Updated: Jul 18
Is a tattooed writ of divorce lawful despite the fact that the servant (who was tattooed with the write of divorce) can act independently? On Rambam's Laws of Divorce (Chapter 4, Law 4).
"If the get (divorce document) is engraved on the hand of a servant with tattoo markings, and it is no longer in the immediate possession or control of the wife, and the witnesses' signatures are engraved on the servant's hand, she is considered divorced, even though there are no witnesses present during the transfer. This is because the engraving cannot be forged.
However, if they were certain that the servant belonged to the husband, and the get was engraved on the servant's hand, but it is no longer directly under the wife's control, and she claims witnesses testified that the get was given to her, the divorce is deemed doubtful.
This uncertainty arises due to the fact that the possession of servants who can act independently is not considered definitive proof of transfer."
The Maggid Mishneh provides an interpretation and raises a question concerning this law. It states:
"Rabbi Ami, the son of Rabbi Chama, raised a question in regards to this situation: If the couple was certain that they had possession of their own servant, and the get is written on the servant's hand, but it is no longer within the immediate possession or control of the wife, what is the legal ruling in such a case?"
To address this question, the Maggid Mishneh explains the possible arguments surrounding the issue: "Do we say that the wife's acquisition and possession of the get is effective? Or perhaps the servant can act on their own accord, invalidating the divorce?"
In response to this inquiry, Rava provides an answer. The passage continues with Rava's response, stating: "And it is derived from there that the wife can write the get herself because it is possible to forge the document."
The Maggid Mishneh further clarifies the reasoning behind Rava's response. It explains that the doubt surrounding the validity of the divorce arises due to the absence of witnesses present during the transfer.
The passage continues: "They explained this ruling in the Gemara, highlighting that there are no witnesses present during the transfer. If we were to consider the presence of witnesses, what would they be testifying to?"
The Maggid Mishneh then presents a possible resolution to this issue: "And they responded that a different reason is required to address this concern. The underlying issue here is the nature of the written document with engraved markings."
To support this reasoning, the Maggid Mishneh quotes Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar: "Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: 'Sheep pens do not have a presumption of ownership.'" This statement implies that sheep pens, along with any object possessing a living spirit, are not considered in the same category as other movable objects. The passage explains: "This is because we have to be cautious, as there is a possibility that these objects may have entered the possession of an individual on their own accord."
The Maggid Mishneh continues to clarify the legal implications. It suggests that in the case of a servant, there is a possibility that the servant can act independently, which raises doubt regarding the validity of the divorce. However, if the servant already belonged to the wife, the divorce would be considered valid because the engraved markings on the hand cannot be forged.
The passage concludes: "Therefore, when the servant is the wife's property, she is definitely divorced, as the writing engraved on the servant's hand cannot be forged and thus serves as a valid form of divorce."
In summary, the Maggid Mishneh expands upon the interpretation and question raised concerning the law in Rambam. It explores the possibility of the servant acting independently, clarifies the significance of the engraved markings, and draws a comparison to sheep pens as objects with a living spirit.
These explanations shed light on the legal considerations and potential doubts surrounding the validity of the divorce in such cases, providing a deeper understanding of the matter at hand.