Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two
As we learned yesterday, a widow is entitled to receive maintenance from her husbands estate. Our mishnah discusses when a widow is allowed to sell her husbands property in order to obtain money with which to support herself or in order to collect her ketubah.
1) A widow, whether [her husband died] after betrothal or after marriage may sell [her husband’s estate] without [permission from] a court.
2) Rabbi Shimon says: [If her husband died] after marriage she may sell without [permission from] a court, but if after betrothal, she may not sell except with [permission from] a court, since she is not entitled to maintenance, and anyone who is not entitled to maintenance may not sell except with [permission from] a court.
Section one: According to the first opinion in the mishnah, a widow may sell her deceased husbands property whether she was widowed after she had been fully married, in which case she sells the property in order to pay for her maintenance or collect her ketubah, or whether she was widowed after betrothal but before marriage, in which case she sells solely to collect her ketubah. In either case she may sell this property without the sanction of the court.
Section two: Rabbi Shimon makes a distinction between a widow who had been married and one who had only been betrothed. The former may sell without the courts permission, for she cannot wait each time to receive the courts permission to sell in order to collect her maintenance. However, since the betrothed woman does not receive maintenance payments from her husband, she may not sell her husbands property without permission from the court. Only those who are selling in order to receive money for maintenance can sell without a court. For a widow to have to wait for the courts permission every time she wishes to sell something in order to buy food or clothing would indeed be too troublesome. Therefore the widow who is collecting maintenance, i.e. one who was already married, does not need the courts permission. In contrast, collecting the ketubah is a one time occurrence and it is not such great trouble for the widow to come to the court once to sell property from which to collect her ketubah.