ד׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ה (May 22, 2015)

Ketubot 109a-b: A Father’s Financial Obligation

Yesterday’s daf introduced us to a case where a woman’s father promises a dowry to his daughter, but then cannot pay his son-in-law. As we saw, in such a case there is a disagreement between the and Admon. According to the, the wife will remain in limbo forever, while according to Admon – whose opinion is accepted as the – the wife may argue that she is not responsible for her father’s financial issues and demand that her husband either accept her or divorce her.

Tosafot bring the question that many of the rishonim ask: Why should the woman suffer because her father is not paying? If the father obligated himself, then it should be the responsibility of the court to force him to pay what he owes.

The Ritva points out that this question only applies according to those opinions that understand the expression pashat lo et ha-regel to mean that the father refuses to pay. If the father cannot pay because he has no money, the court can hardly force him to pay what he does not have. Still, according to the other approach, why doesn’t the court obligate him to pay and solve the problem? This question is especially powerful because of the ruling of Rav Giddel, which we studied earlier, that even verbal agreements on the financial arrangements surrounding a marriage are binding (see Ketubot 102).

The Rashbam explains that the agreement is only binding if the wedding took place immediately after it was made, which clearly is not the case in our story. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rav Giddel’s ruling applies only to a first marriage, and our Mishna must be talking about a subsequent marriage.

One other issue that is raised by the commentaries with regard to this case is whether we consider the father to have fulfilled his agreement if he has no money at all, since he is then viewed by the as an anoos – someone who was forced by circumstance and cannot be held responsible.