Ketubot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight



Assumedly, most husbands and wives shared households.  Since the husband was obligated to feed his wife, they would eat together and she would eat whatever she so desired (usually, I would assume within reason), as long as he could afford to pay for the food.  If the husband ate well, then so did the woman and if he did not, neither did she.  However, a problem might arise if for some reason the couple does not live together, for instance he works abroad.  Alternatively, he may have two wives, each in a different house.  The question would then become, what must he provide for her.  Our mishnah and tomorrow’s mishnah lists what he must provide as a bare minimum for her food, clothing and bedding. 


Mishnah Eight

1)                     If a man provides for his wife through an agent, he must give her [every week] not less than two kavs of wheat or four kavs of barley.

a)                                 Rabbi Yose said: only Rabbi Ishmael, who lived near Edom, granted her a supply of barley. 

b)                                 He must also give her half a kav of pulse and half a log of oil; and a kav of dried figs or a maneh of pressed figs, and if he has no [such fruit] he must supply her with a corresponding quantity of other fruit.

2)                     He must also provide her with a bed, a mattress and a mat.

3)                     He must also give her a hat for her head and a girdle for her loins; shoes, from festival to festival; and clothing worth fifty zuz every year.

a)                                 She is not to be given new [clothes] in the summer or worn-out clothes in the winter, but must be given clothes worth fifty zuz during the winter, and she wears them when they are worn-out during the summer; and the worn-out clothes remain her property.



Section one:  Every week the husband must provide his wife with the basic grains and fruits that were the staple of most diets. There is a debate about whether or not he can give her barley in place of wheat.  Barley was a lesser grain, one which was not as good for making bread.  According to the first opinion, he may give her barley, provided he gives her twice the amount of wheat.  According to Rabbi Yose only Rabbi Yishmael who lived near Edom, on the eastern side of Israel, gave her barley, for barley was common there.  In other places a husband must give his wife the better grain, wheat.

He also must give her pulse (beans), oil and fruit.  The standard, preferred fruit was figs but if he had no figs he could give her other fruit.

Section two:  He had to provide her with bedding, including a bed frame and a mattress and a mat to sit on.  According to the Talmud, he must also provide her with a pillow.

Section three:  He must give her a hat, for women had to cover their heads, a belt and shoes.  She received new shoes at each festival, a total of three times a year.  She received fifty zuz worth of clothing a year and it was to be given to her in the rainy season. This way it would wear out at around summer time and she could then still cover herself with what shards lasted through winter.  The worn out clothing belongs to her and she could do what she wants with it.