Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

This mishnah discusses a dispute between a husband and wife over whether the woman was a virgin or a widow when he married her.  Evidently, the written ketubah from their marriage is not available as evidence (perhaps it was never written).  Therefore this is again a question of whether or not the woman is believed.

We can further learn from this mishnah that the woman may collect her ketubah payment even if she does not have the document.  This is because the ketubah payment is a court-imposed obligation upon every husband.  The loss of the ketubah document does not mean that the woman will not be able to collect her ketubah payment.

 

Mishnah One

A woman became a widow or was divorced.

She says, “I was a virgin when you married me” and he says, “Not so, rather you were a widow when I married you”, —

If there are witnesses that she went out with a hinuma, and with her head uncovered, her ketubah is two hundred [zuz.]

Rabbi Yohanan ben Beroka says: the distribution of roasted ears of corn is also evidence.

 

Explanation

In this the husband and wife come before the court at the time of their divorce.  The woman claims that she was a virgin when her husband married her, while he claims that she was a widow.  The mishnah rules that we check the evidence, and if there is evidence that her wedding was a virgin’s wedding, then she receives her full ketubah. In the absence of hard evidence, she can only receive a ketubah of 100 zuz.

There are three pieces of evidence described in our mishnah.  The first is the “hinuma”.  It is uncertain what this word exactly means, and several explanations have been offered.  Albeck explains the word as being a “hymn” sung at virgin’s weddings.  Based on the Talmud’s explanation, Kehati explains a “hinuma” to be a special veil worn only by virgins.

The second piece of evidence is that her hair hung down to her shoulders.  This is the manner in which women wore their hair during the procession that led them away from their father’s house.

The third sign, mentioned by Rabbi Yohanan ben Beroka is parched corn, which were distributed at virgin’s weddings.

We should explain why in this mishnah the woman is not believed and therefore needs to bring evidence that she was a virgin, whereas in the mishnayoth at the end of the last chapter, Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Eliezer believed the woman without any corroborating evidence.  The answer is that in this case both the man and woman can claim to be certain of the facts.  He is just as certain that he married a widow as she is certain that she was a virgin.  Therefore neither is believed more than the other.  Since the woman wishes to extract money from the man, the burden of proof is upon her, as is the rule in all monetary claims.

image_print