Ketubot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven



This first part of the mishnah deals with a wife who refuses to provide for her husband one of the things that she is obligated to him.  This could either refer to one of the labors listed in mishnah five, or it may refer to a wife who refuses to sleep with her husband.  The second half refers to a husband who does not provide his wife with one of the things that he is obligated to give to her.

I should note that this mishnah and other related sources has been an issue of much controversy throughout Jewish history and continues to extremely controversial today.  It ties into the issue of a woman’s ability to force her husband to divorce her.  Briefly, the conclusion of the Talmud is that if after twelve months the woman continues to refuse to act as a wife to her husband, the court forces him to divorce her, but she loses her ketubah.  The Geonim, the rabbis who came after the Talmud, made a famous enactment that the husband is forced to divorce her immediately.  Some Geonim ruled that she receives part of her ketubah.  Early post-Geonic scholars ruled similar to the Geonim, until Rabbenu Tam, a 12th century French talmudic commentator, ruled that the court can never force a husband to divorce his wife.  Within a few centuries this became the unanimous opinion amongst halakhic experts.  Today we are left with the serious problem of a husband who refuses to divorce his wife.


Mishnah Seven 

1)                     If a wife rebels against her husband her ketubah is reduced by seven denarii a week. 

a)                                 Rabbi Judah says: seven tropaics.  

2)                     How long does he continue to reduce?

a)                                 Until the amount of her ketubah.  

b)                                 Rabbi Yose says: he may continue to reduce, and if she receives an inheritance he may collect from it.

3)                     Similarly, if a husband rebels against his wife, an addition of three denarii a week is made to her ketubah.

a)                                 Rabbi Judah said: three tropaics.



Section one:  If a husband claims that his wife is not fulfilling her duties he must bring her to court and the court will impose upon her a reduction of seven denarii per week of her rebellion.  Rabbi Judah says that it is reduced by seven tropaics, each tropaic being half of a denar.

Section two:  According to the first opinion, the reduction of her ketubah continues until it reaches the total amount of her ketubah.  At this point he must divorce her and he does not pay anything to her.  Note that he doesn’t begin to reduce from the dowry which he must return to her upon the dissolution of the marriage.  The reduction is only made in the amount that he is obligated to give her (200/100 minimum) from his own pocket.  Rabbi Yose holds that he continues to take away her property.  He would reduce from the amount of money she brought into the marriage and then continue to reduce against any potential future inheritance. In other words, according to Rabbi Yose he is never obligated to divorce his wife. 

Section three:  This section teaches that a similar process occurs with a husband.  If he rebels against her, the amount of her ketubah is increased.  However, the increase is smaller than the corresponding decrease.  According to the Talmud, the seven reduced from the ketubah corresponds to the seven labors that she is obligated to him and the three is added to his ketubah to correspond to the three things he owes her, food, clothing and conjugal rights.