Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ketubot 24 – Collusion

A similar case to two women testifying about each other is where two Kohanim are testifying about each other that they are indeed Kohanim. If one says, “I am a Kohen,” and the one says “I am a Kohen” – we do not believe him. But if they testify about each other, they are believed.

However, Rabbi Yehudah disagrees: we should never establish a person as a Kohen (to allow him to eat Kohen's portion) through the words of one witness, and especially here, where they may have colluded to testify for each other.

But is it true that Rabbi Yehudah suspects collusion? Didn't we learn this case: if two vendors of produce come to a town, and one of them says, “My produce is not properly tithed, however, his produce is” – we do not believe this testimony, because we suspect that in the next town they will say the reverse, and this is a ploy to inspire credibility; and here Rabbi Yehudah permits to buy their produce. But he should suspect them and forbid it!

Explained Rav Adda bar Ahavah, “Someone has learned this ruling about vendors wrong. He exchanged the opinion. Exchange them back, and Rabbi Yehudah is the one who suspects collusion.”

Abaye said, “No need to exchange opinions! Rather, here it is different, because vendors are selling doubtful tithes, “d'mai”, and this is not such a strict prohibition, so Rabbi Yehudah believes them anyway. Then how do the Sages disbelieve? – They say that if he has his wares, weights and scales, it is obvious that he denigrates his produce only because of collusion.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ketubot 23 – Captured woman

Once some women were captured by idolaters and brought to Nahardea to be ransomed. The father Shmuel placed guards over them, so that they would not be violated by their captors. Shmuel said to his father, “And until now who guarded them?” This was logical but not according to human dignity, so the father of Shmuel remarked, “And if these were your daughters, would you treat them as lightly?”

Occasional remark by a righteous may take effect, and later the daughters of Shmuel were indeed captured. The captors brought them to Israel for ransom. The knowledgeable women left their captors outside and entered the court of Rav Chanina. Each one of them declared, “I was captured but I am pure.” According to the previously stated rule that “the mouth that forbids is the mouth that permit,” they were believed. When their captors entered afterwards, it made no difference.

Rav Chanina said, “These are children of a legal master,” and indeed it was found out that they were the daughters of Shmuel.

If two women were captured by idolaters, but in this case there were witnesses to their capture, and each of them says, “I was captured but I am pure” – she is not believed, because we know about her capture independently, and not only from her words. However, if each testifies about the other that she is pure, then they are believed.

Art: The Capture by Franz Roubaud

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ketubot 22 – I was married, but I am divorced now

A woman lived in the city, and everybody presumed that she was single. Then she makes a statement: “Actually, I was married, but I am divorced.” She is believed, and she does not need to present the divorce letter, “Get.” Why? Does not she render herself prohibited to the whole world with the first statement? – No, because we apply the principle of “the mouth that prohibits is the mouth that permits.” In other words, we only know that she was married from her own words. Now that she says that she is divorced, we believe that also.

A similar example: a woman who says, “I was abducted by idolaters, but I am pure” is believed and can get married to a Kohen – even though normally any woman who had relations with an idolater cannot marry a Kohen any longer. If we only know about her capture from her, we believe her other statement. If, however, there was a witness to her being captured, then she must bring stronger proof.

Compare this to a case where a woman says that she was married, and then – that she was never married. Now she is not believed. Why not? Because unlike the first cases, her second statement contradicts the first. She must give a plausible explanation. For example, there was a very beautiful woman who used to say that she was engaged, but then she got engaged to one of her new suitors. She explained that previously unfit people used to woe her, and to get rid of them, she claimed that she was already engaged, and that now a proper person came. She was believed.

Art: The Abduction of Helen by Guido Reni

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ketubot 12 – What they did in Judea

In Judea people had a custom to celebrate the engagement with a big meal in the bride's father's house. Often the groom was left alone with the bride. This was done for him to become familiar with her, and also for another reason: ruling princes used to claim the right of the first night. If the bride was familiar with her groom, she would not submit willingly, and a woman who if violated is still permitted to her husband. However, because of the possibility of them having cohabited prior to the chuppah, in Judea the groom could not claim “not finding signs of virginity” in his wife, and thus could not deprive her of the full amount of the Ketubah obligation based on this claim.

So far, we never considered what the bride replies to the groom's claims. Let's look at this situation: the groom says that he did not find her a virgin. She explains that true, she was not, but that was because she was violated while being engaged to him, and thus he still owes her the amount of Ketubah if she becomes divorced or widowed, and this is a case of “your (buyer's) field became inundated,” so it is his loss. He says that perhaps it is not so, but rather she was not a virgin when she got engaged to him, so his marriage to her was a “mistaken buy”, and he does not owe the amount of Ketubah.

Rabban Gamliel says that she is believed. Why? Because her definite claim wins against his “perhaps,” even though his argument is bolstered by the fact that the money is now in his possession – and she has the right to the complete Ketubah.

Art: Difficult Bride by Pavel Andreevich Fedotov

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ketubot 11 – How much a husband owes to his wife

The marriage contract, called Ketubah, obligates the husband to pay his wife 200 zuz upon their divorce or his death. How much is that? The calculation is based on the silver contents of a zuz, subject to the discussion of whether by zuz we mean a pure silver coin or one mixed with seven parts of copper. Because of the decline in the price of silver, this amount is estimated today at 100 pounds of silver, or about $25,000. This is roughly the amount one can live on for a year.

However, this amount applies only to a virgin who has never been married. If a woman has been engaged and not married, but then divorced or widowed, her Ketubah is still 200 zuz, and here too the husband can raise a “claim of virginity”: if she is found not to be a virgin, his marriage is considered an acquisition made by mistake, and she looses all or some of the amount.

A woman who has been married – her ketubah is 100 zuz. In addition to this amount, the husband may, and often did, promise a much larger sum. This is called “additional amount of the Ketubah.”

Art: Head of a Dead Young Man by Theodore Gericault

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ketubot 10 – Results of claims

A certain groom appeared before Rav Nachman with the claim of an “open entrance.” Rav Nachman told his attendants to give the man lashes with palm branches, because “the prostitutes of the city of Mevarechta must be lying in front of him,” for him to know whether his wife was a virgin with such certainty.

But it was Rav Nachman himself who said that the man is believed!? – Yes, he is believed, but he is flogged for his past promiscuous behavior. Others says there there is no contradiction: a widower would be believed with such a claim, and a bachelor would not.

Another groom came to Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah the Prince and claimed that he did not find blood. Rabban Gamliel examined the cloth he wiped himself with, and after washing found blood there. Yet another groom came to Rabbi Yehudah and claimed that he did not find blood, while his wife was claiming that she was a virgin at the time of marriage. Rabbi Yehudah saw that their faces were dark from malnutrition, so he commanded his servants to take them into a bathhouse to be bathed, then made a feast for them, and then brought them into a room. They now found blood, and Rabbi Yehudah congratulated them. He applied to them a phrase from Lamentations, “their skin cleaved to their bones and became dry as wood.”

Art: Bath Houses by William Glackens

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ketubot 9 – Claims

If the husband claims “I found an open opening” - that is, he felt that his wife was not a virgin, then he may not believed as far as the girl is concerned, but he is believed to impose a restriction on himself, and he now cannot live with her. This is the opinion of Rabbi Elazar. Others say that he would not be believed even for himself, since his feeling is subjective.

But according to Rabbi Elazar, even if we believe the husband's feeling, what evidence is there that she was unfaithful to him while being engaged? Perhaps this happened before engagement, and even if not, perhaps she is from a family where women do not have a significant hymen? – Rabbi Elazar's rules applies only in the case where one betrothed a girl when she was younger than three, and got married to her when she grew up.

Shmuel says that the husband is believed to the point that her Ketubah (marriage obligation paid in case of divorce) is void, and he does not have to pay it. But why would he be believed? Perhaps he is just trying to get out of his obligation? – Shmuel will reply that one would not trouble himself to make a wedding feast, only to loose her the next day.

Art: The Hesitant Betrothed by Auguste Toulmouche