Ketubot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

Since previous mishnayoth have been dealing with the rights a father has over his daughter, our mishnah deals with his obligations to feed, clothe and shelter her. 

 

Mishnah Six

1)                     A father is not obligated to maintain his daughter.

2)                     This exposition was made by Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah in front of the sages in the vineyard of Yavneh:   “The sons shall inherit [their mother’s kethubah] and the daughters shall be maintained [out of their father’s estate”—just as the sons do not inherit except after the death of their father, so the daughters are not maintained except after the death of their father.

 

Explanation

Section one:  According to our mishnah a father is not obligated to maintain his daughters.  The Talmud gives several important comments and reservations to this ruling.  First of all, it is also true of boys.  Second, this is only true when they are over the age of six.  When they are under the age of six, the father is obligated to feed them.  Thirdly, when it says that the father is not obligated to feed them, it means that if he has no money, he need not go out and work in order to feed his kids.  However, if he has enough assets to be able to give charity, he is not allowed to use them for himself before he gives them to his kids.  Rather just as the court can force a person to give charity, so too the court can force this person to feed and maintain his children, even above the age of six.  Finally, if he has no means by which to maintain his children, and chooses not to work in order to provide for them, while the court cannot force him to work, they embarrass him publicly, stating in public “even a cruel raven feeds its kids, look at this man who is less than an impure bird”.  In summary, the only person who can get away with not feeding his kids is one who does not want to work for himself and is willing to endure public humiliation.    

Section two:  Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah supports the ruling in the first  clause of the mishnah with a midrash based on some guarantees which are included in the ketubah and which we will see in subsequent mishnayoth.  The ketubah states that sons inherit their mothers Ketubot and that daughters are maintained from their father’s estate.  Both of these guarantees are actually written into the ketubah itself.  Rabbi Elazar’s midrash is that just as the sons do not inherit their mother’s ketubah until their father dies (the father inherits it first), the daughters are not guaranteed maintenance until their father dies.  While he is alive, he is not obligated to support them, as I explained above.   

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