Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five



In yesterday’s mishnah we learned of a case where a husband married several women at the same time, each having a ketubah of a different size.  In today’s mishnah we learn about the case of several women who were married to one man, but at different times.


Mishnah Five

1)                     If a man who was married to four wives died, his first wife takes precedence over the second, the second over the third and the third over the fourth.

2)                     The first must take an oath to the second, the second to the third, and the third to the fourth, and the fourth recovers payment without an oath.  

a)                                 Ben Nannus says:  Should she be rewarded because she is the last? She too may not exact payment except by an oath.

3)                     If all were issued on the same day then the woman [whose kethubah] preceded that of the other, even if only by one hour, gets [her ketubah first].

a)                                 And so it was the custom in Jerusalem to write the hours.

4)                     If all kethuboth were issued at the same hour and the estate is worth no more than a maneh, they divide it equally.



Section one:  This section’s halakhah is basically the same as that which we learned in mishnah one.  It is brought here as an introduction to the rest of the mishnah.

Section two:  Each wife must take an oath to the subsequent wife that she did not already take her ketubah.  The subsequent wives are concerned lest there not remain enough money to collect their own Ketubot and hence they have a right to make the previous wives swear.  However, the fourth wife does not need to take an oath.  Of course, if there are inheritors she needs to take an oath in any case, as we learned in 8:9.

According to Ben Nannus, even the fourth wife must take an oath.  The Talmud explains that this oath would be significant if it turns out that one of the fields that one of the first wives collected for her ketubah did not really belong to the husband and therefore was taken away from the wife who had collected it.  In such a case the wife who had received that field would want to collect from the fourth wife but she can’t because the fourth wife is not obligated to give up property that she had already received.  However, the oath ensures the previous wife that at least the fourth wife did not collect illegitimately. 

Section three:  If all Ketubot were issued on the same day, then the precedence can be determined by the hour written into the ketubah.  The mishnah teaches that this indeed was the custom in Jerusalem.  Today we don’t write hours into Ketubot.  Then again, men can no longer marry two wives!

Section four:  If all of the Ketubot were issued during the same hour, then the halakhah is as it was in mishnah four.  If there is only one maneh, they all share it equally.