PAGES 1 TO 198







B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit.


IntroductionPAGE xi
Chapter I2
Chapter II15
Chapter III29
Chapter IV41
Chapter V54
Chapter VI65
Chapter VII70
Chapter VIII78
Chapter IX83
Chapter X90
Chapter XI95
Chapter XII101
Chapter XIII104
Index of Scriptural References
General Index
Transliteration of Hebrew Letters


Intro 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110
111 112                


[page xi] Kethuboth,1  the second Tractate of the Order of Nashim, deals in the main with the laws relating to married life in its various aspects and manifestations, enumerating, discussing and defining the privileges and duties of husband and wife in their mutual relationship from the day of their betrothal. Cognate subjects, such as questions of immoral conduct and infidelity, and the relative rights of a father and husband, and other topics bearing directly or indirectly upon the main theme are introduced as amplifications, illustrations and elucidations or as part of the arguments and discussions.

CHAPTER I, beginning with the institution of marriage, fixes the week-days on which marriages are to be solemnized and determines the form and number of, and the restrictions applicable to, the benedictions ordained for the occasion. The minimum amounts of the kethubah to which virgins, widows, divorcees or other women belonging to the various strata of social and religious life are entitled, and the conditions governing the forfeiture of her kethubah by a wife in the absence of her virginity, are duly indicated. The age at which a child may be admitted as a proselyte and the circumstances in which this is allowed are incidentally introduced. Other subjects dealt with include the questions of the reliability of a woman's testimony concerning the status or the innocence of a man with whom she had had intercourse and the conditions in which a ravished girl is not necessarily debarred from marrying a priest. [page xii]

CHAPTER II deals with disputes on the amount of a kethubah, arising from a disagreement between husband and wife as to whether the latter was married as a virgin or a widow. This is followed by an enumeration of the conditions under which witnesses to a deed may invalidate their signatures, and a discussion of the following questions: In what circumstances a woman's word is accepted when she states that she is divorced or that, though she had been a captive, she had remained undefiled; when a man is believed to be a priest on his own evidence, and when a woman imprisoned by heathens is permitted, and when forbidden, to her husband. The principle is laid down that no one may testify concerning oneself, and priests' wives in a town that was taken by troops of siege are forbidden to their husbands unless independent evidence in their favour is forthcoming. An enumeration of cases where grown up persons are believed when testifying to what they had seen in their childhood concludes the chapter.

CHAPTER III lays down the laws of compensation, fines and penalties relating to the violation or seduction of certain classes of women, a distinction being drawn between these and others in whose case some or none of the forms of compensation or fines are applicable, and a discussion is included on the question of the imposition of two penalties for one act involving two offences. How compensation is computed, when a fine is due to the victim herself and when it is to be paid to her father or son are other subjects discussed, and the principle is enunciated that any fines or payments exceeding the actual cost of the damage done need not be paid on one's own evidence.

CHAPTER IV discusses the rights of a father to his young daughter's acquisitions or possessions, such as fines, briefly discussed in the previous chapter, compensation, kethubah, finds and the proceeds of her handiwork; the claims of a husband to some of these rights and the duties he assumes in return; the relative rights of a father and husband; whether a father is legally or morally obliged to maintain his children, and the duties and privileges of brothers when a young sister claims maintenance out of their deceased father's estate; from what date distraint for [page xiii] a kethubah or a deed of sale may be exercised; the penalties of a betrothed proselyte who played the harlot and those of the man who wrongly accused his wife of an immoral act; and the privileges of a wife and her children under the statutory rules of the kethubah though the document was not properly drawn up or was never written. A number of the famous enactments of Usha are quoted and discussed.

CHAPTER V proceeds to lay down the rules in relation to additions to, and deductions from, the statutory kethubah, the wife's right in this connection to distraint and its limitations, the different periods allowed to several classes of women for the preparation of their marriage outfits and the times when they are eligible to eat terumah if their intended husbands or levirs are priests. Under what conditions a husband may consecrate a wife's handiwork, the services a wife must perform for her husband, how long she must suckle her child, the times for marital intercourse, the penalties if one of the parties refuses the other his or her conjugal rights, and the minimum of food and clothing a husband must allow his wife if he maintains her through an agent, are among the other subjects discussed and determined.

CHAPTER VI defines a husband's rights to his wife's property, handiwork and acquisitions, and gives the ratio between the additional jointure which he must assign to her in her kethubah and the capital in money or kind which she brings to him on marriage. The amount of the dowry that a daughter may expect from her father or from his estate after his death, and the extent to which she may recover it from assigned property, are duly indicated; and the duty of providing for the marriages of orphans and for the general necessities, and even luxuries, of the poor is discussed in some detail, emphasis being laid on the preservation of the dignity and selfrespect of the recipients. Other subjects dealt with include those of a father-in-law who promised a certain amount to his son-in-law and of a father who deposited a sum of money with a trustee for the benefit of his daughter, who wishes it to be handed over to her husband.

CHAPTER VII is concerned with the laws governing the relations [page xiv] between, or separation of a husband and wife where he, by making a vow, seeks to prevent her from deriving any benefit from him, from eating a particular kind of fruit, from enjoying any particular pleasure or from fulfilling any of her legitimate desires, and enumerates cases of morally or physically defective women who may be divorced without a kethubah, and of men who on account of their objectionable bodily condition or occupation may be compelled to divorce their wives.

CHAPTER VIII deals with the disposal of money, goods, slaves, or landed property inherited by a wife, or a widow awaiting the levirate marriage or halizah (v. Glos.) by her deceased husband's brother, and describes the circumstances in which the inheritance belongs to the woman or the man. The limitations of a husband's claim to the return of expenses incurred in the amelioration of his wife's property are also laid down.

CHAPTER IX contains a variety of subjects: The forms and modes of a husband's renunciation of his rights to his wife's property, and the legal consequences resulting therefrom; the relative claims of a wife, creditor and heirs to the estate of a deceased man; an oath of honest dealing that may be exacted from a wife who trades for, or administers the estate of her husband, and the forms and modes of exemption from it; the oath that may be required from a woman who impaired her kethubah and from one distraining on orphans' property; the laws governing the right to the collection of a kethubah where the woman produced her letter of divorce and her kethubah, one of the documents, two of each or two of the former and one of the latter and vice versa. The chapter concludes with a statement on the validity of the kethubah of the wife of a minor, and a proselyte who was converted at the same time as her husband, and with a discussion on the validity in such cases of the additional jointure.

CHAPTER X determines the priority of the claims to the recovery of their kethubahs and to exemption from oath of two or more wives who were married to the same husband, the relative rights of their respective heirs, and the legal position in the event of the surrender by one of the women of her claim to distrain on the [page xv] buyer of her deceased husband's estate. These laws give rise to a discussion on the respective rights of creditors holding bonds that bear different dates.

CHAPTER XI sets out the rights and duties of a widow in relation to her late husband's orphans; lays down laws affecting the validity or invalidity of the action of a wife who sells her deceased husband's estate, and of Beth din or agents who sell any estate, at a higher or lower price than the market value. Classes of women not entitled to a kethubah, maintenance or any of the other privileges of a wife and those who are entitled to some of these privileges are enumerated.

CHAPTER XII circumscribes the extent and limitation of the obligations of a man towards his wife's daughter whom he had undertaken to maintain for a certain number of years, and of heirs towards the widow of their father, and the periods within which a widow's kethubah must be claimed by herself and her heirs respectively.

CHAPTER XIII records the rulings of two famous Jerusalem Judges on the claim to maintenance by the wife of an absent husband; on the refunding of the expenses of a person who, without any authorization, has supplied her with maintenance; on the priority of sons and daughters respectively where the estate left by their father was large or small; and on the legal demand from her intended husband of a woman whose father failed to pay the sum he had promised him. Incidentally are mentioned other rulings by the same Judges on pleas that cannot be regarded as an admission of part of a claim; the trustworthiness of a witness who signed a deed of sale and then contested the ownership of the holder of the deed; the rights of the man the path to whose field was lost during his absence abroad; the invalidity of a bond of indebtedness where the debtor produced a later deed shewing that the creditor had sold to him a field of his, and the respective claims of two persons who produced bonds of indebtedness against each other. The serious consequences of taking bribes and the meticulous care it is necessary to exercise in order to escape temptation are duly described and illustrated. The currency in which certain [page xvi] kethubahs must be paid is discussed, and Judaea, Transjordan and Galilee are declared to be distinct countries so that a wife may refuse her husband's wish to leave one of these to settle in another. The superiority of Palestine over all other lands and of Jerusalem over all other towns is proclaimed and illustrated.

The Aggadic material of the Tractate includes midrashic and homiletic interpretations of Scripture and stories and incidents pointing morals.

The work of the righteous is regarded as greater than that of creation; and the manner in which R. Gamaliel set an example of simplicity in burial is related (Ch. I).

Some wedding songs and a number of feats performed by Rabbis for the entertainment of the bride and bridegroom are recorded, and the opinion is expressed that one can never praise too highly a bride's charm or virtues. The order of precedence in attending on the dead, on a bride and on a king is indicated and it is also laid down when even engagement in the study of the Torah must give way to attendance on the dead or to participation in wedding festivities (Ch. II).

In the matter of charity one is advised to spend not more than a fifth of his wealth lest by too much liberality he become impoverished and fall a burden upon the public funds. Popular remedies for scorpion bites and the sting of bees are mentioned and some rules are laid down as to the age when a child's education should begin and at what successive ages he may start on Scripture and Mishnah. The Psalmist's praise of him who does righteousness 'at all times' is variously applied to the man who maintains his own children, who brings up orphans in his house or who studies the Torah and teaches it to others. (Ch. IV).

The opinion that a wife should be taken merely for the sake of her beauty, or for the sake of children or merely for the sake of wearing her finery, and the extent of the influence of the diet of an expectant mother on her child is referred to, and the romance of the marriage of the shepherd Akiba with the daughter of Ben Kalba Sabu'a and his subsequent attainment to the highest rank of scholarship and affluence is given at considerable length (Ch. V). [page xvii]

The story of the daughter of the wealthy Nakdimon b. Gorion, whose marriage settlement amounted to a million gold denarii and who was eventually reduced to abject poverty is told, the loss of the family's fortune being attributed to Nakdimon's self-glorification when assisting the poor or to his failing to give in accordance with his means (Ch. VI).

How R. Joshua b. Levi visited Paradise and succeeded for a while in depriving the Angel of Death of his knife is related (Ch. VII) and the closing scenes of the life of R. Judah I, his last wishes and instructions, and his burial and mourning are graphically described (Ch. XII).

The circumstances in which Seder Eliyyahu Rabbah and Seder Eliyyahu Zuta (v. infra fol. 106a) came to light, quotations from Ben Sira, the love and adoration of Palestine, the merit and dignity of scholars, the marvellous events and manifestations in the days of the Messiah and other eschatological matters are embodied in the last chapter.

Among medieval commentators on which the notes are based, Rashi takes first place and the Tosafists follow though at a very great distance. Of moderns, L. Goldschmidt, M. Jastrow and J. Levy must be specially mentioned.

Thanks are due to Professor Edward Robertson, D.D., DLitt. for kindly reading the proofs, to my son Judah J. Slotki, M.A., who, besides compiling the indices, read through the entire MS. and made a number of valuable suggestions, and to my daughters, Deborah and Shulamith Rose, who prepared the typescript for the press and assisted in the checking of the proofs. I must also express appreciation of the sympathetic interest in my work shewn by the librarians of the Manchester University and the John Rylands Libraries by whom most of the books required for this work were generously supplied.


  1. [H] is the pl. of the noun [H] (rt. [H] 'to write') prob. of the form with waw in place of the kubbuz. If it is regarded as the particip. pass. fem. pl. of [H] the vocalization should be [H]. The noun denotes generally anything that 'is written', but in a technical or legal connotation it is applied to (a) a marriage deed, (b) the statutory sum that is due to a wife in the event of her husband's death or on being divorced, or (c) a wife's jointure or settlement which her husband assigns to her voluntarily or in return for assets that she brings to him on marriage. As the laws and discussions relating to these and cognate subjects constitute its main body the entire Tractate assumed the name of Kethuboth.

The indices of this Tractate have been compiled by Judah J. Slotki, M.A.


The Editor desires to state that the translation of the several Tractates, and the notes thereon, are the work of the individual contributors and that he has not attempted to secure general uniformity in style or mode of rendering. He has, nevertheless, revised and supplemented, at his own discretion, their interpretation and elucidation of the original text, and has himself added the notes in square brackets containing alternative explanations and matter of historical and geographical interest.


Come and Hear™ to increase interfaith understanding
An educational forum for the examination of religious truth and religious tolerance.