Ketubot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

Deuteronomy 22:13-21 discusses a man who makes a virginity claim against his wife.  Verse 19 states that if he was found to be lying “They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father; for the man has defamed a virgin in Israel.”  Verses 20-21 state that if the claim was found to be true, then the woman is stoned.  Verses 22-23 deal with a betrothed woman who commits adultery, who is also stoned.  From the phrase “a virgin in Israel”, our mishnah derives that the punishment of stoning is meted out in both of these cases only if the woman was a born Israelite.  If she was a convert, then she is punished by strangulation, as are other adulterers.

 

Mishnah Three

1)                     The daughter of a convert who converted together with her mother and then committed an act of fornication is subject to the penalty of strangulation.

a)                                 She is not [stoned] at the door of her father’s house nor [does her husband pay the] hundred sela’.  

2)                     If she was conceived in unholiness but her birth was in holiness she is subject to the penalty of stoning.

a)                                 She is not [stoned] at the door of her father’s house nor [does her husband pay the] hundred sela’.  

3)                     If she was both conceived and born in holiness she is regarded as a daughter of Israel in all respects.

4)                     A girl who has a father but no door of her father’s house; or a door of her father’s house but no father, is subject to the penalty of stoning—[the verse did not state] “the opening of her father’s house” (Deut. 22:21) except as a precept.

 

Explanation

The mishnah lists three types of women who have committed an act of fornication, i.e. adultery.  The first is a woman who has converted with her mother, the second is one whose mother converted between conception and birth, and third is one whose mother converted before conception.  Each woman/girl has slightly different consequences to her crime.

Section one: Since this girl is herself a convert she does not count as a “virgin of Israel”.  Therefore, if she commits adultery, she is punished by strangulation, the typical punishment for adultery.  Deuteronomy 22:21 states that if the charge of not being a virgin was true, “then the girl shall be brought out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death.”  Since this girl was not a “virgin of Israel”, she is not brought out to the entrance to her father’s house.  If the husband’s claim against her was false he need not pay the 100 sela [=shekel] fine, for she was not a “virgin of Israel”.

Section two:  In this case the girl was conceived in unholiness, meaning her mother was not an Israelite when she was conceived.  However, the mother converted before the birth and therefore she was born “in holiness”.  In this case she is stoned if she commits adultery while a betrothed virgin.  However, she does not get taken out to the entrance of her father’s house nor is her husband fined 100 shekels if he made a false claim against her.  In other words she is in some ways treated like a full Israelite and in other ways she is not.

Section three:   Although this girl’s mother is a convert, she herself is considered a full Israelite. 

Section four:  This section teaches that if a girl has no father, or has a father but her father’s house doesn’t have a house with an entrance (for instance he is homeless), she is still liable to be stoned should she commit an act of fornication while betrothed.  When the Torah states that she shall be taken out to the entrance of her father’s house, the intention was not that if she didn’t have a father with a house with an entrance, that she would not receive the prescribed penalty. Rather the intention was that if she should commit such an act of fornication, she should be stoned at the entrance to her father’s house, if such a place exists.  In other words, its lack of existence does not impede upon the carrying out of the other elements to the passage in Deuteronomy. 

 

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