Form v. Substance

The daf yomi has begun learning Gittin. The first Mishna requires that a “get” brought from “a land over seas” or “medinat hayam”, the messenger must declare that the Get was written and signed before him. The Talmud begins with the explanation. According to Rabba, the reason that the messagenger must make such a declaration is that the Get must be written “lishma”. Lishma means with intent, or for itself. Lishma means that you cannot use a pre-printed get. It needs to be specfic and have specific info. The second explanation given is from Rava. Rava says that the reason for this requirement is because witnesses are hard to find, not always available for testimony to verify the signatures. Therefore the messenger will say, I saw them write it and sign it. That is good enough. The messenger is not opining about the text, the intent or terms, just the signatures.

The Gemara for pages 3, 4 and 5 has been arguing up and back about each position. Lishma v. accessibility of witness (in the event the get is challenged). By page 5, a bunch of proofs are elucidated where LIshma is not required. The Talmud respond (in defense of Rabba), LIshma is not included, because by now we know about Lishma and assume it. The whole argument in these for Lishma falls away and we are left with the reason of Rava-signature verification. Therefore the argument arises form (signature verification) v. substance (lishma)

The question arises- are we as Jews interested in the substance-the intent of our acts and mitzvot or the form of mitzvot. The paallel to life and all religious life is obvious. Do we measure our mitzvot by their content or intent, or are they measured by meticulous observance. This is not to say the Shikkerdovid is going to opine which is more important. The answer might come tomorrow.

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