A Mishna appears on this, the last daf in Massekhet Gittin, that deals with one of the most basic questions about divorce. According to Jewish law, what are considered reasonable grounds for divorce? The Mishna brings three opinions on this matter:
- Beit Shammai rules that a man can divorce his wife only if he found a devar erva – a promiscuous situation.
- Beit Hillel permits divorce even in a case where the wife hikdihah tavshilo (literally “burned his food”).
- Rabbi Akiva says that he can divorce her for any reason – even if he found another woman who he finds more attractive.
Each of these three tanna’im points to a biblical passage as a source for their positions. Both Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel rely on the pasuk that says, “Ki matzah bah ervat davar” – that he found some unseemly matter. Beit Shammai interprets the unseemly matter to be promiscuity while Beit Hillel believes that the key word is davar – any thing (some shortcoming). Rabbi Akiva’s source is the beginning of the pasuk: “Ve-hayah im lo timtzah hen be-einav – if she does not find favor in his eyes.”
The Talmud Yerushalmi emphasizes that Beit Shammai‘s position does not require that the husband actually discover that his wife has committed adultery, rather that any promiscuous behaviors can be grounds for divorce.
Beit Hillel‘s ruling seems rather callous, and, in fact, Rashi offers two possible explanations for how the wife may have ruined the food – either by burning it or by putting in too much salt. Based on the Rambam, who explains Beit Hillel‘s position as referring to a woman whose attitude and behavior do not match that of her husband, the Ḥatam Sofer suggests that the expression used by Beit Hillel does not refer to ruining the food, rather as a metaphor whose meaning is that if the husband finds his wife to be distasteful, then he would be allowed to divorce her.