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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin

Folio 35a

in order [to render marriage] more attractive1  the Rabbis made a concession in her case. We are told [therefore that this is not so].

THEY [THE RABBIS] REFRAINED FROM IMPOSING AN OATH ON HER. What was the reason of this refusal? Shall we say it is to be found in the incident reported by R. Kahana, or, according to others by Rab Judah in the name of Rab, viz., that in a year of scarcity a certain man deposited a denar of gold with a widow, who put it in a jar of flour. Subsequently she baked the flour and gave [the loaf] to a poor man. In course of time the owner of the denar came and said to her, 'Give me back my denar, and she said to him: May death seize upon one of my sons2  if I have derived any benefit for myself from your denar, and not many days passed — so it was stated — before one of her sons died. When the Sages heard of the incident they remarked: If such is the fate of one who swears truly, what must be the fate of one who swears falsely! Why was she punished? Because she had derived advantage from the place of the denar.3  How then could the Sages speak of her as one who had sworn truly? — What they meant was, One who might be said to have sworn truly. If that is the reason [why the Rabbis refrained from imposing an oath], why only to a widow? Why not also to a divorced woman? Why has R. Zera said in the name of Samuel, 'This rule applies only to a widow, but to a divorced woman an oath is administered'? — There is a special reason in the case of a widow, because she finds a justification for herself [for swearing falsely] on account of the trouble she has taken on behalf of the orphans.4

Rab Judah stated in the name of R. Jeremiah b. Abba: Rab and Samuel were both agreed that this rule applied only to an oath imposed in the Beth din, but outside the Beth din an oath may be imposed on a widow.5  Is this so? Is it not a fact that Rab would not enforce payment of a kethubah [by orphans] to a widow?6  — This is a difficulty. This is the version given in Sura. In Nehardea the version is as follows, Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: This rule applies only to an oath imposed in the Beth din, but outside the Beth din an oath may be imposed on a widow. Rab, however, held that even outside the Beth din an oath may not be imposed on her. [This dictum of] Rab [is] in conformity with his expressed view, for Rab would not enforce payment of a kethubah to a widow. Why did he not make her take a vow7  and so let her recover? — In the time of Rab, vows were not treated lightly.

A certain woman appealed to R. Huna [to enforce payment of her kethubah]. He said to her, What can I do for you, seeing that Rab would not enforce payment of a kethubah to a widow? She said to him: Is not the only reason the fear that perhaps I have already received part of my kethubah? By the Lord of Hosts I swear that I have not received a penny from my kethubah. Said R. Huna: Rab would admit [that we enforce payment] where the widow takes the oath spontaneously.8

A certain woman appealed to Rabbah son of R. Huna [to enforce payment of her kethubah]. He said to her: What can I do for you seeing that Rab would not enforce payment of a kethubah and my father also would not enforce payment of a kethubah to a widow? She said to him: At least grant me maintenance. He replied: You are not entitled to maintenance either, since Rab Judah has said in the name of Samuel: If a woman claims her kethubah in the Beth din, she has no claim to maintenance.9  She said to him: Turn his seat upside down!10  He gives me [the worst of] both authorities.11  They turned his seat over12  and put it straight again, but even so he did not escape an illness. Rab Judah said to R. Jeremiah Bira'ah: impose a vow on her in the Beth din and administer an oath to her outside the Beth din, and see that the report reaches my ears, since I desire to make this a precedent.13

[The text above stated:] 'R. Zera said in the name of Samuel: This rule applies only to a widow, but to a divorced woman an oath is administered.' Cannot then a divorced woman recover her kethubah on [merely] taking a vow? Was not [a communication] sent from there14  saying that 'So-and-so the daughter of So-and-so received a Get from the hand of Aha b. Hedia who is also known as Ayah Mari and took a vow binding herself to abstain from all produce whatsoever if she should be found to have received of her kethubah anything besides a blanket, a book of the Psalms, a copy of Job and a copy of Proverbs much worn,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. To women in general by making it easier for them to recover their kethubahs.
  2. Lit., 'May the poison of death have benefit from one of the sons of this woman.'
  3. Which saved her the corresponding quantity of flour.
  4. For which she considers she is entitled to some compensation.
  5. Within the Beth din she would be required to take a scroll of the Law or a pair of phylacteries in her hand and swear by one of the divine Names, but outside the Beth din these solemnities would be dispensed with.
  6. Surely he could have had an oath imposed on her outside the Beth din.
  7. In accordance with the regulation if Rabban Gamaliel. V. Mishnah.
  8. Lit., 'jumps forward'.
  9. V. Keth. 542.
  10. [May he be humiliated (Rashi) — a curse the allusion of which is not quite clear. Goldschmidt connects it with the action of overturning the seat of one who died.]
  11. I.e., you follow Rab in refusing to collect the kethubah and Samuel in refusing maintenance.
  12. [That the force of the curse should find itself spent in its literal fulfilment].
  13. Rab Judah was a disciple of Samuel, and desired to impose his ruling on R. Huna and the other disciples of Rab.
  14. From Eretz Yisrael to Babylon.
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Gittin 35b

and we valued them at five maneh. When she presents herself to you, empower her to collect the rest.'1  — R. Ashi said: The Get in that case was one given by a brother-in-law.2

RABBAN GAMALIEL THE ELDER MADE A REGULATION THAT SHE SHOULD TAKE A VOW, etc. R. Huna said: This rule applies only if she is not married again, but if she is married, she cannot take the vow. What is the reason why she cannot take it if she is married? Because her husband may annul it.3  Even if she is not married, cannot the husband annul it when she marries again? — A husband cannot annul vows taken previously to his marriage with her.4  But is there not a possibility that she may apply to a Sage5  and obtain release from him? — R. Huna held that the particulars of the vow must be stated to the Sage.6  R. Nahman held that even after the [second] marriage [she may take the vow]. But if she is married there is no question that the husband can annul the vow? — The vow must be taken by her in the presence of a company.7

An objection [against R. Huna's ruling] was raised [from the following]: If she has married again, she may recover her kethubah provided she has taken a vow. Does not this mean 'if she takes a vow now'? — No; it means, if she has taken a vow before [the second] marriage. But has it not been taught: 'If she marries again, she can take a vow and recover her kethubah'? — There is a difference on this point between Tannaim, since there is an authority who holds that a vow which has been taken in the presence of a company can be annulled, and there is an authority who holds that it cannot be annulled.8

The question was raised in the Academy: Is it necessary to state the particulars of the vow [on seeking annulment] or is it not necessary? — R. Nahman said that it is not necessary, R. Papa said that it is necessary. R. Nahman said that it is not necessary, because if you say that it is, it may happen that the applicant will not state the case fully9  and the Sage will act on what he has been told.10  R. Papa said it is necessary, to prevent forbidden things being done.11

We have learnt:12  'If [a priest] marries a woman whom he should not,13  he is disqualified [from participating in the Temple service] until he vows to have no benefit [from his wife]:'14  and in this connection it was taught, he can take the vow and participate in the service and give the divorce when he descends.15  Now if you say that it is not necessary to state particulars of the vow, is there not a possibility that he may apply to a Sage and obtain release?16

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Apparently the couple had gone from Babylon to Palestine and the husband had given the divorce there, but his property was in Babylon.
  2. Who divorced her after having married her as levir, and the kethubah to which she was entitled was that given by the first husband, and therefore she claimed it as a widow and not as a divorced woman.
  3. In accordance with the law laid down in Num. XXX, 8.
  4. This rule is based on the words, And if she vowed in her husband's house in Num. XXX, 11.
  5. If a vow was found to be impossible of fulfilment, a Sage was empowered to discover a loophole for remitting it, v. Ned. 21ff.
  6. And if the woman stated that her reason was to obtain money to which she was not entitled, he would certainly not release her.
  7. Lit., 'many', i.e., ten or more, R. Nahman holding that such a vow could not be remitted.
  8. And this authority therefore allows her to recover the kethubah on taking such a vow even after she is married.
  9. Lit., 'will cut short his account.'
  10. And he may grant release where it should be withheld or vice versa.
  11. E.g., to prevent the woman from obtaining money wrongfully or to prevent someone from doing a wrong act from which he has vowed to abstain.
  12. Bek. 45b.
  13. Lit., 'in transgression', e.g., a divorced woman.
  14. I.e., to divorce her (Rashi).
  15. From the altar after finishing the service.
  16. So that retrospectively he proves to have taken part in the service when disqualified.
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