Talmud

Ketubot 66

A horse is a horse, of course.

Throughout Tractate Ketubot, we have learned about various financial factors that impact what is owed to husbands and wives in the course of their marriage — both from the partners to each other, and from outsiders to either. Chapter six picks up this topic on the bottom of yesterday’s daf with a mishnah that begins as follows: 

A lost object found by a wife and the wife’s earnings belong to her husband. And with regard to her inheritance, the husband enjoys the profits of this property in her lifetime. If she is humiliated or injured, the perpetrator is liable to pay compensation for her humiliation and her degradation (devaluation due to injury), as relevant. This payment belongs to her.

The first part of this mishnah repeats what we learned earlier: A wife’s earnings and interest payments generally belong to her husband. Since she is his “acquisition,” so too are her earnings. If she inherits property, the fruit it produces belongs to her husband even if the land itself remains in her name.

In the second part of the mishnah, however, we learn that if a woman suffers humiliation or injury, the fines paid by the perpetrator are due to her, not to her husband. The three-word Hebrew phrase is terse and clear: Bushta (her humiliation), u’fgama (and her devaluation) — shela (are hers).” 

A logical question arises: If a wife is her husband’s acquisition, and all of her earnings are his during the marriage, why wouldn’t fines paid to her for humiliation and devaluation belong to him as well? In fact, there is a dispute on this matter between Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira and the rabbis. The mishnah goes on to note:

Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira says: When it is an injury that is in a concealed part of the woman’s body, she receives two parts (i.e., two thirds of the payment for humiliation and degradation), and the husband receives one part, (i.e., one third, as the injury affects him as well).

And when it is an injury that is on an exposed part of her body, he receives two parts (as he suffers public humiliation due to her condition), and she receives one part. His payment should be given to him immediately. And with her portion, land should be purchased with it, and he enjoys the profits of that property.

Not so fast, says Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira, who makes an assumption that if the injury is concealed, the bulk of the pain and suffering — and the fines paid because of them — are due to the wife, and the lesser part is due to the husband, because he is less affected by her injury (we’ll come back to the logic of that notion shortly). If the injury is exposed, he gets more and she gets less, and the money she receives should be invested in purchasing land from which the husband would be entitled to the profits. Yehudah ben Beteira is focused not only on how the husband feels if his wife is humiliated, but the potential loss of income due to her injury — say, loss of limb or sight that would impact her ability to work. (If this seems cold, take a look at insurance actuary charts some time.) 

The Gemara’s discussion of this matter continues on today’s daf with Yehudah ben Beteira not only battling the rabbis of the mishnah, but the opinion of Rava as well. Rava bolsters his argument with the following comparison:

Rava bar Rav Hanan strongly objects to this (the opinion that the husband is due a portion of his wife’s compensation): If that is so, then if one humiliated another’s horse, is it then the halakhah that also such an offender is required to give him payment for humiliation? 

At this point, the Gemara is moved to ask:

And is a horse subject to humiliation? 

What in the world? In order to understand what these expositors are getting at, let’s look carefully at these opinions, side by side. 

The mishnah’s view is that if a wife is humiliated or injured, any fines incurred by the perpetrator belong to her, since the injury and/or humiliation happened to her alone. But, according to Yehudah ben Beteira, the husband is due a portion of her fines because he is humiliated on her account and/or bears the financial loss resulting from her injury. Rava agrees with the mishnah — that a woman’s fines are paid to her — but gets there by explaining that like a horse, a woman is a separate being to her husband, and therefore the husband doesn’t deserve to be paid fines on behalf of either his woman or his beast. To this, the Gemara notes that horses do not become humiliated, so there’s nothing to be learned from that example.

Throughout our study of Seder Nashim, this collection of tractates that deal with all matters pertaining to women, we will come across debates that, at their core, are about determining whether a married woman’s primary status is that of an individual person, or as a wife who belongs to her husband. In our case, the sugya ends with this ruling: 

Here, since one’s wife is considered his own self, it is as if he himself were humiliated.

Since the husband of the injured woman is also shamed or devalued, he too is due some portion of her fines. 

Read all of Ketubot 66 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on September 10th, 2022. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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