We have already seen the Gemara discuss some ways that a man could betroth a woman conditionally. In these cases, until the conditions are met or proven unmet, the woman remains in limbo, with all the limitations imposed on a betrothed woman, but usually without whatever financial benefit she would receive if the betrothal were effected. Honestly, conditional betrothal sounds like the worst of both worlds.
(If a man says that a woman is betrothed) on the condition that I will show you two hundred dinars, she is betrothed, and he shall show it to her.
If a man promises to show a woman money as a condition of betrothal, and she agrees, the betrothal takes effect immediately and is sustained when he actually does show her the money. This is a confusing law. We have learned that you cannot effect a betrothal with anything that costs less than a peruta. And since seeing something is (usually) free, how can betrothal be effected just by showing money? Indeed, the mishnah’s teaching only makes sense when we read the next sentence:
And if he shows on the (moneychanger’s) table, she is not betrothed.
Clearly, showing her two hundred dinar is meant to communicate that he has two hundred dinar. Gesturing toward someone else’s money in the marketplace, or handling other people’s money in the course of his job, does not suffice. If the money he shows her is not his own, then the betrothal doesn’t work.
The Gemara cites a teaching that makes this distinction even more clear.
She intended to see only his own (money).
Betrothal is not like show and tell. You aren’t just showing other people cool things to learn more about the world. A woman considering a marriage proposal wants to see a man’s money to get a sense of his financial resources, how he might treat whatever assets she brings into the marriage, and the kinds of dowries he might be able to provide for their future children. In a world where it was difficult if not impossible for a woman to initiate a divorce, knowing this information was crucial.
Indeed, the Gemara goes even further in ensuring that any money he shows her to effect betrothal is really wholly his own:
Even if he holds money as a joint (business) venture.
He can’t even show her a business in which he is part owner and claim that it is his own.
If a woman agrees to a betrothal on the condition he show her the money (which again, sounds like a terrible idea), unless it is entirely his own money, the betrothal is automatically annulled.