כ״ט באדר ה׳תשע״ה (March 20, 2015)

Ketubot 46a-b: Rights and Responsibilities

The Mishna on our daf teaches that while a young woman lives in her father’s house he has rights and responsibilities with regard to her, most of which are passed on to her husband when she marries. Among the father’s rights we find:

  • He can marry her off,
  • Money that she earns or finds will belong to him,
  • Upon hearing that she has made a vow, he can cancel it,
  • He can receive divorce papers on her behalf.

Once she marries, her husband will have the right to derive benefit from property that she owns (which the father cannot do). The husband is obligated to feed her, to redeem her from captivity (should that unfortunate occurrence take place) and, should she die, must arrange her burial. Rabbi Yehuda teaches that even the poorest Jew must minimally arrange for two flutes and a mekonenet – a professional wailer for the funeral.

During the time of the Mishna, flutes were considered an essential part of the funeral ceremony, to the extent that special dispensation was given to have them brought even in circumstances where there were halakhic problems that had to be overcome. In more recent times this tradition has fallen out of favor, apparently because it was seen as being a non-Jewish custom.

According to the Gemara, the Tanna Kamma agrees with Rabbi Yehuda that the husband is obligated to ensure that all traditions are kept at his wife’s funeral. The difference between them is in a case where the husband and wife come from different social strata. Without question, when the husband comes from a higher class family, during her lifetime he must treat her with all of the honor due to someone of that class – in the language of the Gemara, “Olah imo ve-einah yoredet imo.” When she has passed away, however, does this still apply? Rabbi Yehuda rules that it does, and he must hire flutes and a mekonenet, if that is his family’s tradition.

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