Precedence in Ketubah Claims

Ketubot (10:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 years ago

The tenth perek opens by explaining that if a man dies leaving two wives, then the wife whose ketubah is dated earliest claims (the money owed to her in) her ketubah first. We learn in the fourth Mishnah that if their ketubot were dated the same, they would have equal claims and the estate would be divided equally until the ketubot were paid.

This rule of precedence is repeated in the fourth Mishnah, with the case involving four wives. The Mishnah however adds the detail that when the first wife claims her ketubah she is required to make a shevuah (oath) to the next wife that she had not already collected her ketubah. This Mishnah is important since it includes a debate regarding whether the final wife must make a shevuah. The Chachamim maintain it is unnecessary as this is the final ketubah to be collected. Ben Nanas however disagrees. The Bartenura explains that the arguments is based on the concern that later it may be discovered a field that was claimed, e.g. by the third wife was in fact stolen by the husband and in the end reclaimed. According to the Chachamim the third wife would be able to seize the land claimed by the forth and therefore would not be lose out in this case. According to Ben Nanas however, the fourth wife can retain that land. Consequently, since the third wife could ultimately lose out by the forth wife claiming her ketubah, the latter must make a shevuah prior to claiming her ketubah.

The Mishnah however ends that if all the ketubot had the same date, then they estate would be divided equally until the ketubot were all paid. The Tosfot Yom Tov find this detail unnecessary as it was taught previously.

R' Akiva Eiger stresses that the focus of this Mishnah is the obligation of shevuot, as we have explained. Consequently, the end of this Mishnah is to be understood in this context. In other words, if the ketubot were all dated the same, then they would all equally be required to make a shevuah (even though practically they would be paid one after the other). R' Akiva Eiger explains that in this case even the Chachamim would agree. Recall that the debate was if claimed land if could be seized by another creditor that has a higher priority claim. In this case however, since the ketubot are all dated the same, once the land is claimed by one of the wives for her ketubah, it cannot be seized. Consequently, if it was discovered later that one of the claimed lands did not in fact belong to the husband she could lose out. The Mishnah is therefore necessary to teach that everyone agrees, all the wives must make a shevuah in this case.

R' Akiva Eiger provides another answer. Had we relied on the earlier Mishnah, one might have though that the claims are considered equal, only if we know with certainty that the ketubot were obligated simultaneously. The wording of this Mishnah however implies that we only know the timing based on the details of the ketubot. It is possible however that one ketubah was closed at the beginning of the hour while the other at the end. In such a case, one might think that the matter should be resolved at the discretion of the Beit Din. Consequently, this Mishnah is necessary to teach the even in this case, their claims are treated equally1.


1 The Tifferet Yisrael appears to argue with the R' Akiva Eiger as he comments that the end of the Mishnah teaches that they have equal claims if their ketubot are dated with the same hour applies even if one was written prior to the other within that hour.

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