Ketubot, Chapter Nine, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

This mishnah discusses a husband’s renunciation of the rights to his wife’s property. 

 

Mishnah One

1)                     If a husband writes to his wife, “I have no claim whatsoever upon your property”, he may enjoy its usufruct during her lifetime and, when she dies, he is her heir.

a)                                 If so, why might he have written to her, “I have no claim whatsoever upon your property”?

1)                                             That if she sold it or gave it away her act is valid.

2)                     If he wrote, “I have no claim whatsoever upon your property and upon their produce”, he may not enjoy their usufruct during her lifetime but, when she dies, he inherits her.

a)                                 Rabbi Judah says: he may in all cases enjoy the usufruct from the usufruct unless he wrote to her:  “I have no claim whatsoever upon your property and upon its produce and the produce of its produce and so on without end.”

3)                     If he wrote, “I have no claim whatsoever upon your property, its produce and the produce of its produce during your lifetime and after your death”, he may neither enjoy it produce during her lifetime nor does he inherit her when she dies.

a)                                 Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says:  when she dies he inherits her because [by his declaration] he is making a condition which is contrary to what is written in the Torah and whenever a man makes a condition which is contrary to what is written in the Torah, his condition is null and void.

 

Explanation

Section one:  The reality behind the scenarios mentioned in this mishnah is probably that the woman or her family would not agree to the marriage unless the husband renounced his rights to her property.  Therefore the mishnah lists the effect that different statements will have on his rights.  The general principle is that these statements are interpreted as minimally as possible.  That is to say, we assume that the husband intended to relinquish as few rights as possible.  Therefore, if he states that he has no claim upon her property, he still can benefit from the usufruct and he still inherits her.  The only thing that he relinquishes is his right to prevent her from selling or even giving away her property.

Section two:  In this case, the husband specifically relinquishes his claim on the usufruct from her property.  According to the first opinion in the mishnah, he can no longer benefit from the usufruct, but he does inherit her property when she dies.  Rabbi Judah interprets his statement even more minimally; while he cannot use the produce itself, he may sell the produce and that which he buys from it is his. 

Section three:  In this case, the husband specifies that he has no claim on his wife’s property, and no claim on its produce or on the proceeds obtained from selling the produce, neither while she is alive nor after she dies.  With this comprehensive statement, the husband now has no rights whatsoever to his wife’s property and does not even inherit her.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel points out a problem with this statement.  The Torah mandates that a husband inherits his wife.  By making such a stipulation, the husband is actually subverting Torah law.  Therefore, according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel, the stipulation is null and void.   

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