QUESTION: The Gemara states that if Reuven admits to Shimon that he owes him money, his word is not legally binding until he makes his declaration in front of two witnesses. Also, a legal document of proof to the debt may be drafted only when Reuven orders that his admission of debt be written in a document testifying that he owes Shimon the money.

The RASHBAM (DH Hoda'ah) writes that once Shimon is in possession of a bill of debt, Reuven is not believed to say that he repaid the loan unless he brings two witnesses to testify in Beis Din that he repaid. The Rashbam adds that even if Shimon shows a handwritten note from Reuven that states that he owes money to Shimon, he may use the note to collect from Reuven's property and Reuven is not believed to say that he already repaid the debt.

What is the Rashbam's source for his ruling that a handwritten note is legally binding?

ANSWER: REBBI AKIVA EIGER explains that the Rashbam derives this Halachah from the Gemara in Kesuvos (21a). The Gemara there says that a person should be careful not to sign his signature on a piece of parchment, lest a dishonest person find it and write above the signature that the undersigned owes a large sum of money to him. The one who signed his name will be obligated to pay, because the Mishnah in Bava Basra (175b) states that if the claimant shows a note written with the defendant's handwriting, he may collect his debt from the defendant's property. From that Gemara the Rashbam infers that the defendant is not believed to claim that he repaid a debt when there is a note written in his own handwriting that states that he borrowed money.

(The Rashbam understands the Gemara in Kesuvos according to its simple interpretation: when the creditor shows a note in the debtor's handwriting, the debtor is not believed to make any claim against it unless he has witnesses to support his claim. In contrast, TOSFOS in Kesuvos (21a, DH Hotzi) cites the RIF who maintains that the creditor may collect with a handwritten note of the debtor only when the debtor completely denies that he ever borrowed money. If he claims that he borrowed money but that he paid it back, then he is believed.) (Y. MARCUS)



QUESTION: The Gemara says that when a person gives a Get to his wife, or a document of ownership to his friend declaring that he is giving him a present, and he later decides to nullify the Get or the gift by stating that he gave the Get or the gift under duress, he is believed without witnesses. The RASHBAM (DH Giluy) explains that since a Get or a gift is something that a person gives on his own accord and receives nothing in return for giving them, when he claims that he was forced to give them he is believed without additional proof.

The SHITAH MEKUBETZES challenges the Rashbam's explanation and says that it is possible that his wife's relatives are paying him money to divorce her, even though he actually wants to remain married. He should not be believed to say that he was forced to give the Get, because perhaps he gave it for a different reason even though he did not want to give it.

ANSWER: The RIVASH (Teshuvos #127, DH v'Im Ken) writes that, indeed, in a case in which it is known that someone is giving money to the husband to encourage him to divorce his wife, he may not nullify the Get without witnesses who testify that he issued a valid "Moda'a" and that he was genuinely coerced to give the Get.

The words of the Rashbam himself seem to support the Rivash's argument. The Rashbam writes that the husband is not receiving money for handing over the Get. This implies that if he is receiving money for handing over the Get, then the witnesses on the "Moda'a" indeed would need to specify that they are aware of the coercion.

RAV ELCHANAN WASSERMAN Hy'd (Kovetz Shi'urim #168) cites an alternative answer in the name of RABEINU YEHUDAH, the son of the Rosh (#73, DH Teshuvah Techilah), to the question of the Shitah Mekubetzes on the explanation of the Rashbam. There is an essential difference between a sale and a Get. The basic reason for why a person sells an object is that he needs money (see 47b, where the Gemara states that every sale carries with it a certain degree of coercion, because if the seller would not have needed the money he would have retained his possessions. In contrast, when a man receives money to divorce his wife, the money is not the primary impetus for the giving of the Get. If the husband and wife truly cared for each other and were at peace with each other, then even if someone would give the man huge sums of money he would refuse to divorce his wife. Hence, the real reason for the divorce must be coercion, and therefore the husband is believed even if he received money.

However, according to the answer of Rabeinu Yehudah, why does the Rashbam write that the husband does not receive money for handing over the Get? He would be believed even if he does receive money! The answer is that the Rashbam's intention is not to say literally that he did not receive money, but rather to say that even if he did receive money, the money that he receives for giving a Get is not the reason why he gives the Get, as opposed to money a person receives for a sale, which is the reason for why he makes the sale. (Y. MARCUS)