The sixth perek of Massekhet Ketubot focuses on the nedunya – the dowry that a woman brings into her marriage. This nedunya is not a biblical obligation and is not considered a required part of the marriage agreement. Nevertheless, over time traditions developed that were given legal sanction by the Sages of the Mishna.
Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as telling the story of Nakdimon ben Guryon’s daughter, who was allotted 400 gold pieces for her daily perfumes. Upon hearing their decision, she blessed them that their daughters should receive such a dowry, as well – a blessing that the Sages readily accepted by saying amen (this is in contrast with the blessing that his daughter-in-law offered that we learned about on yesterday’s daf). The Talmud Yerushalmi presents her “blessing” as a sarcastic statement, because she felt that the money allotted was not enough to fulfill her daily needs. The Sages’ ready acceptance was because this was more than any common woman would receive.
Nakdimon ben Guryon was one of the wealthiest residents of Jerusalem during the period of the destruction of the Second Temple. The Gemara in Massekhet Ta’anit (20a) tells of his generosity and concern for the Jewish people, as well as the miracle that happened to him to repay his debts.
His great wealth is mentioned a number of times in the Talmud. The Gemara in Gittin relates that he and two other wealthy people accepted upon themselves the responsibility to support the city of Jerusalem for the duration of the Roman siege around the city, and that with his wealth could have succeeded in doing so for 20 years. Nevertheless it appears that during the civil war that broke out in the city, his storehouses were destroyed and he was left destitute. This explains the continuation of our Gemara in which the daughter who mocked the allotment of perfume that she received eventually turns to Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai to beg for support.