Talmud Tips

For the week ending 21 March 2015 / 1 Nisan 5775

Ketuvot 51 - 57

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“If the husband wants to add even a hundred ‘mana’ — he may do so.”

Although there are fixed amounts that a husband must obligate himself at the time of marriage to pay his wife in the event of her becoming a widow or divorcee, our mishna teaches that he may add any additional amount that he chooses. This is known as the “tosefet ketuva” — the amount he promises in addition to the basic obligation.

“What is the mishna coming to teach us?” asks the gemara. It’s obvious that he may add onto the amount. What reason could there possibly be to forbid this? We might have thought that an additional amount promised to his wife might embarrass a poor husband who is not capable of promising to pay any extra amount, and therefore the formalization of this extra amount in the context of the marriage contract would not be allowed. The mishna teaches that despite this possible concern, it is indeed permitted. (See Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’Ezer 66:7 regarding the halacha.)

  • Ketuvot 54b

“He may add even a hundred ‘mana’.”

How much may a husband add as an extra payment for his wife’s ketuva? “Even a hundred mana” states our mishna. Although one mana is literally 100 zuz, and100 mana is 10,000 and certainly a large amount, the intent appears clear that he may write as large a number as he wishes for the tosefet ketuva.

Does he need to actually own the entire amount in assets when he commits himself to an exorbitant sum? We would think he must possess the amount at the time he obligates himself, so that a lien can be placed on these assets to ensure his wife will receive payment if necessary. However, Tosefot points out that it was common practice that a husband would write a very large amount in the ketuva despite the fact that he was broke! One explanation offered by Tosefot is that the lien is on the person himself; and that if and when he acquires any property it is “retroactively” considered as collateral and insurance for payment of the ketuva.

  • Ketuvot 54b

“Go out and read your verses outside!”

This seemingly harsh statement was made by Rabbi Yannai to Rabbi Chanina in our sugya. When Rabbi Chanina was sitting in front of Rabbi Yannai and reading verses of the Torah, he also stated a ruling that the halacha was like Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria that a woman who was widowed or divorced after kiddushin but before nesu’im receives her ketuva payment but not the extra amount of the tosefet ketuva. The Chachamim argue and hold that she receives the extra amount as well.

When Rabbi Yannai heard Rabbi Chanina’s ruling he told him to read his verses outside; his ruling was wrong. The halacha was in fact not like Elazar ben Azaria. The “Yafe Einayim” points out that the Talmud Yerushalmi also cites this exchange and that a commentary on the Yerushalmi explains that Rabbi Yannai was using wry humor to make his point. Since Rabbi Chanina was a ba’al koreh who would read the Torah in the prayer services, he was told to “take his verses” to read them for the congregation but not mix into matters of halacha. Certainly Rabbi Yannai had only the highest respect for the great Sage Rabbi Chanina, but he used what sounds like severe language in order to express how strongly he felt that his own ruling was the correct one, and not that of Rabbi Chanina.

  • Yevamot 56a

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