The Mishna on our lists situations where a woman can be divorced without receiving her ketuba. These include a woman who transgresses “the law of Moses” or “Jewish practice.”
According to the Mishna, transgressing the “law of Moses” includes:
- feeding her husband untithed food,
- engaging in relations while she is a niddah (during the period of her menstruation)
- not setting apart her dough offering,
- making vows and not fulfilling them.
Going against “Jewish practice” includes:
- going out with an uncovered head,
- spinning wool in the street,
- conversing with every man.
Other opinions in the Mishna include situations like that of a wife who curses her husband’s parents in his presence or one who screams to the extent that her neighbors can hear her outside the house.
Clearly, these are just broad categories of inappropriate behavior. The Rambam rules, for example, that any non-kosher food would be grounds for divorce without ketuba.
It is interesting to note, that even though the entire Torah should be considered “the law of Moses,” nevertheless, according to the Mishna the fact that a woman commits sins is not in itself grounds for a man to divorce his wife without paying the ketuba. It is only if the wife’s disregard for Jewish law directly affects their marriage that he will be allowed to do so. This is because the ruling that allows the husband to divorce his wife without paying ketuba is not a punishment for her behavior, rather it is the natural consequence of her actions that make it impossible for the couple to remain married to one another. This can be illustrated by the ruling presented by Rabbi Elhanan Wasserman in his Kovetz Shiurim. Rabbi Wasserman argues that if the husband regularly eats non-kosher on his own, then the Jewish court will deny his request to divorce his wife without paying ketuba, since the fact that she serves him non-kosher food does not affect their marriage.