Adding to a Ketubah

Ketubot (5:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 15 years ago

The Mishnah (5:1) writes:

Even though the [Sages] said the [ketubah of] a betulah collects 200 [zuz] and an almanah 100 [zuz], if he wishes to add even 100 zuz, he may add.

We learn from the above Mishnah the concept of the tosefet ketubah – the monetary addition to the base value of the ketubah.

The Gemara (Ketubot 44b) exclaims that the above statement appears obvious. Why should a husband not be able to give his wife a gift if he chooses?23 The Gemara responds that one may have thought the Chachamim would have prevented people from adding to the base value of the ketubah so as not to embarrass those how are unable due to lack of funds.24

When grappling with the point of embarrassment the Rishonim enter into a debate regarding how this tosefet would be drawn up in the ketubah. The Ramban writes that the Mishnah must be referring to where the ketubah and the tosefet are written together as one lump sum. One may have thought that the differing base values in the ketubah may have led to embarrassment. If however the tosefet was specified separately, it would equate with the husband giving his wife a gift and surely no one would think that the Chachamim would try to prevent this.

The Meiri however argues that no matter how it is written in the ketubah whether as a lump sum or two separate figures, the potential for embarrassment is there. One can understand that as this ketubah is read in public, people will be able to do the maths and readily know how much the husband was willing to spend. To answer this, we can cite the Ritva who explains it is not the embarrassment of the husband that we are concerned about. Instead it is of the wife whose base value of her ketubah appears to be lower than other women.25

A second question on the Ramban comes from the Mordechai (136) who writes that a previous Mishnah (1:5) seemed to imply that only a select group of people were allowed to increase the value of the ketubah. For this reason he understands that the previous Mishnah allowed those people to increase the value of the ketubah and include it in one lump sum, where as our Mishnah is only allowing additions if it is included in the ketubah separately from the base value of the ketubah.

So how would the Ramban respond to the question of the Mordechai, if he maintains that anyone could include this base and additional values as one lump sum if the wish. The Tosfot (12b) explain that the difference in the ketubot of these select families was that next to the lump sum they would add the words “as is deserving to you”. One can understand that the difference is that by those families the implication is that the base value has changed.26


23 The Shita Mekubetzet explains that the Gemara is not asking why the Mishnah is being taught. The Gemara later derives from the Mishnah writing “wishes to add” as apposed to “wishes to write” that the tosefet ketubah shares the same halachic status is the base value of the ketubah. The Gemara is rather asking why it is written in such a wordy manner making mention of “if he wishes to add… he may add” which simply implies that the husband can do what he wants to.

24 The Tifferet Yisrael adds that even though the earlier Mishnah (1:5) already implied that one can add to the base value of the ketubah, he explains that one could think that it is an exceptional case as it deals with kohanim who we are obligated to honour.

25 The Ritvah then explains that according to this understanding, when the Gemara says, “so as not to embarrass he who does not have” it is also coming to include the woman’s father who may be embarrassed that he could not provide a large enough dowry such that his daughter’s base ketubah would be larger.

26 For the halacha regarding how the Tosefet Ketubah is included, see the Rama (Even Ha’Ezer 66:7) and Darkei Moshe (ibid. 66:9).

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