Ketubot 47

Fair trade.

On today’s daf, we read a beraita (an early teaching) that explains the connection between a husband’s financial obligations to his wife and the specific financial benefits he receives in return:

They instituted (that a husband must provide his wife with) her sustenance in exchange for her earnings. And her redemption in exchange for produce. And her burial in exchange for her marriage contract. Consequently, a husband may consume the produce.

The beraita lays out what are essentially a series of trades. In exchange for her wages, the produce of her property, and the dowry guaranteed in her marriage contract, a husband assumes responsibility for his wife’s sustenance, coming up with ransom in case she is taken captive, and the cost of her burial. The last line is a little funny, though. The husband’s right to the produce was established a few sentences earlier, so why do we need the final line?

The Gemara explains that the final line teaches that a husband should begin to consume the produce immediately upon marrying. Why? Because otherwise, he could decide to keep proceeds from its sale in reserve and then, should his wife be taken captive, he could declare that he is not obligated to redeem her from his own funds. And so the rabbis require that he consume the produce immediately and then redeem her from his own funds. 

Conversely, we learned yesterday that a father, unlike a husband, does not consume the produce of his daughter’s property. Are we not then concerned that the father will not redeem his daughter should she be taken captive? The Gemara answers:

Without this, he will redeem her. 

In other words, to be sure that a husband would redeem his wife, the rabbis embedded the obligation in the larger financial arrangements between them. But with a father, the rabbis assume he will not not turn a blind eye to his own flesh and blood taken captive, so no financial incentive is required.

Well, most of the rabbis anyway. There was one exception: Rabbi Yosei, who took a more skeptical view of fathers — particularly fathers who have daughters that produce income from their own properties. What’s his reasoning?

A father will also refrain from redeeming her, as he will reason: A pouch of money is held in her (hand for a time of need), so let her go and redeem herself.

Ouch.

It’s important to remember that in talmudic times, women were financially dependent. The institution of marriage was, in part, a way to transfer dependency from father to husband, which is why it included financial incentives to ensure that a woman would be protected.

Today’s daf deals with the possibility that a husband might not fulfill his duties, particularly if his wife had her own means of paying for her ransom. To protect her from this, the rabbis require that she trade a source of financial independence — the produce from her property — to increase the likelihood that she won’t get stuck in captivity. They essentially move to protect her from the risk of captivity by increasing her financial dependency on her husband (and if we follow Rabbi Yosei, her father too). 

A fair trade? You be the judge.

Read all of Ketubot 47 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on August 22nd, 2022. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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