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A shaliaḥ (Hebrew: שָלִיחַ, [ʃaˈlijaχ]; pl. שְלִיחִים, sheliḥim [ʃəliːˈχiːm] or sheliah in Halakha is a Jewish legal emissary or agent. Accordingly, a shaliaḥ performs an act of legal significance for the benefit of the sender, as opposed to him or herself. It is a comparable Hebrew term of the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apostolos, whence the English "apostle").
Appointing a shaliaḥ
The Talmud, or Oral Torah, in tractate Gittin learns from Numbers 28:18 that any Jewish male or female may appoint an agent, as can servants and maidservants working under a Jew's care. A shaliaḥ however, may only be appointed for a mitzvah or other halakhic Jewish legal affairs that he or she is obligated in.
Shaliah in halakhic Jewish legal affairs
Many of the halakhic Jewish legal affairs that may be performed through a shaliah:
- A man may appoint a shaliah to betroth a woman on his behalf. A woman may choose to accept betrothal through a shaliah.
- A husband may appoint a shaliah to deliver a get to his wife. A wife may choose to appoint a shaliah to receive it.
- A salesman may appoint a shaliah to purchase or sell merchandise on his or her behalf. Similarly, any act of legal acquisition or transfer of ownership may be effected by a shaliah, such as giving a gift or acquiring a found object.
- A person may appoint a shaliah to separate terumot and maaserot on his behalf.
- One who assists in the performance of the rite of Jewish circumcision by holding the child upon his knees is called a shaliah or godfather.
- One who in a measure takes the place of the father, interesting himself in the child's welfare is called a shaliah.
- "The godfather became known in medieval times by many names in addition to the ancient designation of "sandik." He is called "ba'al berit" (master of the covenant), "ba'al berit ha-milah" (master of the covenant of circumcision), "ṭofes ha-yeld" (holder of the child), "ab sheni" (second father), and also "shaliaḥ" (messenger) (..) Primarily, one who assists in the performance of the rite of circumcision by holding the child upon his knees; secondarily, one who in a measure takes the place of the father, interesting himself in the lad's welfare." "GODFATHER". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012.