, not two.

The Gemara responds: If it is learned from the mishna alone I would have said that even two Samaritan witnesses are also valid for a bill of divorce or a bill of manumission. And the fact that the mishna teaches one witness is because it wants to emphasize that for other documents even one Samaritan witness is also not valid. Therefore, Rabbi Eliezer teaches us that in the case of bills of divorce only one Samaritan witness is valid, but if both witnesses are Samaritans the bill of divorce is not valid.

The Gemara asks: And are two Samaritan witnesses not accepted on a bill of divorce? But the mishna teaches: An incident occurred in which they brought a bill of divorce before Rabban Gamliel in the village of Otnai, and its witnesses were Samaritan witnesses, and he deemed it valid. Abaye said that one should teach the mishna so that it does not read: Its witnesses, but rather: Its witness, i.e., Rabban Gamliel deemed valid a bill of divorce that had the signature of one Samaritan witness, as even he would invalidate a bill of divorce that included the signatures of two Samaritans.

Rava said: Actually, you do not need to say that the case was concerning one Samaritan witness, as it indeed is referring to two Samaritans witnesses, and Rabban Gamliel disagrees with the opinion of the first tanna. And the mishna is incomplete and this is what it is teaching: And Rabban Gamliel deems valid a bill of divorce that contains the signatures of two Samaritans, and an incident occurred in which they brought a bill of divorce before Rabban Gamliel in the village of Otnai, and its witnesses were Samaritan witnesses, and he deemed it valid.

MISHNA: With regard to all documents produced in gentile courts, even though their signatures are those of gentiles they are all valid, except for bills of divorce and bills of manumission. Rabbi Shimon says: Even these are valid, as these two types of documents are mentioned only when they are prepared by a common person, not in court.

GEMARA: With regard to the ruling of the mishna that all documents written in gentile courts are valid, the Gemara comments: The tanna categorically teaches a general halakha in the mishna, and it is no different if it is a document concerning a sale and it is no different if it is a document concerning a gift, the document is valid in both cases.

The Gemara asks: Granted, in the case of a sale this is reasonable, as from when the buyer gave money to the seller in the presence of the gentile judges he has acquired the property, since he has performed an act of acquisition. And the document is merely a proof for the acquisition. It must be that he already acquired the property in question, as if he had not given money in their presence the court would not act to its own detriment and write a document for him, as the document detailing the sale would not be accurate, and writing such a document would reflect poorly on them. Therefore, the document clearly serves as proof that the acquisition was performed in the correct manner.

However, with regard to a gift, by what means does the one who receives the gift acquire it from the giver? Is it not via this document? And yet this document is merely a shard, as a document written by gentiles is not considered a legal document according to halakha. Shmuel said: The law of the kingdom is the law, i.e., Jews must obey the laws of the state in which they live. Consequently, every form of property transfer accepted by local law is valid according to halakha as well.

And if you wish, say that one should emend the text of the mishna, and teach: They are all valid except for documents that are like bills of divorce. In other words, the distinction is between different types of documents: Documents that are meant to serve only as proof are valid even if they were produced in gentile courts, whereas documents that effect a legal act, such as bills of divorce, are invalid if they were written in a gentile court.

§ The mishna taught that Rabbi Shimon says: Even these bills of divorce and bills of manumission are valid if they were written in a gentile court and were signed by gentiles. The Gemara asks: How can Rabbi Shimon rule in this manner? But gentiles are not fit for this role, as they are not subject to the halakhot concerning scrolls of severance. Since the halakhot of marriage and divorce in the Torah are stated exclusively with regard to Jews, gentiles cannot serve in any capacity in cases of this kind.

Rabbi Zeira says: Rabbi Shimon follows the opinion of Rabbi Elazar, who says that the witnesses of the transmission of the bill of divorce effect the divorce. In other words, the signing of the bill of divorce is not essential to its effectiveness. Rather, the transfer of the bill of divorce completes the act of divorce, and therefore no attention is paid to who the signatories were.

The Gemara raises a difficulty: But doesn’t Rabbi Abba say that although he considers a bill of divorce valid even without the signature of witnesses, Rabbi Elazar concedes with regard to a document whose falsification is inherent in it that it is invalid despite the fact that it was properly transferred. In other words, notwithstanding the halakha that the signatures on a bill of divorce are unnecessary, a document that includes invalid signatures is thereby invalidated. The reason is that there is a concern that people will rely upon these witnesses. The Gemara answers: With what are we dealing here?

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
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