Our Gemara discusses the impact of a woman’s decision to sell her ketuba (mokheret) or to forgo her ketuba (mehilah). Although we may not view a ketuba as a commodity, nevertheless, it has potential value and an investor may be interested in purchasing it at a discount in the hope that the marriage will end in divorce or as a result of the husband’s death before his wife’s demise, so that he will be able to collect the ketuba payment. The Gemara relates that only a woman who is in difficult financial straits would agree to sell her ketuba. Forgiving the ketuba occurs when a woman wants to improve and show her faith in the marriage by stating that she is willing to forgo the ketuba payment.
The idea of forgoing the ketuba is a difficult one, as the halakha requires a married couple to always have a ketuba. When presented with this question, the Ri”f explained that we cannot be talking about a case in which the wife gives up all of the rights that appear in the ketuba; rather she merely relinquishes the payments that are due to her from the orphans after her husband’s death. Alternatively, she gives up the right to tosefet ketuba – the money offered by the husband over-and-above the basic requirement of 100 or 200 maneh. Another approach is suggested by the Sefer haIṭṭur, who explains that she may have forgone the basic payment that is due to her, but only in the event of death. The payment made in the event of divorce cannot be forgiven, since the underlying principle of the ketuba is to ensure “she-lo te-he kalah be-einav le-hotziah – that he should not feel that he can divorce her very easily.”
The conclusion of the Gemara is that a woman who forgoes her ketuba will not receive mezonot (food). Most commentaries argue that this does not free her husband of his obligation to feed his wife, as that is a Biblical requirement (see daf 48 ); rather, it refers to the obligation of the orphans to feed her in the event that her husband dies. Nevertheless, the Rambam rules that in the case of mehilah, the husband is actually free of this obligation, as well.