Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ketubot 58: Taking Her Earnings Before She Has a Job?

The Gemara continues to examine our Mishna.

How should Israelite women be sustained between the betrothal and the wedding if they are marrying priests?  If they are given teruma, they might use it inappropriately.  If they are not given teruma, how will they become accustomed to that food?  The rabbis discuss different ratios of teruma and regular food that might be appropriate to sustain a kallah.  They note that women might need to sell the teruma, which is worth less than ordinary food.  Giving them more teruma heightens the possibility that they will find a buyer if needed.

A yavam does not entitle his yevama to eat teruma.  This is because the betrothal process is different; he does not truly marry her nor is he obligated to sustain her until they are actually married.

The rabbis debate whether women are not permitted to partake of teruma immediately after betrothal is because of the fear of abrogation.  This means that the chatan might change his mind about his kalah.  The other option would be that the kalah might inadvertently drink or serve teruma wine, for example, inappropriately.  One of the differences between these two considerations is the "special investigation" that might follow.  It seems that the rabbis were not confident about those investigations.

A new Mishna considers what is to be done with the money that a woman earns from her work (spinning, etc.).  The rabbis agree that any earnings that "produce for her husband", her basic earnings, are hers.  If a husband attempts to consecrate that money, his efforts are ineffectual.  However, the rabbis debate about any earnings beyond the basics.  Rabbi Meir believes that those surplus earnings should go to her husband as well, as they are consecrated, while Rabbi Yochanan the Cobbler says that they belong to her, as that money is non-sacred.

A woman is supposed to be sustained by her husband - this is the priority.  If she does not want her earnings to go to her husband, she is permitted to state that she does not wish to work.  However, the rabbis are aware that if the woman works and insists on keeping her wages to sustain herself while her husband is working to sustain her, animosity will develop.  The rabbis seem to believe that husbands would not be willing to understand a woman's need for savings and sustenance beyond the basics.  

The rabbis wonder whether or not a man should be entitled to his betrothed's earnings.  Rabbi Meir believes that we are permitted to consecrate something that has not yet come to be.  A woman's future earnings are not yet existent.  Thus her husband can consecrate them by saying, "your hands are consecrated to the One who made them" from Leviticus, meaning that the work of her hands belongs to her husband.    He can compel her to work for him, for it is her obligation to work.  At the same time, other rabbis believe that she has the right to refuse to work without being paid.  The only person who is permitted to work without pay is a Canaanite slave.

Rabbi Meir tries to strengthen his point by reminding us about other verbal contracts. If a person says, "you will betroth me after I convert," (or after your sister dies, etc. etc.), that is a verbal contract.  Why would it be any different for this woman?

The rabbis disagree with Rabbi Meir. They discuss how we are to know when there is a 'surplus' of earnings.  We learn here that a woman was entitled to sustenance plus one silver ma'a each week.  When does she require more that that for her own sustenance?  When are her earnings considered to be consecrated?  Tomorrow's daf will continue this conversation...

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