Kiddushin 4

Three in one.

Deuteronomy 24:1 states:

“When a man takes a woman and engages in sexual intercourse with her, and it comes to pass, if she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly matter in her, and he writes her a scroll of severance.” 

Sound familiar? This verse was essential to Tractate Gittin’s discussion of divorce as the latter half of the verse mentions not only the grounds for divorce but also the requirement to write a get. As it turns out, the verse is also significant for Tractate Kiddushin as one of the main sources for the Gemara’s discussion of betrothal.

As we have learned, the Mishnah states that there are three ways that a couple can become betrothed: through money, through a document and through sexual intercourse. On today’s daf, the rabbis find a source for each embedded in Deuteronomy 24:1.

The most straightforward derivation is for sexual intercourse, which the verse mentions explicitly. Noting the verse’s requirement that a document must be used to dissolve a marriage leads the rabbis to conclude that one can be used for betrothal as well. Here, their conclusion is supported by a logical deduction which we will encounter at the top of tomorrow’s daf (see Kiddushin 5a). 

Finally, the rabbis derive that betrothal can occur through an exchange of money through a midrashic analysis, one that imports the meaning of a word from one context to another:

It is taught in a beraita that when the verse states: “When a man takes a woman” the term taking is only with money. And so it says: “I will give money for the field; take it from me.” (Genesis 23:13)

Following the death of his wife Sarah, Abraham is left with the problem of figuring out how to bury her in the promised land where he is still an outsider. The Hittites, amongst whom he lives, are willing to let him use their burial lands to do so, but Abraham has a particular piece of land in mind, the Cave of Machpelah, which is owned by Ephron son of Zohar. Abraham insists on paying for it and during the negotiations he says: “I will give money for the field; take it from me.” 

Abraham’s use of the verb “to take” in conjunction with payment is reflected back to the verse in Deuteronomy: Just as “take” implies an exchange of money in the Abraham story, so too it midrashically implies an exchange of money in Deuteronomy. So how does a man “take” (i.e. betroth) a woman? Through the exchange of money.

The opening mishnah presents us with the three ways that betrothal can occur. It does so, as is often its way, without making reference to how they were derived. The Gemara, as is often its way, connects them back to their biblical source. In this case, it manages to do so with a single verse and three very different midrashic methods.

Read all of Kiddushin 4 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on August 17th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

Discover More

Kiddushin 68

The limits of kiddushin.

Kiddushin 10

Betrothal interruptus.

Kiddushin 5

Can you skip betrothal and still get married?