The Mishna (Moed Katan 3:3) in today’s daf (Moed Katan 18b) lists a variety of procedures and actions that may be performed on Chol HaMoed, notwithstanding the fact that they involve, at the very least, the act of writing which is generally avoided on Chol HaMoed.
For example, we are told that: documents confirming the agreement of a man and woman to marry (קידושי נשים), divorce documents (גיטין), receipts providing proof of payment of a debt (שוברין), documents relating to the inheritance by someone on their sickbed (דייתיקי), documents formally confirming the giving of an item or piece of property to another as a gift (מתנה), documents that enable that debts not be cancelled by Shemitta (פרוזבולין), letters confirming the value of a field that has been inherited by a relative of a deceased which thereby helps other relatives know what they have inherited (אגרות שום), letters confirming obligatory child support (ואגרות מזון), documents relating either to agreement of a woman to marry her brother-in-law following the death of her husband (חליצה) or her choice not to do so (מיאונים), documents relating to the division of the estate by the court of someone who has died (שטרי בירורין), records of court decrees (גזירות בית דין) and correspondence with, and rulings stemming from, the ruling government (אגרות של רשות) may all be written on Chol HaMoed. And why may all these documents be written on Chol HaMoed? Because failing to do so, at the first available opportunity, is likely to cause one or more people to significantly lose out (or what is known as דבר האבוד).
Clearly, each of these documents have its own internal reason, or reasons, why it is essential for it to be written as soon as possible. For example, the Gemara explains that the reason for writing ‘documents confirming the agreement of a man and woman to marry’ (קידושי נשים) on Chol HaMoed is because it is possible that failing to do so may then mean that one of the parties chooses to agree to marry someone else.
However, I would like to focus my attention on the importance, and immediacy, of writing divorce documents (גיטין) which thereby justifies that they be written even on Chol HaMoed. In terms of why this is so, numerous commentaries are explicit in stating that the reason for this is to prevent a situation of a woman becoming an aguna. But while this risk alone should certainly be a reason why a גט be given as soon as possible and that every effort should be made to ensure that it be written and given as soon as possible, I would like to add a further reason – which applies even where a pre-nup has been signed – namely that once a couple have agreed to divorce, they are required to do so as soon as possible.
Yet notwithstanding this simple principle, I have encountered far too many instances where this does not occur, and this is primarily because delays occur, and are often caused to occur, within the legal process of reaching decisions about assets and, where relevant, childcare and child support.
Of course, one would minimally expect that once a couple decide to divorce that they no longer live together. However, there are those who fear that by doing so that this may compromise future legal agreements about assets and childcare etc. And what results is the uncomfortable – and in some cases, dangerous – arrangement of a couple being in limbo, meaning that they continue living together while already being clear that they no longer wish to be married to one another.
Clearly, there may be some instances where this arrangement – notwithstanding the fact that Jewish law opposes it – can be maintained for a short period of time. But there are some instances where this runs the risk of abuse in all various forms and expressions.
Given this, what I hope those who learn this Mishna come to understand is that Jewish law and Jewish ethics understands the giving of a גט as a matter of urgency. That evidence of this is the fact that we write גיטין on Chol HaMoed. That failing to do so causes people loss, and pain, and often harm as well. And that, as a result, all those who guide individuals in the process of divorce need to understand that, once decided, it should happen as soon as possible.