Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Ketubot 52: Inheritance, Ketubot, Obligation, Pressure

We learn about an alternative path to divorce.  A man can vow that his wife will receive no benefit from him.  He then must divorce her and they cannot live together.  He no longer has to redeem her if she is held captive - unless she was already held captive before he made his vow.  He is permitted to remarry her.  The process is slightly different for priests, who are not allowed to remarry the wives that they divorce.  

A woman might vow that she will not benefit from her husband.  He may nullify her vow, which is his right.  If he chooses not to nullify her vow, he is "putting his finger between her teeth" and facilitating her vow.  The Gemara discusses different halachot for Jews of different status.  Israelites have different obligations than Kohanim, for example, regarding redeeming wives who have been taken captive.  Rabbis discuss which circumstances warrants a wife's redemption from captivity.  They note that heirs might not have to redeem their step-/mothers after their fathers die.  And that a woman need not be redeemed twice.  And that the amount of ransom matters; more than a woman's value (as discussed earlier) is just too much.  

For "the betterment of the world", we cannot pay exorbitant ransoms for our wives.  That would reward criminal behaviour.  It would also demonstrate that the value of women is without measure.  In our notes, we are taught that when a ransom is being asked from an individual, men were encouraged to pay even more than what was being asked.  Similarly, we learn that men were encouraged to pay whatever it might take to redeem their wives.  But the Gemara focuses on the basic arguments only.

For women to be this vulnerable to slavery, indenture, rape, assault it almost unimaginable from my perspective; my social location.  However, women who are First Nations are almost as vulnerable to similar oppressions right here in Canada today.  There are laws meant to protect them, just as our halachot were meant to protect Jewish women fifteen hundred years ago.  Similarly, those laws are concurrently used to maintain and recreate the social structure that benefits those in power.  So Jewish women were divorced, raped, taken captive, etc.  And Native women are kidnapped, raped, murdered.
So much for being a light unto the nation.

Our rabbis wish to determine what is paid from the marriage contract and what is paid from inheritance.  They teach that if a father has died before his daughter is married.  The courts will determine how much she receives; one tenth of the father's earnings and investments is considered reasonable.

A new Mishna teaches us a number of things about the ketubah.  Usually, the ketubah mentioned a number of stipulations.  They were assumed to be in effect even if the actual clauses were omitted from the ketubah:

  • males from the marriage inherit the ketubah
  • in Judea males from the marriage are entitled to give the ketubah amount to their mother and to leave her to find her own care and lodging
  • females from the marriage were to be sustained by the father's movable property until they were married
The Gemara suggests that this was stated to encourage fathers to leave as much to their daughters as to their sons.  Fathers could create huge dowries that would be equal to the size of the sons' inheritances. IT is noted that the rabbis wish to ensure equality of women with men who all inherit from their parents.  Attempts are made to equalize these payments; all inheritance will eventually - hopefully - go to the grandchildren, and on and on.  This informal pressure put on men to give generously and equally to their children reminds me of debates regarding agunot and their rights to their get.  Pressure exists to encourage men to care for those around them.  At the same time, the letter of the law allows those who are most vulnerable to be further at risk.

No comments:

Post a Comment