Ketubot, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Eight

 

Introduction

This mishnah explains yesterday’s mishnah, regarding which women must take an oath in order to receive their ketubah.  We should note that the mishnah is not making any statement about distrusting women; if so they would not be allowed to take an oath!  Rather in general even when a person is trustworthy s/he must sometimes take an oath in order to collect money.

 

Mishnah Eight

1)                     “A woman who impairs her kethubah”: How is this so?

a)                                 If her ketubah was for a thousand zuz and [her husband] said to her, “You have already received your kethubah”, and she says, “I received only a maneh”, she is not paid [the balance] except by an oath.

2)                     “If one witness testifies against her that [her kethubah] has been paid”:  How is this so?

a)                                 If her ketubah was for a thousand zuz and [her husband] said to her, “You have already received your ketubah”, and she says, “I have not received it” and one witness testifies against her that [the ketubah] has been paid, she is not paid except by an oath.

3)                     “From property with a lien on it”:  How is this so?

a)                                 He had sold his property to others and she seeks to recover payment from the buyers, she is not paid except by an oath.

4)                     “From the property of orphans”:  How is this so?

a)                                 He died and left his estate to his orphans and she seeks to recover payment from the orphans, she is not paid except by an oath.

5)                     “An husband who is not present” How is this so?

a)                                 If her husband went to a country beyond the sea and she seeks to recover payment in his absence, she is not paid except by an oath.

6)                     Rabbi Shimon says: whenever she claims her ketubah the heirs may impose an oath upon her but whenever she does not claim her ketubah the heirs can not impose an oath upon her.

 

Explanation

Section one:  A woman who “impairs her ketubah” is defined as one who has admitted that she has received part of her ketubah.  The reason that she must take an oath to recover the rest is that one who pays back a debt is assumed to know more accurately that s/he paid back then someone who is receiving the debt.  Therefore, we suspect that she might have forgotten that she did indeed receive the entire ketubah.  To ensure that she did not she must take an oath.

Section two:  If one witness testifies that she did receive the whole ketubah, she must take an oath that she did not. This is the same as all cases of a single witness in Jewish law, who is not sufficient to provide full and valid testimony, but is sufficient to make the opposing party swear that what the witness says is not true.

Section three:  At the point of marriage, the wife’s ketubah creates a lien on all of her husband’s property.  If when she comes to collect her ketubah, he has no property, she can recover from anything he might have sold or given away after their marriage.  However, she must take an oath to those people who purchased the party that she has not previously collected.  This is because the purchasers cannot know whether or not the husband had already paid back the ketubah.

Section four:  For the same reason, if she collects the ketubah from her husband’s inheritors, she must take an oath.

Section five:  Finally, if she collects her ketubah when her husband is abroad, for instance he sent her a get, before she collects her ketubah she must take an oath. This is because we are suspicious that since her husband is not there, she might be more brazen and lie.  To deter her from lying she must take an oath. 

Section six:  Rabbi Shimon says that if she has requested her ketubah, the heirs may make her take an oath, even if her husband had said that she would not be subject to an oath.  According to Rabbi Shimon, this stipulation does not cause the heirs to lose their right to demand that their father’s wife take an oath about her ketubah.  However, if she does not claim her ketubah, and rather prefers to continue to live on his estate (as is her right, as we shall see later in the Mishnah), the heirs cannot make her take an oath even if she was appointed guardian over his estate.  Rabbi Shimon disagrees with the halakhah found in mishnayoth four and five, that a husband has a right to make his wife swear an oath if she was appointed guardian or storekeeper. 

 

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