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Polite And Respectful
“It Is Audacious to Appoint One’s Father a Shaliach”
(Kiddushin 45b)



Out of the blue, a Jewish man living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, packed his bags and left his family. The only contact the husband made was in the form of a letter to his father in which he wrote, “Father, I am traveling abroad and I do not intend to remain with my wife anymore. If you want to, you may provide her with a divorce from me.” Afterward, he severed all ties with his family. The only way to allow the woman to remarry was by ruling that in his letter the son had appointed his father to be a shaliach for the purpose of divorcing his wife. But this suggestion encountered many halachic obstacles.


No Explicit Appointment

Based on the words “If you want to” that the son wrote in his letter, it would seem that he did not explicitly appoint his father to be a shaliach. Such phrasing leaves doubts as to whether he wanted to appoint his father as his agent or whether he wanted him to act independently (see Gittin 66a, Tosafos s.v. “Kol hashome’a“). The Acharonim remain unresolved regarding the halacha in such cases (see Beth Shmuel 141:27; Hafla’ah, Kuntress Acharon 70:18). Apparently, therefore, the father would not be allowed to write a get on his son’s behalf since the latter’s wishes were unclear.


Ravina’s Statement

An additional reason not to allow the father to act as a shaliach for his son in such a case is Ravina’s statement on our daf: “A son cannot have the audacity to appoint his father as his shaliach.” This rule reinforces the assumption that the son did not intend to appoint his father as a shaliach and therefore the woman would not be allowed to remarry.


Polite Conduct of a Son

The Maharsham, however, stated that we should assume, on the contrary, that the son did in fact appoint his father as his shaliach. The Maharit points out (Even HaEzer 2:43) that the proper, honorable conduct of a son toward his father dictates that he is to avoid appointing his father as a shaliach in a direct manner. But if the son states his request using refined language such as, “If you would like to be my shaliach, you may,” this does not show lack of respect for his father. Accordingly, writes the Maharsham, we can assume that the son wanted to appoint his father as his agent and intentionally used ambiguous language since that is a more polite way for a son to appoint his father as a shaliach. Therefore, the father can write a get for his daughter-in-law, thus enabling her to remarry.


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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.