As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the enactment of Rabban Gamliel notwithstanding, Rabbeinu believes that a husband can still nullify a geṭ that he sent to his wife, if it is done properly. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel disagrees, arguing that the power of the courts to create enactments to protect the community must be taken seriously, and the divorce takes effect against the husband’s expressed wishes.
The Gemara objects to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel’s position, arguing that the Sages do not have the power to uproot a clearly established marriage. If the husband has the power to annul the geṭ and chooses to wield that power, the divorce is never carried out and his wife is still married to him. How can the Rabbis undo the marriage?!
In answer, the Gemara points out that every Jewish marriage is predicated on the agreement of the Rabbis, and the couple effectively agrees to abide by rabbinic rulings on the matters of marriage. The language used at the wedding ceremony is that the wedding is being done ke-dat Moshe ve-Yisra’el – according to the statutes of Moses and the Jewish people. Should one party attempt to break these regulations, the Rabbis have the authority to dissolve the marriage.
By what mechanism can the Rabbis do this?
Ravina suggests that if the marriage was carried out with money (the husband gave his wife something of value at the ceremony, thus establishing their relationship), we understand that the courts have the power of eminent domain to seize a person’s property, and it turns out that the marriage never was consummated. He asks, however, about marriages that are carried out through an act of sexual intercourse (something that is discouraged by the Gemara, although it is technically feasible). How can the courts undo that type of marriage? Rav Ashi answers that in such a case, as well, the courts have the power to turn that act of intercourse into one of promiscuity, rather than an act of marriage.
Although some of the rishonim view marriage performed by means of money vs. marriage established by a sexual relationship as the difference between rabbinic marriage (money) and biblical marriage (relations), Rashi and most of the rishonim view marriage carried out by an exchange of money as a biblical. They explain our Gemara as simply discussing the mechanism for dissolving this marriage, and that Ravina did not understand how the sages could undo a significant physical act.