Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day
Ishut - Chapter Fourteen, Ishut - Chapter Fifteen, Ishut - Chapter Sixteen
Ishut - Chapter Fourteen
The [obligation of] conjugal rights as prescribed by the Torah [is individual in nature], depending on the strength of each particular man and the [type of] work that he performs.
What is implied? Healthy men who are pampered and indulged, and who are not employed in labor that weakens their strength - but rather eat, drink and spend [the majority of their day] at home - should fulfill their conjugal duties every night.
[The following rules apply to] workers - e.g., tailors, weavers, construction workers and the like. If they work in the city [in which they live], they should fulfill their conjugal duties twice a week. If they work in another city, they should fulfill their conjugal duties once a week.
Donkey-drivers should fulfill their conjugal duties once a week. Camel-drivers should fulfill their conjugal duties once every thirty days. Seamen should fulfill their conjugal duties once every six months.
Students of the Torah should fulfill their conjugal duties once a week. [Their obligation is limited,] because the Torah weakens their strength. It is the practice of Torah scholars to engage in marital relations on Friday night.
A wife has the right to prevent her husband from making business trips except to close places, so that he will not be prevented from fulfilling his conjugal duties. He may make such journeys only with her permission.
Similarly, she has the prerogative of preventing him from changing from a profession that grants her more frequent conjugal rights to one that grants her less frequent rights - e.g., a donkey-driver who wishes to become a camel-driver, or a camel-driver who wishes to become a seaman.
Students of the Torah may, however, depart for Torah study for two or three years without their wives' permission. Similarly, a wife cannot prevent a husband who is pampered and indulged from becoming a student of the Torah.
A man [has the prerogative of] marrying several wives - even 100, whether at one time or one after the other. His wife may not object to this, provided he has the means to provide each [wife] with her subsistence, clothing and conjugal rights as befits her. He may not, however, compel his wives to live in the same courtyard. Instead, each one is entitled to her own household.
What are [his obligations with regard to his wives'] conjugal rights? [They are determined according to] the number [of wives he has.]
What is implied? If a worker has two wives, he is obligated to fulfill his duties towards each one once a week. If he has four wives, he is obligated to fulfill his duties towards each one once every two weeks. Similarly, a seaman who has four wives is obligated to fulfill his duties towards each one once every two years.
Therefore, our Sages commanded that a person should not marry more than four wives, although he has ample financial resources, so that he will be able to fulfill his conjugal obligations towards each one once a month.
When a man makes a vow requiring his wife to tell other people what he told her - or what she told him - of the jests and frivolities that a man and his wife will [occasionally] speak [in preparation for] marital relations, he must divorce [his wife] and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah. For a woman may not [be compelled] to speak brazenly and tell others lascivious things.
Similarly, if a man makes a vow requiring his wife to take actions during marital relations to prevent conception, or if he makes a vow requiring her to act foolishly, [performing] acts that have no meaning and are merely foolishness, he must divorce [his wife] and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
When a man makes a vow causing marital relations with his wife to be forbidden, he is given a respite of one week. After that time, he must divorce [his wife] and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah, or absolve his vow. [This ruling applies even if the man] is a seaman whose obligation towards conjugal duties is once every six months. [The rationale is that] since he took a vow, he has caused his wife distress, and she despairs [of ever resuming intimacy].
How can such a vow be effective? If he tells her: "Marital relations with me are forbidden for you," or he takes an oath not to engage in marital relations, his vow is of no consequence, and by taking an oath he violates the prohibition against taking a false oath, for he is obligated [by the Torah to engage in relations with her]. If, however, he tells her, "The satisfaction of engaging in relations with you is forbidden to me," it is a [binding] vow, and he is forbidden to engage in relations with her. For a person should not be fed food that is forbidden to him.
It is forbidden for a man to deprive his wife of her conjugal rights. If he transgresses and deprives her of these rights in order to cause her distress, he violates one of the Torah's negative commandments, as [Exodus 21:10] states: "Do not deprive [her] of her sustenance, garments or conjugal rights."
If he becomes sick or his virility is weakened, and he is unable to engage in sexual relations, he is given a period of six months- for [a woman is never required to wait] longer for her conjugal rights than this - in the hope that he recovers. Afterwards, the prerogative is hers [whether to remain married] or whether he must divorce her and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
A woman who withholds marital intimacy from her husband is called a moredet ("a rebel"). She is asked why she has rebelled. If she answers: "Because I am repulsed by him and I cannot voluntarily engage in relations with him," her husband should be compelled to divorce her immediately. For she is not like a captive, [to be forced] to engage in relations with one she loathes.
[In such an instance, as part of] the divorce [settlement], she does not receive any of the money promised her in her ketubah. She is entitled to whatever remains of the possessions she brought into the marriage arrangement, both those for which her husband assumed responsibility and those for which he did not assume responsibility - i.e., nichsei m'log.
She is not entitled to anything that belongs to her husband. She should remove even the shoe on her foot and her head-covering that he gave her and return them to him. [Similarly,] she should return to him any presents that he gave her. For he did not give them to her with the intent that she take them and [leave his home].
[Different rules apply, however,] if she rebelled against her husband with the intent of causing him distress, saying: "I intend to cause him distress this way, because he did this or this to me," "...because he cursed me," "...because he has caused me strife," or the like, she is sent a messenger from the court, [who] tells her: "Take note. If you continue your rebellious conduct, you will forfeit your ketubah, even if it is worth one hundred maneh."
Afterwards, announcements are made concerning her in the synagogues and the houses of study each day for four consecutive weeks, saying: "So and so has rebelled against her husband."
After the announcement has been made, the court sends her a messenger a second time. He tells her: "If you continue your rebellious conduct, you have forfeited your ketubah." If, nevertheless, she continues this conduct and does not retract, she is consulted by the court. [If she does not change her mind,] she then forfeits her ketubah and has no rights to a ketubah at all.
She is not given a divorce until twelve months pass. During these twelve months, [her husband is] not [required] to provide for her subsistence. If she dies before being divorced, her husband inherits her [property].
This is the sequence followed with regard to a woman who rebels [against her husband] in order to cause him distress. These laws apply even when the woman is in the niddah state or when she is ill and is not fit to engage in sexual relations. Similarly, they apply even when her husband is a seaman whose conjugal duties are only once in six months, and even when [her husband] has another wife.
Similarly, when the time comes for an arusah to enter nisu'in, and she refuses to do so, rebelling in order to cause [her husband] distress, she is considered to be one who rebels [and refuses to engage] in marital relations. Similarly, the above sequence is followed when a yevamah refuses to undergo yibbum in order to cause [her yavam] distress.
When this woman who rebels is divorced after twelve months without receiving [any of the money due her because of] her ketubah, she must also return everything that belongs to her husband.
With regard to the property that she brought to [the marriage arrangement] and what remains [of her trousseau, different rules apply]. If she takes physical possession of these articles, they are not taken from her, but if her husband takes physical possession of them, they are not taken from him. Similarly, her husband is not held liable for anything that has been lost from her possessions for which he accepted responsibility. This is the law prescribed by the Talmud with regard to a woman who rebels [against her husband].
There are geonim who say that in Babylonia different customs were followed with regard to a woman who rebels [against her husband].These customs have not, however, spread throughout the majority of the Jewish community, and in most places within the Jewish community, there are many sages of stature who differ with them. [Therefore,] it is proper to follow the laws prescribed by the Talmud.
[The following ruling applies when] a man rebels against his wife and says, "I will support her and provide her with her subsistence, but I will not be intimate with her, because she has become loathsome to me." He must increase her ketubah by the equivalent of 36 barleycorns worth of [pure] silver each week. They may remain married without engaging in relations for as long as she desires.
Although her ketubah continues to increase, [her husband] also transgresses a negative commandment, for [Exodus 21:10] states: "Do not deprive [her of her... conjugal rights]." If the husband hates her, let him divorce her; causing her anguish, however, is forbidden.
Why is he not punished by lashes for [violating] this negative commandment? Because its [violation] does not involve a deed.
[The following rules apply when] a man and his wife come to court and he claims that his wife refuses to engage in marital relations, and she replies: "I follow the way of the world with him," or if she claims that he deprives her of her conjugal rights, and he replies that he "follows the way of the world with her." At first, a ban of ostracism is issued against anyone who denies his or her spouse marital intimacy and refuses to acknowledge the matter before the court.
Afterwards, if acknowledgement is [still] not made, the couple are asked to enter into privacy in the presence of witnesses. If they do this, and yet the claims continue as before, a request is made of the defendant, and a compromise is made [as just] as the judge can make. It is, however, forbidden to engage in relations in the presence of others. For it is forbidden to engage in relations in the presence of any living being.
When a woman becomes ill, [her husband] is obligated [to provide] medical treatment for her until she recovers. If the husband sees that her illness is prolonged, and he will be forced to spend much money treating her, he may tell her: "Here is the money due you by virtue of your ketubah. Either pay for your treatment from this money, or I will divorce you and pay you what is due you and abandon you." [Although] he is given this prerogative, it is not ethical to act in this manner.
[When a man's wife] is taken captive, he is obligated to redeem her. If he is a priest, [although] she has become forbidden to him, he must redeem her and have her returned to her father's home. If he was in another city, he must still provide for her until she is returned to her native locale. [Then] he must divorce her and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
If her husband was an Israelite - who is permitted to remain married to a woman who was held captive - he must return her to her station as his wife, as she was previously. Afterwards, if he desires, he may divorce her, [provided] he pays her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
A husband is not obligated to redeem his wife for more than her worth. Instead, [the laws applying] to her [redemption] are the same as with regard to others held captive.
When her ransom exceeds [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, her husband is not given the prerogative of saying: "I will divorce her. Here is [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah. Let her redeem herself." Instead, [if necessary,] he should be compelled to redeem her, even if her ransom is ten times [the value of] her ketubah - even if it is equivalent to all of his assets.
When does the above apply? On the first occasion [that she is held captive]. If, however, he redeems her and she is taken captive again, if he desires to divorce her he may divorce her, pay [her the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, and [then] she must redeem herself.
When a man's wife is taken captive and he is abroad, the court expropriates his assets and sells them after announcements have been made, and redeems his wife as he would be required to.
When a person causes his wife to be bound by a vow that requires him to divorce her and pay her [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, and she is taken captive after he causes her to be bound by this vow, he is not required to redeem her. For from the time he caused her to be bound by the vow, he was obligated to divorce her and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
When a woman who is forbidden to [engage in relations] with her husband because of one of the Torah's prohibitions is taken captive, he is not obligated to redeem her. Instead, he must provide her with [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, and she must redeem herself.
[One might ask: Why is this instance different from the wife of a priest who is taken captive?] A woman who has been taken captive is forbidden to a priest, and yet he is obligated to redeem [his wife in such an instance]. [There is, however, a difference between the two instances. The priest's wife] was not forbidden to him beforehand. It is the prohibition stemming from her being taken captive that causes [their relationship to be forbidden].
When a man's wife dies, he is obligated to bury her and to have eulogies and lamentations performed as is the local custom. Even a poor Jewish man should provide at least two flutes and one woman to lament. If [her husband] is rich, [the funeral should be carried out] in a manner appropriate to his wealth.
If the social standing of [a man's wife] exceeded his own, he must have her buried in a manner appropriate to her social standing. For [when she marries,] a woman ascends to her husband's social standing [if his is higher than hers], but does not descend [to his, if her social standing surpasses his]. [This principle applies] even after death.
If a husband does not desire [to pay for] the burial of his wife, and another person voluntarily takes the initiative and has her buried, [the costs of the burial] should be expropriated from her husband against his will and given to the person [who arranged the burial]. [The rationale is to prevent the body of a Jew] from being thrown to the dogs.
If a man is in another city when his wife dies, the court should expropriate his property and sell it without an announcement. The woman should be buried as appropriate to her husband's financial resources and his social standing or her social standing.
Ishut - Chapter Fifteen
It is permissible for a woman to authorize her husband to ignore her conjugal rights. When does this apply? When he has children already and has fulfilled the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply. If, however, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, he is obligated to engage in sexual relations whenever his conjugal duties require, until he fathers children. For this is a positive commandment of the Torah, as [Genesis 1:28] states: "Be fruitful and multiply."
The mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying is incumbent on the husband and not on his wife. When does a man become obligated to fulfill this mitzvah? From the time he reaches seventeen. If he reaches twenty and has not married, he is considered to have transgressed and negated the observance of this positive commandment. If, however, he is occupied with the study of Torah and absorbed in this endeavor and is hesitant of marrying, lest he be forced to work to support his wife and thus be prevented from studying Torah, he is permitted to delay marriage. For a person who is occupied in the performance of one mitzvah is freed from the obligation to perform another. Surely this applies with regard to the study of Torah.
When a person's soul desires [to study] Torah at all times and is obsessed with its [study] as was ben Azzai, and clings to it throughout his life, without marrying, he is not considered to have transgressed.
[This applies] provided a man's natural inclination does not overcome him. If, however, his natural inclination overcomes him, he is obligated to marry, even if he has already fathered children, lest he be prompted to [sexual] thoughts.
How many children is it necessary for a man to have fathered to be considered to have fulfilled this mitzvah? One boy and one girl, as [implied by Genesis 5:2]: "He created them, a male and a female." If the son was a saris or the daughter an aylonit, he is not considered to have fulfilled this mitzvah.
A man is considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying [even when] he fathers [children] and they die, so long as [his children] have left behind children [of their own]. For grandchildren are considered to be children.
When does the above apply? When the person's grandchildren are both male and female, and they are descended from a male and a female, even though the male grandchild is the son of the man's daughter, and the female grandchild is the daughter of the man's son. Since they come from two of his children, he is considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying. If, however, he had a son and a daughter who both died, and [one did not leave any children, while] one left a son and a daughter, the grandfather is not considered to have fulfilled this mitzvah.
When [a convert] had fathered children as a gentile, and both he and they convert, he is considered to have fulfilled this mitzvah. By contrast, a freed slave who had fathered children as a slave is not considered to have fulfilled this mitzvah, although his children were also freed. Instead, he must father children after he has been freed. [The rationale is that] a slave is not considered to have any paternal lineage.
A man should not marry a barren women, an elderly woman, an aylonit or a minor who is not fit to bear a child unless he has already fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, or he has another wife with whom he can father children.
When a man has married a woman and remained married to her for ten years without her bearing children, he must divorce her and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah, or marry a woman who is fit to bear children.
If he does not desire to divorce her, he should be compelled to do so; he should be beaten with a rod until he divorces her. Even when he says, "I will not engage in marital relations with her. Instead, we will dwell together with witnesses so that we will not ever be in private," regardless of whether it is he or she who offers this proposition, it is not accepted. Rather, he is required to divorce [his wife] or marry another woman who is fit to bear children.
When a man has lived [together with his wife] for ten years without her bearing children, and he releases semen as one shoots an arrow, it can be assumed that the affliction comes from her. Therefore, he should divorce her without paying her [the essential requirement of] the ketubah. She is, however, entitled to the additional sum [by which the ketubah was increased]. [The rationale is that] such a woman should not be judged more severely than an aylonit whose husband did not recognize her condition, who is granted the additional amount, as will be explained.
If [the husband] does not [release semen] as one shoots an arrow, it can be assumed that the affliction comes from him alone. When he divorces her, he must pay her [the entire sum due her by virtue of her] ketubah: the essential requirement and the additional sum.
[The following rules apply when there is a dispute with regard to which of the couple it is whose affliction prevents the couple from having children. The husband] claims: "It is she who cannot bear children," and she claims "He cannot conceive children, for he does not [release semen] as one shoots an arrow." Her word is accepted. He may, however, have a ban of ostracism issued conditionally against anyone who makes a claim that she does not definitely know to be true. Afterwards, he must pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
If she says, "I do not know if the difficulty stems from me or from him," she is not entitled to the essential requirement of the ketubah, as explained. [The rationale is that] the money should stay in the possession of its owner until she makes a definite claim that he does not [release semen] as one shoots an arrow.
Why is the woman's word accepted when she makes such a claim? Because she can feel whether or not he [releases semen] as one shoots an arrow, and he cannot make such a distinction.
When a woman demands of her husband to divorce her after ten years [of marriage], because she has not given birth, and she claims that he does not [release semen] as one shoots an arrow, her request is accepted. Although she is not commanded to fulfill the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, she needs sons [to assist] her in her old age. [Therefore,] he should be compelled to divorce her.
He is required to give her only the essential requirement of the ketubah. [He is not required to give her the additional amount,] because he did not promise her this additional amount with the intent that she leave him at her will and take this money.
If [a husband] travels on an [extended] business trip during these ten years, or either the husband or the wife were ill or confined in prison, [the time that the couple did not share together] is not included in the calculation [of the ten years].
If a woman miscarries, [the ten years are] recalculated from the day of the miscarriage.
If a woman has three successive miscarriages, we can presume that she will continue to miscarry, and there is the possibility that [her husband] will not merit to have children from her. Therefore, he should divorce her, and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
[The following rules apply when there is a difference between the information stemming from the claims of a husband and his wife.] He claims that she has miscarried within the ten years so that they can continue [their marriage], and she denies the miscarriage. [Her claim] is believed; [if it were not true,] she would not cause herself to be considered barren.
If he claims that she has miscarried twice, and she claims to have miscarried three times, [her claim] is believed. [If it were not true,] she would not cause herself to be considered a woman who [continually] miscarries.
[Therefore, in both instances,] he should divorce her and pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah. With regard to the above situations, he may require her to take a Rabbinic oath that she did not miscarry or that she miscarried three times. For this claim obligates him to pay her [the money due her by virtue of her] ketubah.
[When a woman] marries one man, remains married to him for ten years without bearing a child and is divorced [for that reason], she is permitted to marry a second husband. If she remained married to the second husband for ten years without bearing a child, she should not marry a third husband.
If she marries a third husband, she should be divorced; [he is] not [required to pay her the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah. [This applies] unless he has another wife, or he has already fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying.
[The following laws apply when] a woman comes to court and claims that her husband cannot perform sexually in an ordinary way that will lead to the conception of children, or that he does not [release semen] as one shoots an arrow. The judges should try to arrange a compromise, telling the woman: "It is proper for you to conduct yourself with your husband [as follows]: Remain [married] for ten years. [If] you do not give birth, come to him with a claim at that time."
We protract the negotiations of this matter with her; we do not require her to continue living with him, nor do we judge her as a woman who rebels against her husband. Instead, the dealings are prolonged until the two parties reach a compromise.
Although a man has fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, he is bound by a Rabbinic commandment not to refrain from being fruitful and multiplying as long as he is physically potent. For anyone who adds a soul to the Jewish people is considered as if he built an entire world.
Similarly, it is a mitzvah of our Sages that a man should not live without a wife, so that he will not be prompted to [sexual] thoughts. Similarly, a woman should not live without a man, so that she will not be suspected [of immoral conduct].
It is an obligation for a man to admonish his wife. Our Sages declared: "A man will not admonish his wife unless a spirit of purity enters his being." [Nevertheless,] he should not admonish her more than necessary.
[A man] should never compel [his wife] to engage in sexual relations against her will. Instead, [relations] should be with her agreement, [preceded by] conversation and a spirit of joy.
Similarly, our Sages commanded a woman to conduct herself modestly at home, not to proliferate levity or frivolity before her husband, not to request intimacy verbally, nor to speak about this matter.
She should not deny her husband [intimacy] to cause him anguish, so that he should increase his love for her. Instead, she should oblige him whenever he desires. She should keep her distance from his relatives and the members of his household so that he will not be provoked by jealousy and should avoid scandalous situations - indeed, any trace of scandal.
Similarly, our Sages commanded that a man honor his wife more than his own person, and love her as he loves his own person. If he has financial resources, he should offer her benefits in accordance with his resources. He should not cast a superfluous measure of fear over her. He should talk with her gently, being neither sad nor angry.
And similarly, they commanded a woman to honor her husband exceedingly and to be in awe of him. She should carry out all her deeds according to his directives, considering him to be an officer or a king. She should follow the desires of his heart and shun everything that he disdains.
This is the custom of holy and pure Jewish women and men in their marriages. And these ways will make their marriage pleasant and praiseworthy.
Ishut - Chapter Sixteen
The property that a woman brings to her husband's [resources] - be it landed property, movable property or servants - is not referred to with the term ketubah, but rather with the term nedunyah.
[More particularly, there are two subdivisions within this category.] When the husband accepts responsibility for the nedunyah and it is considered to be his property - i.e., if it decreases in value he suffers the loss, and if it increases in value the gain is his - the property is referred to as nichsei tzon barzel.
If the husband did not accept responsibility for the nedunyah, and it instead remained the property of the woman - if it decreases in value she suffers the loss, and if it increases in value the gain is hers - the property is referred to as nichsei m'log.
Similarly, all the property that a woman owns that she did not bring to her husband's household, nor had written in her ketubah, but rather left as her own, or property that came to her as an inheritance, or that was given to her as a present - all of this is referred to as nichsei m'log, for it is all in her possession.
The term ketubah, by contrast, refers only to the fundamental requirement of the marriage contract - i.e., 100 [zuz for a non-virgin] or 200 [zuz for a virgin] and the additional amount that [the husband promised].
We have already explained that our Sages established the fundamental requirement of the marriage contract, and that the laws governing the additional amount [promised by the husband] are the same as those governing the fundamental requirement.
[Our Sages] did not grant a woman the option of collecting [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah whenever she desired. Instead, it is like a debt, which is not payable until a given date. For a ketubah, the time when payment is due is not until after the woman's husband dies or divorces her.
Similarly, our Sages ordained that if a husband has fields [of varying quality] - good, bad and intermediate - when the woman comes to collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah from this property, she is entitled to collect only from the inferior fields. They are referred to as ziboorit.
Similarly, our Sages ordained that when a woman comes to collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah after her husband's death, she may not collect [this sum] until she takes an oath while holding a sacred article, that her husband did not leave any property in her possession, that she had not sold her ketubah to him, nor waived payment of it. [Her wardrobe, even] the garments she is wearing should be evaluated and the sum deducted from [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.
If, however, he voluntarily divorces her, she may collect [the money due her] without taking an oath, nor should [her wardrobe] be evaluated. [The rationale is that] he bought them for her, she acquired them, and it is he who desires to divorce her, and not the reverse.
Similarly, [our Sages] ordained that a widow should collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah from landed property only. [Moreover,] she may not collect [her due] from the increment in the value of that property after the husband died. Similarly, after their father's death, [the woman's] daughters do not receive their subsistence from the increment in the value of that property after his death.
Similarly, a woman may not collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah from the increment in the value of [landed] property accomplished through the efforts of a purchaser, although other creditors are entitled to collect their due from that increment.These rulings are among the leniencies [granted with regard to the the payment of the money due a woman by virtue] of her ketubah.
Similarly, among the leniencies [granted with regard to the payment of the money due a woman by virtue] of her ketubah is that a woman will collect the money due her from the coinage that is of least value.
What is implied? A man married a woman in one country and divorced her in another. If the coinage of the country in which the couple married is more valuable than the coinage of the country in which they divorced, he may pay her with the coinage of the country in which they divorced. If, by contrast, the coinage of the country in which the couple divorced is more valuable than the coinage of the country in which they married, he may pay her with the coinage of the country in which they married.
When does the above apply? When her ketubah states a sum of coins without specification. If, however, a specific type of coin is explicitly mentioned, whether with regard to the fundamental requirement of the ketubah, or with regard to the extra amount added by the husband, the law is the same as when a person lends a colleague a specific type of coin - he must return the loan in the coinage that he took, as will be explained in Hilchot Halva'ah.
The geonim of all the yeshivot ordained that after the death of a man, a woman should be able to collect her [money due her by virtue of her] ketubah from movable property, just as they ordained that a creditor can collect the debt owed him from movable property. This mandate spread throughout the majority of the Jewish people.
Similarly, the other conditions of a woman's ketubah are governed by the same rules as [the fundamental requirement of] the ketubah, and they are binding on the movable property of the deceased's estate, as well as on the landed property. There is, however, one exception - the right of the sons to inherit their mother's ketubah. Since the custom of granting them this inheritance was not universally accepted by all the yeshivot, I maintain that the law of the Talmud should be applied in this instance, and they should inherit the money due their mother by virtue of her ketubah only from the landed property [within the estate].
In all the [Jewish] communities of which I know and have heard reports from, it has already become the custom to write the ketubah so that [its obligations are binding] on both the landed property and the movable property [in the estate].
[Making] this addition is a great asset; it was ordained by learned men of great stature. For it is a monetary stipulation, and thus a widow is entitled to collect [the money due her] from the movable property [in her husband's] estate by virtue of this stipulation, and not by virtue of the mandate of the later sages.
[The following rules apply when] this stipulation was not included in the text of the ketubah, but instead [the couple] married without making an explicit statement [in this regard]. If the husband knew of this ordinance established by the geonim, the woman may collect [the money due her from the movable property in his estate].
If, however, he was not [aware of this ordinance], or we are unsure whether he knew of it, we deliberate at length concerning this matter. For an ordinance of the geonim does not have the power to be applied and to have money expropriated from the heirs because of it, when it was not explicitly stated, as is the law regarding the conditions of the ketubah. [The distinction between the two is that the conditions of the ketubah] are ordinances instituted by the Great Sanhedrin.
Our Sages also ordained that all of a husband's property should be on lien for the woman's ketubah. Even if the woman's ketubah is [only 100 zuz] and [her husband] owns property worth several thousand gold pieces, it is all under lien to her ketubah.
[Her husband] is entitled to sell all his property if he desires, and his sale is binding. Nevertheless, all the property that he sells after his marriage can be expropriated [from the purchaser] by his widow [in lieu of payment for] her ketubah when he divorces her or when he dies, if he does not possess property that has not been sold.
When a woman expropriates property [from a purchaser], she must take an oath holding a sacred article, as is taken by any of [a person's] creditors [who seek to expropriate property from its purchasers]. This provision was instituted so that he should not view [the obligation of] the ketubah lightly.
When the court or the heirs require a widow to take an oath when she comes to collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, the oath should be taken only outside the court. For the court would refrain from administering the oath, lest she not be precise with herself when making it.
If the heirs desired that she make a vow [instead of an oath], she may make a vow linked to any object they desire. This vow may be administered in a court. Afterwards, she should collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.
If a widow dies before taking this oath, her heirs should not inherit her ketubah at all, for she does not have any rights to her ketubah until she takes an oath.
If the woman marries [a second time] before taking an oath [with regard to [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah from her previous husband's estate], she may take an oath after her remarriage and collect her due whenever she desires. She does not, however, have the option of making a vow, lest her [second] husband annul it.
If [a woman's husband] designated a plot of land for her in her ketubah, whether he specified [only] one of its borders or all four of its borders, she may collect her ketubah from this plot of land without taking an oath.
Similarly, if he specified movable property [in the ketubah] and this movable property exists, she may take it without taking an oath. [Moreover,] if the [movable property that was specified] was sold and other movable property purchased with the proceeds, it being known that these goods were purchased with the proceeds of [the movable property specified in the ketubah], she may take them without taking an oath.
A woman who diminishes [the amount of money due her by virtue of] her ketubah may collect her due only after taking an oath.
What is implied? A woman produces a ketubah that states [that she is due] 1000 zuz. Her husband claims that she received the entire amount, while she claims to have received only a portion of the amount. Even if there are witnesses who testify that she received the amount that she admits to having received, and even if she is extremely precise in accounting what she took, mentioning even [the last] half-p'rutah, she may collect the remainder only after taking an oath.
[An oath is also required in the following instance.] The husband claims that [his wife] received all [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah], while the woman claims not to have received the money, and one witness testifies that she received either the entire sum or a portion of it. [The woman] may collect the entire [sum mentioned in] the ketubah, but only after taking an oath.
[When a divorcee collects [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah] outside the presence of her husband, she must take an oath before doing so.
What is implied? A man divorced his wife and departed. After his wife takes an oath, the court should expropriate his property and give [the woman the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.
The above applies when the husband is in a distant place, where there is difficulty in notifying him. If, however, he is in a nearby place [where it is possible] to notify him, a message should be sent to notify him [of the court's impending action]. If he does not come, the woman should take the oath and collect [her due].
A woman who reduces the value of her ketubah is not required to take an oath before collecting [her due].
What is implied? A woman produces a ketubah that states [that she is due] 1000 zuz. Her husband claims that she received the entire amount, while she claims not to have received anything at all, but she admits: "I am owed only 500 zuz. Although he wrote 1000 for me [in the ketubah], there was an understanding between me and him [concerning this]." In this instance, she is not required to take an oath before collecting [her due].
If, however, [in the above situation,] the woman says: "My ketubah states only 500 zuz," she may not collect with this document that says [she is due] 1000 zuz, for she has negated it. It is as if she has admitted that it is false. Therefore, [the husband] may take a rabbinic oath [to support his claim]; he is then freed [of all obligations].
Whenever we have stated that a woman may not collect [her due] unless she takes an oath, the court tells her: "Take the oath and collect [your due]." Whenever we said that she may collect her due without an oath, [the court] tells the husband: "Give her [what is due her]. Your claim is not acceptable until you bring proof to support it."
If [in the latter instances], on his own initiative, the husband asks that [the woman] take an oath [denying] his claim, [the court] tells her: "Take the oath and collect [your due]." She must take this oath holding a sacred article.
If, [originally,] she made a stipulation with [her husband] enabling her to collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah without taking an oath, or that her word would be accepted regardless of what she claims, she may collect [her due] from him [in the event of a divorce] without taking any oath at all. [In the event of his death,] however, she must take an oath before collecting [her due] from his heirs.
If, [originally,] she made a stipulation with [her husband] enabling her to collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah from his heirs without taking an oath, or that her word would be accepted by his heirs regardless of what she claims, she may collect [her due] from the heirs without taking any oath at all.
If, however, she comes to collect [her due] from property that has been sold, she must take an oath before collecting. Although her husband was willing to accept her word, the stipulation he made is binding only on himself and [the estate he left to] his heirs. It does not have the power to cause others to incur a financial loss.
A widow who is in possession of her [the document recording her] ketubah may collect her due, after taking an oath, even though 100 years have passed since her husband's death. This applies regardless of whether she resides in her [deceased] husband's home or in her father's home.
If, however, she does not have possession of her ketubah, she is not entitled to anything, even if she makes her claim on the day her husband dies. Similarly, a divorcee is not entitled even to the fundamental requirement of the ketubah until she produces her ketubah.
When does the above apply? In a place where it is customary to compose a document [recording] the ketubah. [Different rules apply,] however, in a place where it is not customary to compose a document [recording] the ketubah, and instead, [the couple] rely on the conditions established by the Jewish court.
[In such a situation, the woman is entitled to] collect the essential requirement of the ketubah even when she is not in possession of a document recording the ketubah, regardless of whether she was widowed or divorced, or whether she [continues to] reside in her husband's home or [has returned to] her father's home. She is not, however, given [anything she claims her husband promised her] in addition unless she has definite proof [of such an obligation].
Until when is a widow entitled to collect the essential requirement of the ketubah in a place where it is not customary to compose a ketubah? If she [continues to reside] in her husband's home, there is no limit on the time she is granted. If she [resides] in her father's home, [she has this prerogative] for twenty-five years.
If, [however,] she comes to collect [the money due her because of her ketubah] after twenty-five years, she is not entitled to anything. [The rationale is that] had she not foregone [the money due her], she would not have remained silent for this long. Nor is she living together with the heirs, so that she could [excuse her silence,] explaining that she was embarrassed to sue them while she was living together with them in [one] home.
For this reason, if [one of] the heirs was in the habit of bringing her subsistence while she was residing in her father's home and caring for her needs, she has the prerogative of demanding [her due] even after twenty-five years have passed. The reason why she remained silent and did not present her claim is that she was ashamed [to sue] the heir.
[The following rules apply when there is a difference between the claims of a husband - or his heirs - and his wife regarding the size of the essential requirement of her ketubah.] She says, "I was a virgin when I married, and the essential requirement of my ketubah is 200 [zuz]." Her husband or his heirs claim, "She was not a virgin, and she is due only 100."
If there are witnesses who saw that the customs that people in that locale carry out when virgins are wed were carried out on her behalf - e.g., there were different types of celebrations, [she wore a] crown or a particular garment [designated for this purpose], or other rites that are performed only for the sake of virgins were performed [for her] - she is entitled to 200 [zuz]. If there are no witnesses to this, she is entitled to only 100 [zuz].
[In the latter instance,] if her husband is alive, she can require him to take an oath required by the Torah, for he has acknowledged a portion of a claim.
[In cases of this nature,] testimony is accepted [from a person] once he became an adult, who says: "I remember that when I was a child, the rites performed for virgin brides were performed on behalf of such and such."
As mentioned, all the above applies [only] in places where it is customary not to compose a document recording the ketubah.
When a woman tells her husband, "You divorced me," her word is accepted. [The rationale is that if this were not the truth,] she would not speak so boldly to her husband.
Accordingly, when a woman produces her ketubah, [even] without having a bill of divorce, and tells her husband: "You divorced me. I lost my bill of divorce. Give me [the money due me by virtue of] my ketubah," [her claim is accepted, and her husband] is obligated to pay her the essential requirement of the marriage contract, even though he claims that he never divorced her. He is not, however, [obligated to] give her the additional amount he promised, unless she brings proof that she has been divorced, or she manifests possession of both the bill of divorce and her ketubah.
[In the above situation,] if [the woman's] husband said: "This is what happened. I divorced her and paid her all [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, both the essential requirement and the additional amount. She wrote me a receipt, but I lost it" [the following rules apply]. He requires her to take an oath while holding a sacred article [that he is liable to pay her] the essential requirement [of the ketubah], and then he must give her [that sum].
With regard to the additional amount, his word is accepted. [The rationale is that] he could have claimed that he never divorced her, and in such an instance he would not be held liable for the additional amount. [We assume that had he desired to lie, he would have used that alternative.] He is, however, required to take a rabbinic oath with regard to the additional amount.
[The following rules apply when] a woman produces a bill of divorce, but does not have her ketubah in her possession. If the local custom is not to compose a ketubah, she is entitled to collect the essential requirement of her ketubah by [virtue of] the bill of divorce she is holding. If, however, it is the local custom to compose a ketubah, she is not entitled even to the fundamental requirement of the ketubah until she produces her ketubah, as was explained. Her husband must take a rabbinic oath denying her claim, and he is freed of liability.
[When] a woman produces two bills of divorce and two ketubot, she is entitled to collect the amount due her by virtue of both ketubot. If she produces two ketubot and one bill of divorce, she is entitled to collect only [the money due her for] one ketubah.
Which ketubah should she collect? If they are both for the same amount, the later ketubah negates the earlier one, and she is entitled to collect [property that was sold to others] from the date of the later [ketubah]. If one of them is for a greater sum than the other, she may collect whichever she desires, and the other one is voided.
[When] a woman produces two bills of divorce and one ketubah, she has [the right to collect] only [the amount due her by virtue of] one ketubah. For when a man divorces his wife and remarries her without specifying any conditions, [it can be assumed] that he remarried her with the intent that her original ketubah [become binding again].
[The following rules apply when] a woman produces a bill of divorce and a ketubah after the death of her husband: If the bill of divorce is dated prior to the ketubah, [in a place where] it is not customary to compose a ketubah, she is entitled to collect the essential requirement of her ketubah by [virtue of this] bill of divorce, and she is entitled to collect the entire sum [mentioned] in the second ketubah, for she acquires this sum by virtue of [her husband's] death.
If her ketubah is dated prior to the bill of divorce, she is entitled to collect [the money due her by virtue of] the ketubah only once. [We assume] that when he remarried her, his intent was that her original ketubah [become binding again].
A woman's word is accepted if she says: "My husband died," so that she [be granted permission to] remarry, as will be explained in Hilchot Gerushin. One of the conditions of the ketubah is that if a woman remarries after the death of her husband, she is entitled to collect the entire sum written in her ketubah.
Therefore, if she came to the court and said: "My husband died. Grant me permission to remarry," without mentioning [the collection of the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah at all, she is granted permission to remarry. [Afterwards,] she is required to take an oath, and then she is given [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.
If she says, "My husband died. Give me the money due me by virtue of my ketubah," [not only is she not granted this money,] she is not even permitted to remarry. [We assume that] she came [only] because of the matter of the ketubah. Our presumption is that her husband has not died. Her intent is not to remarry, but merely to collect [the money due her by virtue of] the ketubah during [her husband's] lifetime.
If she came and said: "My husband died. Grant me permission to remarry and give me [the money due me by virtue of] my ketubah," she is permitted to remarry and is granted [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah. The rationale is that her primary intent is remarriage. If, however, she comes and says: "My husband died. Give me [the money due me by virtue of] my ketubah, and grant me permission to remarry," she is permitted to remarry, but she is not granted [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah. If, however, she seizes possession [of this sum], the court should not expropriate it from her possession.
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As the sun made to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abra[ha]m; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. And [G‑d] said to Abram: “Know surely that your descendents shall be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved to them, and they will afflict them . . . [but] afterwards they will come out with great wealth . . .”
–From the Torah’s description of the “Covenant Between the Pieces,” Genesis 15:12–14