In the Mishna (54b) we learned that Rabbi Yehuda offers an option of reducing the value of the ketuba if the woman agrees to accept less than the standard 100 or 200 maneh. She does this by writing a receipt that indicates that she has already received part of the ketuba payment. Rabbi Meir disagrees, insisting that anything less than the standard 100 or 200 maneh is not a true marriage.
Our Gemara approaches Rabbi Yehuda’s ruling from a very practical perspective. Does he truly believe that a person who has made partial payment of a loan will need to accept a receipt? In fact, we find that Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion is that when a loan is paid back in part, an entirely new contract must be written. According to Rashi this is necessary to protect the interests of the borrower who otherwise will need to constantly be concerned that the receipt may be lost.
Two answers are offered by the Gemara. Abaye points out that Rabbi Yehuda is concerned for the borrower who paid part of the money that he owed, but – if the receipt is lost – may be faced with a contract that appears to indicate that nothing had been paid. In our case, however, no payment was made, so if the husband ends up paying the entire amount he will not incur any loss. Rabbi Yirmeya suggests that the receipt be written on the ketuba itself, which will solve the problem that the receipt might become lost.
The commentaries point out that Rabbi Yirmeya’s suggestion does not fully solve the problem. Even when the receipt is written on the ketuba, the wife, who is the one who holds the ketuba, may try to erase those words or cut them off of the ketuba!
Some understand from Rashi that the woman’s agreement to consider part of the ketuba as having been paid is written into the body of the ketuba itself, above the signatures of the witnesses, so no changes can be made in it. If this is the case, it is clear that this can be done only in the case of ketuba, and not in cases of standard loan contracts.