Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Ten



The final two mishnayoth of Ketubot deal mostly with a husband (and in the next mishnah) a wife’s ability to force the other spouse to change residences. 

Our mishnah presents limitations on when a husband is allowed to force his wife to move.  Note that if both parties agree to the move, there is no problem.  The mishnah only discusses cases where one party does not want to move. 

We should also note that when the mishnah mentions “force” it does not mean that the husband can physically force his wife to move.  It means that if she disagrees, he may divorce her without paying her the ketubah.  The Mishnah never sanctions physical force of a wife.  The consequences of non-compliance are always economic. 


Mishnah Ten

1)                     [The following regions are regarded as] three countries in respect of marriage:   Judaea, Transjordan and Galilee.

2)                     [A husband] may not take out [his wife with him] from one town to another or from one city to an other.

a)                                           But within the same country he may take her out with him from one town into another town or from one city into an other city, but not from a town to a city nor from a city to a town. 

3)                     [A man] may take out [his wife with him] from an inferior to a superior dwelling, but not from a superior to an inferior dwelling.

a)                                           Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel says: not even from an inferior dwelling to a superior dwelling, because the [change to a] superior dwelling tests.



Section one:  The mishnah divides the land of Israel into three parts: Judea, the other side of the Jordan river (Transjordan) and the northern region the Galilee.  This separation is important for issues of marriage because, as we shall see, a husband can never force his wife to move from one region to another, but within the same region he can sometimes force her to move with him.

Section two:  The husband cannot force his wife to move from one region to another, even from one town (small) to another town, or from one city (larger than a town) to another city.  However, within the same region he may force her to move from one type to the same type; from a town to a town or from a city to a city.  He may never force her to move from a town to a city, for she may like the intimacy of living in a small town.  Similarly, he may never force her to move from a city to a town, for she may prefer the hustle and bustle of the city.  The mishnah does not believe that either a city or a town is objectively better than the other; both have pluses and minuses. 

Section three:  According to the first opinion, no woman should prefer to live in an inferior dwelling place.  In this case, we can objectively determine which is preferable and therefore the husband can force his wife to move. 

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says that a superior dwelling place is not necessarily in every way better than an inferior one.  The superior dwelling “tests” the body. This means that any move may be harmful to one’s physical health, even to a better place.  Therefore, if the woman does not want to move, her husband cannot force her to do so. 

An alternative explanation for “tests” is that in a superior dwelling a woman will constantly have to check her appearance.  She may not want the pressure of having to always keep up appearance in front of the neighbors.