Ketubot, Chapter Six, Mishnah One



This mishnah discusses a wife’s right to money that she receives in various ways while she is married.


Mishnah One

1)                     A wife’s find and her handiwork belong to her husband.

2)                     And [concerning] her inheritance:  He has the usufruct during her lifetime.  

3)                     [Any compensation for] an embarrassment or blemish [that may have been inflicted upon] her belongs to her.

a)                                 Rabbi Judah ben Batera says: [if the embarrassment or blemish was inflicted upon her] on a hidden place [on her body] she receives two-thirds while he receives one-third; if on an open place [on her body]  he receives two-thirds and she receives one-third.

b)                                 His share is to be given to him immediately, but with hers land is to be bought and he enjoys the usufruct.



Section one:  This halakhah was already learned above in 4:4. 

Section two:  If a woman receives an inheritance while she is married, the money is treated like certain portions of the dowry she brought into the wedding.  This means that the husband cannot use the principle but he can use the interest that the principle accrues.  The easiest way to calculate principle and interest is to consider a field.  The field itself is the principle.  The husband may not sell the field.  However, the produce that is picked from the field is the “usufruct”, which is more literally translated as fruits.  These belong to the husband.

Section two:  The mishnah now discusses two forms of compensation that the wife receives if injured:  indignity and blemish.  According to the first opinion, these belong to the wife, since she was the one who suffered the injury.  

However, Rabbi Judah ben Batera distinguishes between injuries inflicted on covered and uncovered parts of her body.  If the injury was inflicted upon a covered part of her body, then most of the suffering was hers and she receives two-thirds of the compensation.  However, if the injury was inflicted upon an uncovered part, then the husband is more embarrassed and blemished by his wife’s injury than she herself is.  Therefore he receives two-thirds.  [I realize that the conception of marriage presented by Rabbi Judah ben Batera is not a conception that many of us share.] 

The money that he receives due to her injury is immediately given to him.  The money that she receives belongs in principle to her, and the usufruct belongs to him.  Therefore the money is used to buy land and he can enjoy the fruit.  Buying land in Mishnaic times was equivalent to our putting money in the bank.  It was a way to ensure that the money did not lose its value for real estate was one of the only sure investments in the ancient world. 

The mishnah does not mention three other payments that an injured party receives:  medical fees, loss of work and compensation for pain.  The reason that these are not mentioned is that it is clear to whom they belong.  Since the husband has a right to her handiwork and must pay for her rehabilitation, the first two payments belong to him.  Since the pain is experienced solely by her, she alone receives the compensation for pain.  The only question, therefore, was about embarrassment and blemish.