[LMB] OT: about the ratio of unmarried to married

Michael Bauminger lmblist at mikebomb.com
Thu Sep 20 06:41:22 BST 2007


On Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007 2:17 PM, Mitch Miller
<mitchmiller at entertainmenttax.com> wrote:

> A few more facts about the ketuba and the get:
> IIRC, "ketuba" actually means the dowry mentioned in the
> marriage contract, which the husband must pay back if he
> wants the divorce. It is set by tradition at 200 zuzim,
> (Babylonian currency = the price of 100 baby goats).  It
> has since come to refer to the marriage contract in which
> it is set forth.

Actually, that is the other way around. The word "ketubah"
means "a writing"; the "ketubah" here refers to the physical
contract, the actual written paper or parchment. In the
Talmud, however, as well as the contract itself, the dowry
it references is generally also simply called the "ketubah".

For a pretty good overview of the Ketubah, see the Wikipedia
article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketubah. For a
translation of the traditional text, see

As for the zuzim, just because the price of the kid in the
song at the end of the Seder ("Chad Gadya", or in English,
"One Kid"; kid meaning baby goat, not human child) is two
zuzim, it does not mean that the 200 zuzim in the Ketubah
equals the price of 100 baby goats. For one thing, the song
does not say "silver zuzim", as the Ketubah does. A zuz is a
coin of a certain weight. There could very well have been
copper zuzim as well as silver zuzim, with the latter worth
quite a bit more than the former.

> IIRC, there are a couple of situations where the wife may
> force a divorce: e.g., if the husband refuses to grant
> her her conjugal rights (in Jewish law, it is the right of
> the wife to demand, and the obligation of the husband to
> provide, sex, to the extent she wants); or if the husband
> takes up some distasteful occupation, the example I
> remember is tanning hides, since the smell was then
> (approx 500 BCE - 400 CE) impossible to clean off, after
> the marriage.

"Force" in this context still means only that the husband
can be coerced to grant it. If a wife is unhappy in her
marriage, she may request a divorce from her husband; if he
grants it, they are divorced. If he refuses, she has no real
recourse under Jewish law. The situations above are those
where, in times and places where Jewish religious laws were
enforceable, the wife could have the religious court (Bet
Din) coerce the husband to grant the divorce.

> From: Harimad <harimad2001 at yahoo.com>
> Two nitpicks:
> 1. The marriage contract is the ketuba.  A get is a
> religious divorce.  Only the husband can grant it
> and although no one can "force" him to give it, he
> can be coerced to a remarkable degree, up to and
> including jail if he's Israeli.  The coercion is
> allowed because there's a strong and lamentable
> historical precedent of husbands abandoning their
> wives but refusing to grant a get, which leaves the
> wife - and kids, if any - in limbo, unable to get
> support, unable to remarry.  Think about Hindo
> widows in India and you get the general idea.

Actually, the word "get" is Aramaic for "document". However,
even in Talmudical times, the bare word, with no qualifier
such as "commerce", was taken to mean a divorce document.
You (unfortunately) have the rest pretty much correct.

Only the husband can initiate religious divorce proceedings
by causing a get to be written (unless he is a scribe, he
would not be writing it himself). It is not as completely
one sided as it seems, because the divorce is not final
until she accepts the get, but she can be forced/tricked to
accept - think of your friendly neighborhood process server.
Generally speaking, the wife is the one that needs/wants the
get and there have been cases where the husband uses the get
as a bargaining chip in what is essentially extortion.

> 2. The ketuba is as much a divorce contract as a
> marriage one - a lot of the text addresses
> post-marriage support, what belongs to whom,
> and who's obliged to do what should the marriage
> dissolve.

It is not a divorce contract at all. It is a marriage
contract, with the commerce implications of "contract" very
much highlighted. It spells out the duties of the husband
during the marriage, and sets out the amounts of money the
bride brings to the marriage and the amounts she is due
should the groom either die or divorce her.

-- Michael, former Yeshiva student


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