Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah One



Chapter thirteen of Ketubot is organized differently from the other chapters of Ketubot, or for that matter, differently from most of the Mishnah.  Instead of being organized topically, it is organized mostly according to the sayings of two judges who lived in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period:  Admon and Hanan ben Avishalom.  The mishnah calls them “judges of fines”; they were probably civil judges. 

The first mishnah concerns a wife whose husband has gone abroad and did not leave her sufficient money to provide for her maintenance.  The wife then approaches the court, asking permission to sell the husband’s property in order to provide maintenance for herself. It is assumed by all that she must take an oath when he returns, that she used the proceeds for her maintenance, and that she has not kept anything for other use.  Alternatively, if her husband claims that he did leave her with provisions, she might taken an oath that he did not.  The question is, must she also take an oath before she sells his property, that he did not leave her with anything.


Mishnah One

1)                     There were two judges of fines in Jerusalem, Admon and Hanan ben Avishalom. Hanan stated two rulings and Admon stated seven.

2)                     If a man went to a country beyond the sea and his wife claimed maintenance:

a)                                           Hanan says: she must take an oath at the end but not at the beginning. 

b)                                          The sons of the high priests differed from him and ruled that she must take an oath both at the beginning and at the end. 

3)                     Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas agreed with their ruling.

a)                                           Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai said: Hanan has spoken well; she need take an oath only at the end.



Section one:  This section introduces the rest of the chapter.  We shall see that the two things that Hanan says were both disputed by a group called “the sons of the high priest”.  Assumedly, this was a priestly court, whose center was the Temple.  Admon was disputed by “the sages” in all seven things that he said.  This gives us an opportunity to realize why these traditions and not others by Admon or Hanan were preserved. These were the issues upon which there were debates.

Section two:  According to Hanan, the woman takes an oath only when her husband returns, but not when she initially sells his property.  In contrast, the sons of the high priests say that she must take an oath both at the beginning and at the end.  Note, that all agree that she may sell his property, for according to the marriage contract, he owes her maintenance.  The only question is, when must she swear.

Section three:  The final section of this mishnah is attributed to later sages, ones that lived after the destruction of the Temple.   Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas agrees with the sons of the high priests, but the final word is given to Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai who agrees with Hanan.