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...

Monday, 30 March 2015

Ketubot 57: Between Betrothal and the Chupah; Rules of Acquisition and Abrogation

If a ketubah is lost, it is as if the ketubah has been changed.  Until the couple creates a new ketubah, any sexual activity is considered to be the same as licentious sexual activity.  

When can a woman use words alone, and not a written contract, to forego a stipulation in a ketubah? The rabbis discuss this question, referring to a baraita that suggests that she is able to make changes "at the beginning" until "the end".  The beginning of what?  The rabbis agree that she can make changes from the beginning of the wedding ceremony.  The end of what?  Some rabbis believe that she can make changes until the end of the wedding ceremony, and others believe that she can make changes until the end of the act of intercourse.

A new Mishna teaches us that a woman is betrothed and then the couple waits to decide to be married.  Once they have decided to get married, both the chatan, groom, and the kalah, bride, are entitled to up to twelve months to prepare for their wedding and their life together.  If a woman has been divorced or widowed (but not after only betrothal - after the chupah), she is entitled to thirty days.  After that time, she is to be provided for by her chatan.   And if the woman is being married to a priest, she is not entitled to teruma as the halachot are more complex.

The Gemara begins by explaining how we know that a virgin is allowed to prepare for twelve months.  The rabbis pull verses that compare a day with a year and use that (and other interpretations) to compare this experience with the words from a verse in Leviticus that suggests that a "day" refers to a year.  Etc.

Minor girls experience special circumstances. A note teaches us that rabbinical law discourages such marriages, but they were allowed by Torah law and thus they were practiced likely in desperate times.  Minor girls are encouraged to choose their husbands for themselves, and they can renounce their marriages when they become young women.  The rabbis teach us that these girls or their fathers can delay the wedding if either believes that she is not 'ready' for marriage.

The rabbis argue about whether or not a minor girl who then reaches young adulthood should be given 30 days to prepare for marriage, or if she should be given longer. She is young and may change her mind.  The acknowledgement of the immaturity of a 12 year old girl is balanced against what the rabbis see as her obligation to marry.  

Further, the rabbis again discuss whether or not a chatan is permitted to nullify the vows of his betrothed.  If he is providing her sustenance, shouldn't he be permitted to annul her vows?  And if he is sustaining her while she is betrothed, where should she partake of the food and drink? She cannot partake at home in case she shares the teruma with siblings or family.  Thus the chatan finds a place for her to eat and drink while they are betrothed.

Our daf ends with concerns about a purchase made under false pretences.  The rabbis teach us that a betrothed young woman is given only thirty days to prepare for her wedding if she was betrothed as a minor.  But does that contract of betrothal actually ensure that she is sustained?  This brings the rabbis back to issues regarding purchases.  Can a contract be cancelled if a person - a slave, a maidservant or a betrothed woman, in this case - was sold to the kalah/buyer with a 'defect' that was missed? The rabbis decide that if the 'defect' affects his/her worth, the contract can be broken.  If the 'defect' does not affect his/her work, the contract is binding.

It makes one wonder what sort of inspections were done at the time of acquisition.  

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Ketubot 56: Betrothal & Sums, Receipts, Devaluing of the Ketubah

The rabbis discuss what happens when a man divorces or dies after writing in his betrothed's ketubah both the main amount of money and any additional sums.  Is she rewarded both? Or only the main amount of the ketubah, generally 200 zuz for a virgin or 100 zuz for a widow or divorcee?  The rabbis have a fierce argument about this halacha.  Even though Rav Nachman cursed his judge colleagues, saying that they would meet with misfortune if they ruled against his opinion, the halacha accorded with Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya: women only receive the main payment in such cases.

But what if the betrothed couple had entered the chupa, the wedding canopy, but they had not had sexual intercourse?  When is the moment at which a woman's legal claims change? The rabbis argue about this circumstance as well.  If a woman is menstruating and the couple does not have intercourse after the first nights together, and then the husband dies, is she still considered to be a betrothed woman, entitled to the 200 zuz only, or is she considered to be a married woman, entitled to both sums?  The rabbis use this opportunity to speak about timing of sexual intercourse.  They note that intercourse must occur in the dark*, and that means that intercourse usually takes place at night.  

Regarding the question of the status of this particular betrothed/married woman, the rabbis leave the question unresolved.  However, a note teaches us about later interpretations.  Rambam claims that such a woman is entitled to only the main amount of money as a betrothed woman, but she is considered to be a married woman in all other ways.  The worst of both worlds - she gets less money, less status (she is now widowed and 'worth' less, even though she is a virgin).

The rabbis discuss receipts for ketubot.  Should a woman write a receipt when she receives the ketubah?  Or is the receipt written into the ketubah document itself?  The rabbis consider verbal documentation, which does not usually stand in monetary matters.  But what about the case of a man who attempts to create a ketubah that agrees to marriage without the responsibility for his wife's clothing, food or conjugal rights?  If she verbally agrees to that illegal contract, does it stand?  

Part of the rabbi's debate regards what is rabbinic law, what is Torah law, and what is within their rights to oppose or encourage.  Rabbi Yehuda teaches that marriage contracts fall under the category of rabbinic law.  That means that a wife's words are not binding unless they are written.  But this is challenged based on the laws regarding a wife's property.  However, Abaye points out that while all married people have a ketubah, not all men are married to women who have land and its produce.

Rabbi Meir introduces a useful direction.  Anyone who lessens a non-virgin or a widow's ketubah from 200 to 100 zuz (or dinars) is then engaging in licentious sexual intercourse.  This is a protection for women:  the rabbis interpreted his words to mean that one cannot leave women with less than the full amount of money that they are entitled to in their ketubot.   The rabbis wonder if this could refer to a woman who believed that she did not have a ketubah or believed she was not entitled to the full sum.  Our Sages wished to ensure that the value of the ketubah is maintained and not devalued.

*Sexual intercourse is permitted during the day, but in a dark home only.  Our notes teach that a man should not look at his wife during intercourse in case he finds something unattractive about her.  

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ketubot 55: Details of Payment of the Ketuba

Today's daf is short but quite complex.  It continues the rabbi's conversation regarding how one's children might be involved in the payment of a ketubah.   Sometimes it seems as though the odds are very much against a woman whose husband wishes to deny her payment of her ketubah.  Particularly because women did not have access to the legal loopholes that are discussed in dapim like today's.

At the start of the daf, we learn a number of details regarding the ketubah:

  • unless the wife caused her husband's property value to increase and her ketubah is being paid through that property, she is not entitled to any more than what was stipulated in her ketubah
  • a woman may have to sign an oath promising that she did not take any extra payments from her husband
  • the Sabbatical Year does not affect payment of the ketubah
  • Ketubot can be paid in the form of land or movable property
  • payment of any debt should be made from the highest quality of land, even a small portion, rather than a larger, poorer quality of land.  
  • the rabbis argue whether a woman who moves to her father's home can collect her ketubah only for 25 years while one living in her deceased husband's home can collect indefinitely or vice versa
  • If the mother dies before the father, the male sons seem to be the ones who inherit their mother's dowry
The Sages of Pumbedita argue with the residents of Meta Mechasya regarding a number of issues:
  • whether or not sons can inherit their mother's property that was sold by their father because it was 'liened' property
  • whether or not women must take an oath regarding movable property that might have been 'paid' to her previously as part of her ketubah payment
  • whether or not women have to take an oath regarding land that was only marked on one side as her ketubah payment*
  • whether or not the recipient of a gift must be consulted again after the deed for the gift has been formally acquired
Rabbi Natan and Rav differ with Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya regarding whether or not women receive the main sum or the main sum and additional sums after betrothal/after marriage.  Rabbi Natan's opinion is also followed with regard to a decision on teruma and tithes.  This brings the rabbis to an entirely different set of descriptions and interpretations.  If teruma is doubtfully tithed, is it unusable?
Is the word of an am ha'aretz trustworthy enough when it comes to tithes and teruma?

Rav's opinions on assessment are now up for question.  Rav is said to have coined the phrase, "he came in on two horses."  This is thought to mean that a person has two different halachot that strengthen the validity of their position regarding transferring a gift.  Deathbed transfers are discussed again.  If a person intends to give away all of their possessions while on their deathbed, their word should hold.  This is because the dying person is thought to be sure that he (we are speaking about men here) will not live to use any of his goods, etc.  However, if he does not die, we are meant to annul his gifts, as the intention behind the gifts was erroneous.

A very challenging daf - because of the structure of the pages and because of the complicated legal concepts.  It is interesting to note that some of our legal battles today are the same as those of iniquity: When is a person deemed capable to make an important decision while they are ill? When is someone forced to take an oath regarding the truth of their claims?  And many more...

*both the Sages of Pumbedita and the residents of Mata Mechasya agreed that land that was defined on all four sides does not require the woman to take an oath.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Ketubot 53: Details of Post-Ketubah Sustenance

We learn that inheritance goes to the first son.  It should not be given to another son, even if that other son is far more deserving. As well, it should not be taken from a son and given to a daughter.

Women might sell the rights to their ketubot.  This would mean that in the case that the woman divorces, her ketubah money is paid directly to that third party.  The rabbis wonder whether selling the ketubah would affect her sons' inheritance.  What if the third party is her husband?  If a woman sells her ketubah to her husband, this may affect the sons as well.  I cannot find reference (yet) to the ketubah's writings about her sons.  

The rabbis walk through what a woman might be entitled to after she has relinquished her ketubah.  For example, she may lose the right to sustenance after her husband has died; she may lose the right to sustenance during his lifetime, as well.  Another case involves a woman who marries a second time, believing that her husband has died hail while abroad.  She must divorce both husbands, and she and her sons both lose whatever has been promised to them in the ketubah.

The rabbis make a point of noting that a woman who sells her ketubah, whether to her son or to someone else in the community, she must be desperate for money.  

The rabbis move on to discuss how long a father should sustain his daughters.  Until she is married off?  Until she is a grown women? Clearly a man must be sustaining a woman at all times.  Can she support herself once she is a grown woman, regardless of whether or not she is able to sustain herself through employment?

The rabbis then discuss a number of rulings that require debate regarding sustenance.  Theres are cases of:
secondary forbidden relationships,
one who is already betrothed, and
one who has been raped

The rabbis begin to look at these cases one by one, wondering if she will be sustained in her father's help.  Reading their words, if feels clear that the rabbis are working toward protecting women in their structure.  I suppose that this is second best to creating a new system altogether that addresses women's needless vulnerability.

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.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Ketubot 51: More on Sustaining Women; Consent and Rape

In ancient Jewish communities, only men and boys inherited from their fathers.  Women could inherit in very limited circumstances.  Movable property, non-guaranteed inheritance, is given to girls while land, guaranteed inheritance, is generally given to boys.  But what should be done if parents died, leaving two orphan siblings, a boy and a girl, and an inheritance of land?  Should only the boy be sustained by the inheritance?  The rabbis obligate brothers to sustain their sisters in these cases; boys are given more than their ordinary share of inheritance to ensure that they care for their sisters.  This is the case with adult women as well.  If the only inheritors are adult women, they are given the movable property.

If a marriage contract stipulates sustenance above and beyond that in the standard ketubah  women can claim the right to inheritance based on that ketuba.  But they can only claim property and not movable property.

A new Mishna teaches us that men cannot cheat women out of their rights by drawing up substandard ketubot.  Regardless of whether or not the ketuba states otherwise or says nothing:

  • she should be redeemed if held captive;
  • she should be redeemed and returned to her home if held captive as a kohenet
  • she should be given 200 dinars even if promised only 100 dinars
  • her medical expenses should be paid and she should be cared for until she is not bedridden if she falls ill
The Gemara states a number of reasons that these guidelines are reasonable.  Intercourse without having stipulated the appropriate amount in the ketuba is considered to be licentious intercourse.  The rabbis tackle the question of whether or not promissory notes are valid different circumstances.  They look at more detailed halachot regarding the transfer of property, liens, and contracts.

We are told that an Israelite's wife who is raped is allowed to return to her husband according to Rava. Rava is disagreeing with Shmuel's father, who teaches the opposite: if a wife is held captive, she cannot return to her husband because of the risk that she consented to intercourse.  However, our halacha follows Rava: even if a woman consents eventually, if she refuses at the start of the act, it is rape, and thus she is allowed to return to her husband. 

The remainder of our daf considers the more specific circumstances of each rape.  Might she have in fact been interested in intercourse?  Might she have believed that the rapist would marry her?  Perhaps the victim of rape was actually interested in intercourse with the rapist because of his status?  Rav Yehuda (and the Ramban) both convince their colleagues that women would not wish to be raped and acquiesces out of fear.   While the rabbis have many misgivings about listening to the experiences of women who are taken captive, the halacha reflects the more powerful position. Ultimately women's dignity is upheld to some degree.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Ketubot 50: Rules on Giving; How to Sustain Sisters

The rabbis discuss the halachot regarding gifts.  Parents could choose to leave their property to their sons (or they might be ordered by the court to feed their elderly parents).  Alternately, people could leave their money to charity.  The rabbis use this opportunity to discuss the tithe as suggested by Jacob.  If it is two portions of 1/10, is the second tenth less than the first tenth because it is taken from a smaller total amount?  The rabbis consider whether or not 1/10 is the minimum amount given to charity while one should give no more than 1/5 to charity.

And speaking of how one should treat his sons, the Gemara opens a conversation on parenting.  Should one treat his young sons gently even if they do not wish to study Torah?  The rabbis share different opinions.  Yes, says Rav, treat them gently until the age of six, and then stuff them like an ox; force-feed them Torah.  In Usha, it is said that sons are treated gently until the age of twelve, and then harshly.  Our notes suggest another opinion: treat sons gently until the age of twelve, allowing them the pleasure of learning Torah, but then introduce them to a profession - the harsh reality - after that year.

Abaye shares some of the wisdom of his foster mother:

  • stuff him like an ox until he is six with Torah
  • if he refuses to learn, do not harass him in all areas of his life until he is twelve, when he can learn Mishna
  • a boy can fast for twenty-four hours at the age of thirteen
  • a girl can fast for twenty-four hours at the age of twelve
  • if a six year old is stung by a scorpion, he requires treatment or he will die:
    • drink the bile of a white vulture in beer and rub the mixture on him
  • if a one year old is stung by a hornet, he requires treatment or he will die:
    • drink palm tree fibre in water and rub the mixture on him
Rav Katina teaches that boys should begin school at the age of six.  Teaching children in their early years will weaken them physically but will help them to learn.  A note elaborates: as soon as children learned to talk, their fathers were to teach them to say the first verse of the Shema and the words, "Moses instructed us in the Torah".  They are gradually taught more and more.  By the age of five or six - or seven, if the child is weakened, they begin Bible class.  Sometimes three year-olds were brought to class, too, but any learning was said to be incidental.

We see here that education is considered to be one of the most important jobs of parenting. The rabbis noted each individual child's physical and emotional maturity.  Although learning was the highest calling, the rabbis did not encourage children under the age of six to begin their schooling.  In addition, the rabbis speak about what to do with a child who does wish to study Torah.  This suggests to me that the same conversations have been happening in Jewish families literally for thousands of years.  

We continue to learn about ways that people give property or money to each other.  The halacha that a woman's usufruct property sold during her husband's lifetime can be repossessed by her husband if she dies is discussed.  

The Gemara introduces a number of verses and their interpretations regarding charitable giving.

  • "Happy are they who keep justice, who perform charity at all times" (Psalms 106:3) 
    • does this mean that we should be around paupers at all times?
    • does this mean that we should sustain our minor children, which is not required?
    • does this mean that we should raise orphans and marry them off?
  • "Wealth and riches are in his house, and his charity endures forever" (Psalms 112:3)
    • does this refer to one who studies and teaches Torah?
    • does this refer to a sofer who lends out his scrolls for others to benefit from?
  • "And see your son's sons: peace be upon Israel" (Psalms 128:6)
    • does this refer to peace in Israel resulting from our grandchildren observing chalitza?
    • does this refer to peace among Israel's judges because families will not fight over inheritance any longer?

In amud (b), the rabbis discuss the particularities involved in sustaining girls.  We are told that Rav Yosef sat before Rabbi Hamnuna when he said that both men inherit from the land and that women are sustained by the land.  All of the students gasped.  Rav Yosef knew what Rabbi Hamnuna meant, however:  Women's property was given to her sons; fathers were encouraged to provide daughters with extensive dowries.  

The rabbis walk through how women might be sustained.  Perhaps the men were sustained through land while women were sustained through movable property?  Were daughters given a dowry worth one tenth of her father's estate?  What does the word aliyah mean when used in this context?  How is an orphaned daughter provided for?

Rabbi Shimon ben Elyakim warns Rabbi Elazar about the dangers of ruling that a girl can be maintained by her brothers' inheritance of movable property.  Don't rule out of pity for this one person, he says, for others will learn of your ruling and use it to influence future generations. Amazing that compassion was not the more highly valued factor in this consideration.

When Rav Yosef was approached by orphaned brothers, he answered similarly to Rabbi Elazar: sustain your sister from the figs that have fallen onto the mats.  Abaye jumps in.  Those dates are not movable property, he says.  Even creditors cannot take movable property from orphans.  My question - not even for their also-orphaned sisters?  Rav Yosef answers. I wasn't talking about those dates he says.  I was talking about the dates that are still attached to the tree.  Those would not be considered movable property at all.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Ketubot 49: Providing for the Women

We are introduced to a new Mishna.  It reminds us that a father is not obligated to provide for his daughters, though it is a mitzvah to do so.   According to the halachot of inheritance, fathers are obligated to provide for their sons’ thought their mothers’ inheritance If she died.  The rabbis extrapolate from this comment and suggest that father must only provide for their sons.  Their daughters are provided for through the father’s’ estate after he dies.

The rabbis remind us that husbands are required to provide housing and full care for their children up until the age of six.  After that point, there is a disagreement as to whether or not and how much fathers are obliged to care for their children through their young adult years.  Wealthy fathers will be able to be coerced by the court to care for his family.

The daf ends with the rabbis focusing on a husband’s obligations to his wife.  It is clear that husbands are required to sustain their wives.

Today’s daf brings to life some of the incredible conflict between ancient and modern perspectives.   Thousands of years ago, women required a man in order to be assured of safety, security, and basic sustenance.  Now we take issue with that notion.  Today, women are considered to be independent beings who are just as much the ‘storymakers’ as they are the ‘babymakers’.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ketubot 48: Food, Clothing, Conjugal Rights; Moving on up; Transfer of Authority from Father to Husband

She'erakusata, and sonata must be provided to women upon marrying their husbands.  There is some conflict regarding the definitions of these words, but it seem s that many agree that she'era refers to flesh, meaning the skin to skin contact required in conjugal relations.  She'era could also refer to appropriate clothing, often defined as kesuta, which should be age and seasonally appropriate.  Onata could refer to the time of year that clothing should be changed to reflect one's needs in each season.  Of note here is the mention made of Persians who have intercourse with their clothing on.  This discussion seems to suggest that intercourse requires flesh to flesh contact in Jewish context.

We learn that a husband must bury his wife according to the high status of them two of them.  If she married into a higher social status, he should provide a burial reflective of that standard.  If she married a man of lower social status, she is to be buried in the social status of her first family.  Similarly, the rabbis begin a conversation about how a family should be provided for if the father of that family goes overseas for more than three months.  There are different guidelines for women, young women, orphans, babies, younger children and older children.

A new Mishna teaches us that a woman is under her father's authority until she is under her husband's authority.  The exact transfer of responsibility is discussed.  If the woman is delivered by messengers to messengers, for example, there may be a lapse in authority.  Would women figure our this loophole and attempt to escape the authority of men?  Would they never be taught this Mishna?  Or would they realize that the window was just too tight to ensure getaway?  And where would they go, anyway?  If the woman's only option was to be under a man's authority, what other choices would she have?

To further understand when a woman becomes her husband's property and not her father's property, today's daf delves into related questions: when can a bride partake of teruma?  when can a husband claim her inheritance?  exactly when is she married if she does not have intercourse under the wedding canopy?

Friday, 20 March 2015

Ketubot 46: Punishments for Defamers of Betrothed Women; Fathers vs. Husbands Rights

Our Sages stay focused on what is done to a man who accuses his wife of having intercourse with another man after she has been betrothed to her.   He is called a motzi shem ra, one who puts out a bad name - a defamer.

Verbal analogies serve as proof texts for the rabbis.  Might flogging actually refer to monetary payment? The rabbis pull a verse from Leviticus that suggests one might offer half his valuation; this could mean that flogging can be replaced with a fine.  In Deuteronomy 22:18-19, we learn that he will be both chastised and fined.  The rabbis look at the word "chastise" and decide that it could refer to flogging.  They look at the word "fined" and decide that it refers to a monetary payment.

But how do the rabbis know that chastisement is done through flogging and not another action?  Rabbi Abahu argues that the rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21:18, 25:2), ben, is the same son who deserves, bin, to be flogged.  Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Natan quote two different verses to prove that talebearing is prohibited and thus should be warned about via the punishment of flogging.  In its playfulness, the Gemara goes on to find proof texts that demonstrate why Rabbi Elazar did not chose Rabbi Pinchas's proof and why Rabbi Pinchas did not choose Rabbi Elazar's proof.

We know that the defamer pays the fine and is flogged if he hires witnesses to testify falsely in these cases.  The Gemara discusses whether the defamer pays the fine and is flogged if he merely convinces witnesses to testify falsely.  The rabbis consider a number of proof texts to justify their positions - they consider the word "placing" in two verses and two very different contexts: regarding a defamer and regarding charging interest.  This verbal analogy suggests to the rabbis that the defamer should be fined, regardless of the witnesses' status.

The rabbis then consider what should be done if a defamer charges his wife based on the time between his first marriage to her rather than following their divorce and second betrothal/remarriage. The rabbis discuss how a man might know that his wife has been adulterous if he does not actually have intercourse with her (the rabbis must assume that she would bleed and thus prove - or disprove - her status as a virgin).  In an amazing show of skill with language, the rabbis attempt to find loopholes.  For example, they wonder if "go in unto her", normally translated as meaning having intercourse, could actually refer to conversation.  

Rabbi Yitzĥak bar Rav Ya’akov bar Giyyorei says in the name of Rav Yochanan that there is no reference in all of the Torah that distinguishes between typical and atypical (ie. anal) intercourse when it comes to punishment for forbidden relations.  However, other rabbis teach that the intercourse between husband and wife - and between the wife and her forbidden sexual partner - must be typical intercourse for punishments to be assigned.

A new Mishna teaches us about a father's legal rights over his daughter while she is betrothed.  He has authority over her entrance into betrothal through money, the ketubah, or intercourse.  He owns whatever she finds, her earnings, and the right to nullify her vows.  He acts on her behalf if she divorces after betrothal but before marriage. He inherits her property (inherited from her mother's family) if she dies, but he cannot use the produce of that property while she is alive.

Once she marries, her husband benefits more from her belongings than her father.  He is permitted to consume the produce of her inherited fields (again, from her mother's family) during her lifetime.  He must provide for her sustenance, her redemption, and her burial.  And on that note, Rabbi Yehuda teaches that even the poorest Jew must provide at least two flutes and a lamenting woman for a burial.

The rabbis consider whether or not a father is truly entitled to his daughters earnings.  Earnings are compared with other matters, like money paid for humiliation and degradation, nullification of vows, and fines.  Is her humiliation and degradation equal to that of her father?  Is her humiliation and degradation inflicting the same upon her family as a matter of course?  And how is her husband different from her father?  The rabbis note that a young woman who has not actually married her husband (ie. she is betrothed to him) is only under his authority partially.  She continues to be under the authority of her father, as well.  Thus the nullification of her vows is achieved only when her husband and her father speak the appropriate words together.  

It seems to be extremely important to the rabbis to understand exactly who has rights over a young woman.  Unlike an older woman, who has the right to control at least some of her actions, a young woman is very similar to a maidservant even if she is not sold into that position.  

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Ketubot 45: Stoning or Strangulation for Adultery during Betrothal?

How are women punished if they commit adultery?  In ordinary circumstances, a woman is strangled if she has intercourse with a man who is not her husband.  But if she is a minor, if she is betrothed and not yet married at the time of the offence, if there are witnesses that come forward immediately, is she strangled, or is she stoned to death in front of her father's home?  Or if she is an orphan, at the city gates?  Or if hers is a city populated by gentiles, at the entrance to the court?

Today's daf questions how the punishment for adultery is meted out.  One of the larger questions that the rabbis explore is how an adult is punished for a crime that s/he committed as a minor.  Other circumstances are contrasted: those of a priest, or a king, whose sins are committed before they were anointed.  Different rules seem to apply, for their change in status is different from the bodily changes that demonstrate the change in status from a girl to a woman.  

It is obvious that stoning is perceived to be a particularly horrible execution.  The combination of that painful, slow death at the hands of the community combined with the humiliation inspired by such a public act is telling. Were women frequently stoned to death?  Or was this threat of public stoning used as an effective measure of social control?  And when young women were at the mercy of the men who might rape them, were young women really in need of this excessive threat?  Were girls particularly open about their sexual desire at the time?  or, more likely, were the men in power so afraid of the potential power of women's sexuality that they created laws specifically to intimidate?

The rabbis share proof texts to better understand why women must be stoned at the entrance to the gates of the city.  They determine that women who commit adultery while betrothed are similar to those who worship idols.  Of course, this is one of the worst things that one could do.

What is the appropriate punishment for a man who defames his wife when she is found to be innocent?  Flogging and and fine are the two punishments suggested by a baraita.  The rabbis disagree about how those consequences are assigned.  Most of the rabbis agree that flogging is required regardless of whether or not her husband had intercourse with her.  Some of the rabbis believe that whether or not he pays the fine is dependent upon whether or not she has had intercourse with him.  Some rabbis assert that the intercourse should have been ordinary intercourse, as well.  

It is striking how often the rabbis mention anal intercourse in their discussions that refer to sexual activity.  Were they offering warnings?  Or was anal intercourse a common occurrence in ancient communities?  One might assume that it was used to avoid pregnancy; however, women's experiences of pleasure would be almost completely overlooked if anal intercourse were the alternative option to vaginal intercourse and no other sexual activity was discussed.

Again, today's daf leads me to question how much we learn is an accurate description of our ancestors' lives, how much is an idealized portrayal, and what other information is missing.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Ketubot 44: When Women Who Convert are not Treated as Other Jews

The Gemara continues to compare the halachic questions pertaining to marriage with those that focus on other issues. Before introducing a new Mishna, amud (a) examines the laws regarding dual contracts. If two contracts are drawn regarding the same agreement, which contract is honoured? Factors such as timing, gifts, purchases are considered. The rabbis then turn their attention back to laws surrounding ketubot. If women receive two marriage contracts, one at betrothal and one when she is married, which contract is honoured? After some debate, the rabbis agree that both contracts are honoured at the time of the marriage.

Our new Mishna teaches that if the daughter of a woman who converted while she was pregnant is found to be sexually licentious (read: not a virgin) after betrothal, she is not punished as a woman born Jewish might be punished. Instead of being strangled at the gates of her father's home, she may be stoned at the gates to the city. The Gemara discusses a number of different contributing possibilities, including what to do if the girl is born at slightly different times, what to do if the girl is an orphan, a minor, an older young woman, what to do if her father is opposed to the marriage or if she is opposed to the marriage, etc.

The rabbis also consider how the halachot might change if the woman charged is fully Jewish. They also spend some time thinking about when and how punishments are changed depending on the circumstances of the crime committed.

I can't help but wonder if girls were scared when they were growing up that they would be accused of sexually licentious behaviour in the future. Regardless of the truth, girls had to be concerned that they might not meet up to the standards set for them, and that the result would be even greater than death: the humiliation of one's family. The combination of torture, death, and shame sound like a perfect recipe for effective social control.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Ketubot 43: Monetary Support for Women Without Husbands/Fathers; Women’s Rights to That Support

The rabbis remind us that one should not be allowed to deny the charge of rape so that he is excused from the fine for that crime -- and then admit to the same crime so that he is subject to the punishments for humiliation and degradation.  Humiliation and degradation are dependent on the crime of rape happening first.

From this point, the rabbis examine how widows, orphans and daughters are provided for when the family’s male provider dies.  Heirs are obligated to provide for widows, and thus women are dependent on their children to care for them after their husbands have died.  Heirs are also obligated to care for their sisters before themselves.  Thus if a father leaves his fortune to his sons, the sons must provide for the daughters even if it means that they go door to door to beg for their own sustenance.  

But what does it mean to “sustain” the women in one’s family?  The rabbis debate about whether sons are required to support their mothers or their sisters ‘first’.  And to what degree of comfort do these sons provide sustenance?  Don’t the earnings of those mothers and sisters go to the sons, anyway?  The rabbis look to how Canaanite slaves are provided for compared with other slaves.  All slaves must be fed in times of famine, but in times of plenty, Canaanite slaves are permitted to use their minimal salaries to find their own food.  How could the rabbis argue that daughters are treated more poorly than Canaanite slaves?  Thus the rabbis agree that daughters are permitted to keep their earnings and their found possessions rather than give them to their brothers.

Extending this argument, the rabbis look to Leviticus 25:46, “And you may make them an inheritance for your sons after you”.  This is interpreted to mean that slaves can be transferred from father to son in inheritance, but daughters cannot.  Rabba disagrees.  The rabbis consider the differences between rights to a woman’s money and rights pertaining to her body.  It should be permitted to transfer earnings, suggests Rava, which is different from transferring unpaid fines or other monetary obligations.
Amud (b) begins with one further consideration.  Perhaps the case in question involves a woman whose face was injured in the rape or seduction.  This might lower her ‘value’, and it is her father’s right to sell his daughter as a maidservant, and thus a fine for degradation should be paid to her father.  Or perhaps the injury to her face causes the victim’s family to suffer humiliation.  Or, if her livelihood is affected by this injury, perhaps she should be paid the monetary penalty directly and not through her father.
Amud (b) continues with a new Mishna.  It discusses who receives the ketubah money if a father marries off his daughter and she is divorced, and then he marries her off again and she is widowed.  Does the ketubah from both marriages belong to her father?  Or does she retain rights t the second ketubah?
When is a woman permitted to put a lien on her husband’s property to demand payment?  The rabbis wonder what should be done in unusual situations.  For example, if a woman is owed her ketubah from her husband but he dies before paying her, she can take out a lien on his property. 
I am imagining some very strong women who were able to stand up to a large, patriarchal system and demand their what is rightfully theirs.  The stereotype of the loud, demanding Jewish woman might have originated in these traditions!