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Rash And Impulsive
‘A Place Inhabited By Many Kohanim …’
(Bava Basra 160b)



The Mishnah (on 160a) discusses two types of documents: a get pashut (a standard document with the text completely on one side) and a get mekushar (a folded and bound document with signatures on the back).

Our Gemara explains that the get mekushar was designed for a certain locale inhabited mostly by kohanim, who were especially irritable and would therefore divorce their wives on an impulse. (The Gemara [Kiddushin 70b] notes that kohanim are by nature more prone to anger.) Unlike a regular Jew, though, a kohen may not remarry his wife after he divorces her since kohanim may not marry divorces (Vayikra 21:7).

To prevent a kohen from making a drastic mistake which he cannot rectify, the sages required a kohen divorcing his wife to draw up a more complicated document. Since doing so required more effort and time, the kohen would have time to calm down and reconsider his decision.

Modern Times

Tosafos (s.v. “Tiknu, Rabanan Mekusher…”) discusses whether a kohen divorcing his wife today must issue her a get mekushar. Tosafos offers two views. 1) He should use a regular get (as the ruling to use a get mekushar was restricted to a certain time and place); 2) He can use a regular get, but he should preferably use a get mekushar.


Summary Dismissal

Interestingly, although matters of marriage and divorce are found in the Even Ha’ezer section of Shulchan Aruch, the matter of get mekushar comes up in the Choshen Mishpat section as well. The Rema (Choshen Mishpat 333) discusses an employee who was paid to perform a certain job and was then fired midway through the job. He rules that the employee may keep all the wages he was paid in advance for the job.

Rabbenu Yerucham (cited by the Rema ad loc.), however, qualifies this halacha. He explains that if the employer was in a fit of anger when he dismissed his employee, he is entitled to retract when he calms down and require the employee to complete the job. If the employee refuses, he can make the employee return that portion of his wages that corresponds to the work he hadn’t yet done.


No Retraction

Toras Chayyim (ad loc. and cited by Pischei Teshuva, Choshen Mishpat 333) disagrees with this opinion and cites our Gemara which states that the sages worried about kohanim who might impulsively divorce their wives and then be unable to retract. Although the sages tried to help these kohanim, they clearly believed that a decision made rashly was a legally valid decision. Thus, an employer who fires an employee may not later change his mind and force the employee to finish the job or return any of his wages.

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.