The sixth perek of Massekhet Gittin, which begins on our daf, returns us to the issues of Jewish divorce law. Specifically, this perek focuses on sheliḥut – arranging for a messenger to play a role in the divorce.
There are two types of sheliḥut that are discussed regarding a geṭ:
- Sheliḥut le-holakhah – a messenger established by the husband to deliver the geṭ. In this case the divorce will take effect when it reaches the wife’s hands and she takes possession of it.
- Sheliḥut le-kabalah – a messenger established by the wife to accept the geṭ. In this case, the divorce will take effect the moment that the messenger accepts it on behalf of the wife.
One issue that concerns our Gemara is whether a woman can act as a shelihaḥ le-holakhah on behalf of a man or if a man could play the role of a sheliaḥ le-kabala for a woman. Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains this question as stemming from a basic issue about shelihut in Jewish law. In halakha, creating a messenger is based on the rule of sheliaḥ shel adam ke-moto – that a person assigned to perform a task acts as the person himself. Therefore we generally assume that a person can only be a formal messenger for a certain halakhic requirement if he or she is also obligated in or connected with that same law. Since in the event of a divorce a woman cannot make a sheliaḥ le-holakhah and a man cannot make a sheliah le-kabalah perhaps they cannot act in the roles that they cannot themselves create.
The Gemara’s conclusion is that both men and women can play these roles. Apparently it is not essential that the sheliaḥ be able to fully step into the role of the principal party with regard to all the details of the halakha; it is enough if the law applies to the sheliaḥ. Divorce laws do apply to both men and women even though they play different roles within the framework of those laws. Therefore both men and women can act as sheliḥim for all aspects of giṭṭin.