Ketubot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four



This mishnah discusses a man who consecrates his wife’s handiwork to the Temple.  The question is whether or not such a consecration is valid.  The mishnah often uses this type of construct to show the degree of possession a person has over something, the idea being that a person cannot consecrate something that is not his.


Mishnah Four

1)                     If a man consecrated his wife’s handiwork, she continues to work and to consume [that which she makes]. 

2)                     [Concerning the] surplus: 

a)                                 Rabbi Meir says: it is consecrated. 

b)                                 Rabbi Yohanan Hasandlar says: it is unconsecrated.



Section one:  When a man declares that anything his wife makes should be consecrated, she may continue to consume that which she produces.  This means that she may continue to work and sell that which she makes and use the proceeds to provide for her own maintenance.  Since the husband has an obligation to provide for her, and this amount was needed for her provisions, a husband cannot consecrate what she makes.

Section two:  However, if she produces more than that which she consumes, there is a question as to whether the husband can consecrate it.  According to Rabbi Meir, since she doesn’t need this for her own maintenance, the husband can consecrate it to the Temple.  Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar disagrees.  He holds that even the surplus cannot be consecrated by the husband.  According to the Talmud, this is because a person cannot consecrate things which have not yet been made.  A husband cannot declare that the surplus of his wife’s handiwork should be consecrated, because such surplus does not yet exist.

Note that our mishnah probably presents a leniency to the husband.  One might have thought that after he consecrated his wife’s handiwork, he would have to give the handiwork to the Temple and still provide for her.  He cannot get out of his obligation to provide for her because that is mandated by the ketubah.  Our mishnah teaches that despite his consecration he can still continue to use her handiwork to provide for her maintenance.  Of course if it is not sufficient, he will need to add from his own money to provide for her, as is always the case.