TALMUD. The 15th Massekhet – Ketubot

The first Mishna in Massekhet Ketubot teaches that there were specific days for marriages during that period in history. Women who were virgins getting married for the first time would get married on Wednesdays, while widows would get married on Thursdays. The Mishna does not offer any reason for establishing wedding dates on Thursdays for widows, but explains that the establishment of Wednesday for first-time weddings stems from the desire of the Sages to encourage the husband to come to beit din on Thursday morning should he find that his wife was not, in fact, a virgin. Since Jewish courts ordinarily sat on Mondays and Thursdays, it made sense for weddings to take place on Wednesdays:


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112 Responses to TALMUD. The 15th Massekhet – Ketubot

  1. Ketubot 101a-b: What a woman brings to a marriage

    We have already learned about two types of property that a woman brings with her into a marriage, nikhsei melog and nikhsei tzon barzel (see, for example, Yevamot 38):
    •Nikhsei melog (usufruct property) are possessions that remain the property of the woman. While the couple is married, the husband can derive benefit from this property. When the marriage ends, they remain hers, in whatever condition they may be.
    •Nikhsei tzon barzel (guaranteed property) are possessions that become the property of the husband. Their value is written into the ketuba, and in the event that their marriage comes to an end – if the husband dies or if they become divorced – the wife will be reimbursed for the full amount, either from the estate if he died or from him if they divorced.

    Where do these terms come from?

    Some rishonim suggest that the term melog stems from the root m-l-g which means boiling the skin of an animal to remove the hair. Similarly, in our case, the husband “shaves” the profits from the property. Others suggest that it is from the Greek root logos, meaning speech, and it is borrowed in our context to mean property that belongs to the husband because of a verbal agreement. Most likely it is a word that has its own independent meaning, perhaps taken from ancient Akkadian, with the meaning of “property brought by a woman to her husband.”

    The words “tzon barzel” have a very clear meaning – “iron sheep,” an illustrative metaphor, which is also found in Roman law. It expresses the status of this property, which is like iron cattle to the owners in the sense that they cannot be destroyed since someone – in our case, the husband – has taken full responsibility for them. In yet another way the metaphor is a good one – like iron cattle, these properties do not produce anything of value for their owners; they only keep their value.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger:

    also http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=843

  2. Ketubot 102a-b: Things that are acquired through words alone

    Generally speaking, according to Jewish law, a transfer of property between two parties can only be done by means of a kinyan – a formal act that clarifies that the object has been sold or given as a present. Our Gemara teaches us that there are times when a simple, verbal agreement can take the place of a formal kinyan. Specifically, Rav Giddel teaches that when the parents of a couple that is about to be married meet one another and promise to give a certain amount to their son and to their daughter, once the marriage takes place – hen, hen ha-devarim ha-niknin ba-amirah – these are things that are purchased with an oral statement.

    The Talmud Yerushalmi comments on this law that it is true only if it is the fathers of the bride and groom who are making the promises, but that other relatives cannot effect a kinyan with just a verbal agreement. Furthermore, it would only be true if this was a first marriage. The reason behind these limitations appears to follow the reasoning of Rav in our Gemara’s conclusion. The kinyan works in our situation because the unique joy that accompanies the wedding has the ability to give greater power to the statements that are made than would ordinarily be the case. This is only true if we are dealing with parents and a first marriage. The Meiri adds that according to this logic, were the bride and groom themselves to make oral commitments, that should also fall into this category and obligate them to live up to their word.

    Does the wedding need to take place immediately after the agreement in order for it to create this level of commitment? From the simple reading of the Gemara, it would appear to be so, since the Gemara uses the term amdu ve-kidshu – they got up and married – after the agreement. The Rashbam and the Re’ah both accept this position. The Ritva however, suggests that this expression simply indicates that when the wedding takes place, the oral agreement becomes a final commitment.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger:


  3. Ketubot 103a-b

    Our Mishnah teaches that when a man dies, his children cannot insist that his widow move out of his house, even with a promise to support her. In fact, if she wants to remain, the orphans are obligated to give her a place in the house according to her needs (some say that she has full access to the house, as she did while her late husband was alive), and support her there.

    In this context, our Gemara tells of various commands that Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi gave while on his deathbed. To his children his instructions were: “Take great care with regard to your mother’s honor, keep my candle burning and my table set, each in its proper place, and my servants, Yosef Hefani and Shimon Efrati should serve me in my death as they did during my lifetime.” According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi specifically instructed that his wife should remain in his home, which is a direct connection to our Mishnah. Some suggest that he needed to emphasize this point because of the concern that there would be an argument about whether his house, as the home of the Nassi, perhaps had a unique status, and that his wife would not merit remaining in it.

    The woman that Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi refers to as “your mother” was, in fact, a step-mother. Rav Ya’akov Emden points out that we already find in the Torah that a man may refer to his wife as his children’s mother, even if she did not give birth to them. When Ya’akov reacts to Yosef’s dream where the sun and the moon bow down to him (see Bereshit 37:10), he asks whether Yosef anticipates that his father, mother and brothers would all bow down ? yet Yosef’s mother, Rachel, had already passed away. The Iyun Ya’akov suggests that a woman who raised a child may be called his mother even if she is not his birth mother (see Rashi, ibid).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


  4. Ketubot 104a-b: Between heaven and earth

    Our Gemara continues with the story of the final days of Rebbe – Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

    The Gemara tells that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s colleagues prayed and declared a fast, announcing that it was forbidden for anyone to say that Rebbe had died. The Rivan explains that they wanted to continue their prayers on his behalf and they recognized that a prayer for resurrection of the dead was inappropriate. Therefore they did not permit the announcement of his passing.

    There was a woman who worked in Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s house who was known for her piety. She went to the roof and prayed as follows: “The upper regions want Rebbe and the lower regions want Rebbe. It should be Your will that the lower regions should prevail over the upper regions.” Upon seeing the pain and suffering that Rebbe was experiencing from his illness, the servant changed her prayer to advocate on behalf of the upper regions. When she realized that the Sages would not stop their prayers, she took a jug, an earthen vessel, and threw it down from the roof. The crashing sound that it made distracted the Sages for a brief moment and Rebbe passed away.

    The simple understanding of the servant’s prayer is that the angels in heaven and the scholars on earth were in a contest over Rebbe’s soul. The Maharsha offers a different perspective and argues at length that the upper and lower regions represent the soul and the body respectively. Thus, the struggle was between the freedom that the soul sought from the base connection to the body and the perfection that exists when the body and soul are together as one. Breaking the earthen vessel, according to the Maharsha, represents the destruction of the physical body (see Kohelet 12:6).

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger:

    also http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=846

  5. Ketubot 105a-b: A bribe or a fee?

    It is obvious that a judge cannot take a bribe (see Shemot 23:8). Nevertheless it is somewhat surprising to find that the Gemara forbids a judge to take money from both sides in a trial as payment for his judgment.

    The Gemara tells of a judge named Karna who accepted payment from both parties and then offered his ruling. The Gemara explains that he was allowed to do this only because he did not take it as payment, but rather as sehar batalah – replacement for the income he would have made during that time. The Gemara explains further that even accepting sehar batalah is usually considered inappropriate; Karna was an exception because he had a job that everyone knew about. He was an expert wine tester, and when he sat in judgment he had a clear loss of income, which he accepted instead from the litigants who came to him to listen to their case.

    Karna was a first generation amora, a contemporary of Shmu’el. Together they welcomed Rav when he arrived in Babylon from Israel. In Massekhet Sanhedrin we learn that the term dayyanei golah – Diaspora judges – refers specifically to Karna, who also edited a collection of baraitotthat is called nezikin d’bei Karna. As the Gemara notes, Karna was a professional wine taster who could ascertain which barrels should be used immediately and which would benefit from further aging.

    With regard to the basic question of our Gemara, many of the commentaries deal with the issue of why it would be forbidden to take payment from both sides when judging a case. The Gemara seems to connect this with bribery, but if a bribe is forbidden because it will lead the judge to favor one side in the case, why would there be a problem taking payment from both sides?

    On one level, this is seen as an issue of bribery. The Meiri writes that having accepted money from both parties, the judge can no longer offer a true judgment because he is inclined positively towards both of them. On another level the problem is not an issue of bribery, but one of teaching Torah. There is a general principle that Torah should not be shared for a fee. Since it was given by God without cost it should be made available by scholars for free, as well.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger:

    also http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=847

  6. Ketubot 106a-b

    As we saw on yesterday’s daf (=page), our Gemara is discussing issues of bribery and the care that a judge must take to ensure that his decision will be free of any prejudice. One the stories related by the Gemara tells of Rav Anan, who refused to accept a basket of fish from someone who asked him to judge his case. Furthermore, Rav Anan informed the man that he could not act as a judge for him, since the offer of the basket of fish might influence any future decisions that he would make. Nevertheless, after listening to the man’s argument that he should be allowed to give the present since giving a present to a Torah scholar is, itself, a mitzvah (as a source, the man referred to a present that was given to the prophet Elisha ? see II Melakhim 4:42), Rav Anan accepted the present and referred him to Rav Nahman for judgment.

    When Rav Nahman received the letter from Rav Anan which explained that Rav Anan could not judge this man’s case and that he was, therefore, referring the case to Rav Nahman, Rav Nahman assumed that the man must have been related to Rav Anan and that it would be appropriate to hear his case before the other cases that were on his docket. When the other party saw the honor that was being given to this man, he lost his train of thought, did not defend himself well, and lost the case.

    Although Rav Anan did not mean for this to happen, his response to the man’s offer skewed justice, and as a result the prophet Eliyahu, with whom Rav Anan studied on a regular basis, stopped coming to learn with him. Only after fasting and prayer did Eliyahu return, but Eliyahu’s presence became so frightening that Rav Anan had to make a box for himself to stay in while learning. Eliyahu’s teachings during that period are known as Seder Eliyahu Zuta, while the earlier teachings are known as Seder Eliyahu Rabbah.

    We find many references in the Talmud to Eliyahu studying with the Talmudic sages. In II Divrei ha-Yamim (21:12) we find a letter sent to King Yehoram from the prophet Eliyahu years after he had passed away. The book Tanna d’vei Eliyahu is made up of two parts: Eliyahu Rabbah with 31 chapters and Eliyahu Zuta with 15 chapters. The entire book is in Hebrew, and it includes interpretations of biblical verses, stories of Jewish history over the generations, and first-person accounts that are presented as Eliyahu’s own words. Many quotes in the Talmud that are taken from this work open with the words “Tanna d’vei Eliyahu?”

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


  7. Ketubot 107a-b

    In a list of halakhic rulings that appears on our daf (=page), the Gemara pronounces that we follow the ruling of Rav Zevid with regard to kunai ? glazed pottery. Rav Zevid ruled that glazed vessels are permitted ? i.e. they are not absorbent and are thus permitted for use, even if non-kosher food was stored in them, if they are white or black, but are forbidden if they are green. This, however, applies only to those that have no cracks; if they have cracks we must assume that they absorbed the non-kosher food and are forbidden for use.

    It appears that our Gemara is discussing the common method of covering a simple earthenware vessel ? which is porous and therefore considered to be absorbent ? with a protective glaze that would keep the vessel from absorbing food or liquid. This is done by pouring the glaze ? made from liquid suspensions of various powdered minerals and metal oxides ? on the piece and then firing it in a kiln.

    The quality of the glazing and how well it will keep the pottery from absorbing things depend on the temperature of the kiln and the elements that are used in making the glaze. One of the most popular elements used in glazes ? even today ? is lead, to which various minerals are added to give the glaze its color. Some types of glaze are more susceptible to cracking, which would allow the pottery to absorb even after being covered with glaze. The different colors of the glaze that are mentioned in our Gemara indicate different methods of sealing vessels, some of which are better or more reliable than others. Some of them give the pottery the qualities of glass and are considered totally sealed, while others are considered to be porous even after undergoing this process.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


  8. Ketubot 108a-b

    The last Mishnah on our daf (=page) discusses a case in which a man promised a dowry to his son-in-law, but then cannot pay. In such a case we find that the Tanna Kamma (=first) and Admon disagree. According to the Tanna Kamma, the wife will remain in limbo forever, while according to Admon ? whose opinion is accepted as the halakhah ? the wife may argue that she is not responsible for her father’s financial issues and demand that her husband either accept her or divorce her.

    The term that the Mishnah uses to describe the father’s financial plight is pashat lo et ha-regel. This expression, which is the common modern Hebrew term for someone who is bankrupt, literally means “he stretched out his leg towards him.” There is some discussion among the commentaries in an attempt to explain the etymology of this phrase.

    Rashi offers two suggestions. One approach is that this indicates disparagement, and that it is as though he is offering him the bottom of his shoe and saying, “take the dirt that is on my shoe, because you will get nothing more from me.” The other suggestion is that it means “even if you hang me from a tree I cannot pay because I have nothing to give you.”

    Other possibilities include that it is a statement that, because he has no money, all the man has to offer is one of his limbs. The explanation that many rishonim raise ? and that the Ritva presents as the best explanation ? is that it means that the father upped and left and is no longer around to make good on his debts. The Me’iri offers a variation on this theme by suggesting that it means that the father passed away and therefore cannot pay.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


  9. Ketubot 109a-b: A father’s financial obligation

    Yesterday’s daf (page) introduced us to a case where a woman’s father promises a dowry to his daughter, but then cannot pay his son-in-law. As we saw, in such a case there is a disagreement between the Tanna Kamma (first) and Admon. According to the Tanna Kamma, the wife will remain in limbo forever, while according to Admon – whose opinion is accepted as the halakha – the wife may argue that she is not responsible for her father’s financial issues and demand that her husband either accept her or divorce her.

    Tosafot bring the question that many of the rishonim ask: Why should the woman suffer because her father is not paying? If the father obligated himself, then it should be the responsibility of the court to force him to pay what he owes.

    The Ritva points out that this question only applies according to those opinions that understand the expression pashat lo et ha-regel to mean that the father refuses to pay. If the father cannot pay because he has no money, the court can hardly force him to pay what he does not have. Still, according to the other approach, why doesn’t the court obligate him to pay and solve the problem? This question is especially powerful because of the ruling of Rav Giddel, which we studied earlier, that even verbal agreements on the financial arrangements surrounding a marriage are binding (see daf 102).

    The Rashbam explains that the agreement is only binding if the wedding took place immediately after it was made, which clearly is not the case in our story. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rav Giddel’s ruling applies only to a first marriage, and our Mishna must be talking about a subsequent marriage.

    One other issue that is raised by the commentaries with regard to this case is whether we consider the father to have fulfilled his agreement if he has no money at all, since he is then viewed by the halakha as an anoos – someone who was forced by circumstance and cannot be held responsible.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger:

    also http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=851

  10. Ketubot 110a-b

    In discussing the plight of the poor, who cannot even enjoy improvement in their situation, the Gemara quotes Sefer Ben-Sira as saying that “All the days of a poor man are bad,” for even Shabbat and the holidays are difficult for him. Furthermore, Ben Sira is quoted as saying, “The nights also. Lower than all the roofs is his roof, and on the height of mountains is his vineyard, so that the rain of other roofs pours down upon his roof and the earth of his vineyard is washed down into the vineyards of others.”

    These statements are based on the passage in Mishlei (15:15), and the quote appears to be additional insights that are attributed to Ben Sira.

    Sefer Ben-Sira is one of the earliest books composed after the closing of the Biblical canon. It was authored by Shimon ben Yehoshua ben Sira, a native of Jerusalem, who was a younger contemporary of Shimon ha-Tzaddik, prior to the Hasmonean era. The book of Ben-Sira was held in great esteem, and after its translation into Greek by the author’s grandson (in the year 132 BCE in Alexandria), it because widely known even among those who were not familiar with the Hebrew language. Sefer Ben-Sira is included as a canonical work in the Septuagint (and therefore is considered such in many other translations of the Bible), and although the Sages chose to view it as one of the sefarim hitzoni’im – books outside of the canon – they quote it in a respectful manner throughout the Talmud, sometimes even referring to it as ketuvim. Still, because of confusion between this work and another one that was known as Alfa-Beta d’Ben-Sira, which was a popular – and problematic – work, we find statements in the Gemara forbidding the study of Sefer Ben-Sira.

    For generations Sefer Ben-Sira was known only from its translations, but recently parts of it have been found in the original Hebrew (in Masada and elsewhere). Since it was not part of the official Biblical canon it appears that the copyists felt more freedom when working with it and we find several different versions of the same text. When it appears in the Talmud it seems likely that it is being quoted by heart by the Sages, rather than from a written text. The statements quoted in our Gemara, for example, are not found in extant translations or manuscripts of Sefer Ben-Sira.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


  11. Ketubot 111a-b

    Based on passages in Shir ha-Shirim (2:7, 3:5, 8:4), Rabbi Yossi ben Rabbi Hanina understands that there are three oaths that bind the Jewish people in their relationship with the non-Jewish world:

    1. That the Jews should not return to the Land of Israel be-homah ? “like a wall”

    2. That the Jews should not rebel against the nations of the world

    3. That the nations of the world should not oppress the Jewish people overmuch.

    Rashi interprets the first oath to mean that the Jewish people should not return to Israel by force, all together (in fact, some manuscripts have ka-homah, which would indicate “all together”). The Maharsha argues that it refers to the actual building of a wall ? which would indicate a rebellion against the ruling nation. Such building could not be done without the permission of the nations that ruled over the land, as took place with the return of Ezra and Nehemia at the beginning of the Second Temple era.

    Based on his reading of the pesukim (=verses) in Shir ha-Shirim, Rabbi Levi believed that each passage implied a double oath. Aside from the three mentioned above, he adds three more:

    4. That the end (ketz) should not be revealed

    5. That the end should not be pushed off

    6. That the secret should not be shared with the non-Jews.

    Rashi understands that the fifth oath is a warning that sins and transgressions will delay the Messianic end of days, while the Maharsha suggests that it means that the people should not push off the ends of days in their hearts, but that they should believe that the Messiah will come swiftly.

    There are also a wide variety of opinions regarding the secret that cannot be shared with non-Jews. While Rabbenu Tam believes that it is the secret of the Jewish calendar and Rabbi Avraham Ya’akov Neimark in his Eshel Avraham suggests that it refers to the oaths that are under discussion, it may not be connected with a religious issue at all. In a mosaic floor that was found in Ein Gedi, a curse is placed on the person who reveals the secret of the city to non-Jews. It is an apparent reference to a security secret; a way to enter the city.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


  12. Ketubot 112a-b

    Masechet Ketubot closes with discussions about the wonders of the Land of Israel and how much the Sages loved the land. Among the stories that are related on our daf (=page) are the following:

    When Rabbi Zeira went up to the Land of Israel and could not find a ferry to cross a certain river, he grasped a rope bridge and crossed. Thereupon a certain Sadducee sneered at him: ‘Hasty people, that put your mouths before your ears, you are still, as ever, clinging to your hastiness’. Rabbi Zeira replied. ‘The spot which Moses and Aaron were not worthy of entering, who could assure me that I should be worthy of entering?’

    Rabbi Abba used to kiss the cliffs of Akko.

    Rabbi Hanina used to repair its roads.

    Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi used to rise from their seats to move from the sun to the shade and from the shade to the sun.

    Rabbi Hiyya bar Gamda rolled himself in its dust, for it is said in Tehillim (102:15) “For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust.”

    The Gemara on the previous page (110b-111a) related that Rabbi Zeira moved from Babylon to Israel against the ruling of his teacher, Rav Yehudah, who believed that the passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (27:22) forbade anyone from leaving Bavel and returning to Israel prior to the coming of the Messianic age. Rabbi Zeira disagreed, and interpreted that pasuk (=verse) to be referring specifically to the Temple utensils that had been taken into exile to Babylonia.

    According to the Rambam, the cliffs of Akko were especially beloved by Rabbi Abba because Akko was the northernmost point in Israel during the Second Temple era. Thus, travelers from Babylon to Israel would first step foot in the Holy Land in Akko.

    Based on an alternative reading of the Gemara, rather than repairing the roads of Akko, Tosafot argue that Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi would weigh the rocks or examine them. When they were found to be heavier (or according to the Midrash Tanhuma, harder), they would then know that they had arrived in Israel. The Arukh attributes this to the passage in Devarim (8:9) that describes the stones of Israel as being iron.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:


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