Currency Exchange

Ketubot (13:11) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 9 years ago

The last Mishnah in Masechet Ketubot discusses the issue of paying a ketuba where the currency of the place of marriage differs to where the divorce occurs. If the marriage occurred in Eretz Yisrael, and the divorce occurs either in Eretz Yisrael or Kapotkia1 then the woman shall receive her payment in the currency of Eretz Yisrael. If the marriage occurred in Kapotkia and the divorce occurs in the same region than the currency of Kapotkia is used. The machloket in the Mishnah refers to a case where the marriage occurred in Kapotkia and the divorce occurred in Eretz Yisrael. The Tana Kama states that in this instance the woman receives her payment in the currency of Eretz Yisrael, while Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel (Rashbag) states that she receives her ketuba in the currency of the region where she was married (Kapotkia).

The Bartenura explains the reasoning behind this machloket is dependent on whether one holds that the paying of the ketuba is from the Torah or of rabbinic origin. The Bartenura adds further that the currency of Kapotkia was heavier and thus worth more than that of Eretz Yisrael. The Tana Kama, who holds that paying the ketuba was of rabbinic origin would rule leniently allowing the lighter currency of Eretz Yisrael instead of what was documented. Rashbag who holds that the paying of the ketuba is m’dorayta would rule stringently.

The Tosfot Yom Tov differs slightly from the Bartenura and holds that the argument is not referring to the principal amount of the ketuba (which all agree is from the Torah), but rather upon any amount over and above that shiur. Rashbag would say that anything above the minimum shiur is d’orayta and just like any other debt – where one would go l’chumra and go after the currency in which the debt was made. The Tana Kama would hold that this portion is d’rabbanan – and we are lenient regarding this portion and could pay from Eretz Yisrael.

In light of the fact that Rashbag holds that this law is from the Torah, the Ran notes the position of Rashbag in the first case of the Mishnah (where she married in Eretz Yisrael) as puzzling. In this case the Ran wonders why she should be paid in the currency of Eretz Yisrael. After all, the context of the payment of the ketuba is learnt from the words “kesef tzuri” – which refers to Tzurite currency. Additionally, by stipulating that the currency should be paid from that of Eretz Yisrael, the husband is effectively making a condition expressly forbidden in the Torah which Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel forbids!2

The Ran answers that indeed Rashbag does hold that the ketuba itself is of d’orayta origin, however actual terms of the ketuba are that which have been agreed between husband and wife. He holds that the 200 zuz component was made by the Chachamim based on other sources (namely the cases of Ones (rape) and Mefate (seduction)). However, the ketuba on the Torah level is that agreed upon by the parties and this can be done in any currency.

Interestingly the Yerushalmi has a different version of this machloket. It states that the coins of Eretz Yisrael were more valuable than those in Kapotkia.. The Yerushalmi also switch the opinions, so Rashbag in fact holds that the ketuba is d’rabanan, while the Tana Kama holds it is from the Torah. This is why the Tana Kama holds that the woman must be paid from coins from Eretz Yisrael and Rashbag would hold (leniently, in this case), that they may come from Kapotkia.

The likkutim state this seeming contradiction between our Mishnah’s version and the Yerushalmi is perplexing. After all, whether Rashbag is stringent or lenient is not a question of logic but one of metziut (reality) over which coin is actually worth more. The likkutim offer a fascinating insight. The coins from Kapotkiya were able to be cut (chaser - literally missing) and still have value. This is unlike the coins of Eretz Yisrael which would be worthless if not whole. Therefore, one would never take away from their weight. Our Mishnah is referring to the original weight of the coins – where coins of Kapotkiya would be larger than those in Eretz Yisrael. In this case Rashbag would be machmir and say that one must pay with coins from Kapotkiya. However the Yerushalmi see the coins of Eretz Yisrael as more important due to them being more chashuv (either from remaining whole, or the fact that they come from Eretz Yisrael. Therefore in this case Rashbag’s opinion would be viewed leniently.


1 According to most opinions, the use of the land of Kapotkia is mentioned as an example for currency other than that of Eretz Yisrael. The Bartenura refers to this region as Kaftor .

2 See Ketubot Perek 9: Mishna 1

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