Thursday, August 07, 2008

Between Eighty and One Hundred

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Gittin 28a) had stated: If an agent was bringing a get and he left the husband old or sick, he may give the get under the assumption that the husband is still alive (for we assume, based upon the principle of chazakah, that nothing changed from the status quo). [If we would be certain that the husband died before the agent delivered the get to the wife, he may not give it any longer.]

The Chasam Sofer says: By the fact that the Mishna did not say ‘an old and sick person,” we may infer that if in fact the husband was old and sick, the agent would not be allowed to deliver the get, for then we can no longer assume that he is still alive.

The Chasam Sofer adds that this would apply for anyone over sixty years old.

The Maharshal in Yam shel Shlomo disagrees and says that even if the husband is old and sick, we nevertheless, assume that he is still alive, and we deliver the get. He adds that this is only if he is younger than eighty years old. However, if he is over eighty, it would depend upon his strength.

Reb Akiva Eiger in Shulchan Aruch writes that he is uncertain as to what the halacha would be if the husband was old and sick.

The Shiltei Giborim writes that when the Mishna rules that if the husband is sick, we still assume that he is alive, that is only if he is the sickness befell him from the hand of Heaven, such as a sickness which was caused by exposure to the cold or the heat. However, if he was knifed in the stomach or his skull was crushed, we do not assume that he is still alive, and we would not deliver the get.

The Yam shel Shlomo rules as follows: If the husband is over the age of one hundred, the agent may deliver the get even if he is sick as well. However, if he is over eighty years old, but not yet one hundred, the agent should not deliver the get if the husband is sick. The distinction between them is as follows: The Gemora refers to someone alive over eighty as a “ben gevuros,” a man of strength. This is true if he is healthy. However, if he took ill, then he is not at full strength, and therefore we cannot assume that he is still alive. Contrast this to someone who is over one hundred years old. Someone so old is always frail and weak, and there should not be any assumption that he will remain alive. However, the Gemora applies the logic that once he has reached such an age (over one hundred), he is regarded as an exceptional person (due to his longevity), and we may therefore assume that he is still alive, even if he is sick.