Talmud Tips

For the week ending 18 April 2015 / 29 Nisan 5775

Ketuvot 79 - 85

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

“Rav Nachman tore up her document.”

The document involved was one written by a widow to her daughter prior to the mother’s remarriage. The mother had property from before, and did not want her new husband to have any rights of usage or ownership in them. When it transpired that the mother’s new marriage ended in divorce, the mother asked her daughter to return her property. The daughter refused and presented the document of acquisition as proof that she was the true owner. Rav Nachman, however, understood that the document was only written in order to prevent the mother’s husband from having rights and not with complete intent to give the property to her daughter. He therefore tore up the daughter’s document, returning the property to the mother. Rashi explains that when the document was written the mother had informed witnesses that she did not really mean give her daughter a gift, but rather to prevent her new husband from rights to her property. (This explanation makes Rav Nachman’s ruling appear obviously correct and begs explanation for the opinion of Rava in the gemara who argues with Rav Nachman’s ruling. Tosefot, therefore, explains that the mother didn’t actually inform witnesses of her intent, but that it was clear from the situation that she did not have proper intent to give away her property as a gift.)

  • Ketuvot 79a

“Since he (the lender) could have said ‘I bought the item’, he’s believed when he says ‘I grabbed it while he (the father) was still alive’.”

This is the ruling of Rav Nachman in our gemara in a case presented on our daf. A father who had borrowed money died, leaving behind orphans and a lender. The lender claimed that he took the father’s ox while the father was still alive (to ensure repayment of the debt) and should be allowed to keep it as payment for the loan. The orphans had a guard for their animals who claimed that the lender grabbed the ox “too late” — only after the death of the father — and must return it. Rav Nachman asked the guard if he could present witnesses to prove that the lender had taken the ox. His answer was “No”. Based on this lack of evidence, Rav Nachman issued his ruling that the lender was to be believed, on the basis that he could have easily denied ever taking it.

  • Ketuvot 84b

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