Our Mishna discusses the case of someone who leaves his wife and appoints someone to make sure that she has all of her needs as delineated by the ketuba. The Mishna lists the basic requirements that must be supplied in such a case: food, furnishings, clothing and so on. The simple reading of the Rambam seems to imply that a husband can unilaterally choose this arrangement with his wife. Many point out that the simple reading of the Gemara – both the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi – does not appear to permit such an arrangement without the wife’s agreement. In fact, the Rashba, the Re’ah and others explain the Mishna according to the Yerushalmi – that our case is one in which the wife agreed to this arrangement.
The Ri”d and the Ra’avad explain our case to be when the husband’s work keeps him away from home for the entire week, a situation that existed from the time of their wedding, indicating that she accepted this when she married. The Meiri argues that even the Rambam would not have allowed a man to arrange for his wife to sleep with another family; this arrangement could only be made with the wife living in her husband’s house and being clothed and fed by a third party.
As noted, the husband must arrange for his wife to be fed and clothed, and the Mishna enumerates specific foods, clothing and furniture for which monies must be made available for her. Clothing, for example, includes a kippah for her head and a belt, shoes, and 50 zuz annually for the purchase of clothing. The kippah was the common head covering made of wool or some other material, which covered most of a woman’s hair. During the time of the Mishna, women would not walk outside with just a kippah on, but rather would cover themselves a second time with a shawl, kerchief or hat, as well as other fashion items.