Ketubot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine



This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s.  It continues to list what the husband must provide for his wife if he is maintaining her through an agent.


Mishnah Nine

1)                     He must also give her [every week] a silver ma’ah for her [other] needs and she is to eat with him every Friday eve.  

2)                     If he does not give her a silver ma’ah for her other needs, her handiwork belongs to her.  

3)                     And what [is the quantity of work that] she must do for him?  

a)                                 The weight of five sela’s of warp in Judea, which amounts to ten sela’s in Galilee,   or the weight of ten sela’s of woof in Judea, which amounts to twenty sela’s in Galilee.   If she was nursing, her handiwork is reduced and her maintenance is increased.

4)                     All this applies to a poor person in Israel, but in the case of a more respectable [husband] all is fixed according to his dignity. 



Section one:  Besides the requirements listed in yesterday’s mishnah, the husband must also give his wife a silver ma’ah per week for her other needs. This was not a large amount of money (=1/6 of a denar/zuz).  Furthermore, even though she is not living with him, he must eat with her once a week, on Friday nights.  In the Talmud this is interpreted in two ways:  1)  he must literally eat with her, the assumption being he must provide her with company; 2)  he must have sexual relations with her once a week.

Section two:  The mishnah now delineates the consequences of him not providing her with what is required.  If he does not give her even the smallest amount of that which is required, the ma’ah for spending money, she does not need to give him her handiwork.  In other words, he is penalized for not fully providing for her.

Section three:  The mishnah now lists what she is expected to produce, in return for receiving her maintenance.  Note that the mishnah does not state that if she doesn’t produce enough, he need not pay her.  Rather the point of the mishnah is that if she produces any more, she may keep it for herself.  This is not a list of what she must minimally make for him; it is a list of the maximum of what he is allowed to take from her.  Differing amounts are given for Galilee and for Judea, for different systems of measurement were used in each region.

Section four:  Finally, the mishnah qualifies everything that it stated in the previous two mishnayoth.  All of these amounts refer only to a poor person who cannot afford to provide his wife with any more than the bare minimum.  A rich person is obligated to maintain his wife at the same level at which he provides for himself.  Even if he is stingy with regard to his own food and clothing, if he has the means he must provide well for wife.  There obviously cannot be a situation where he is living the good life, and he sends his wife to live somewhere else and provides her with only the minimum.  Rather, all of the lists are only what a very poor husband must provide.