ח׳ באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״ו (March 18, 2016)

Kiddushin 8a-b: An Invalid Betrothal

As we have learned, when ruling about issues of marriage, it is essential that the statements of the man and the woman be clearly understood – to both each other and to those witnessing the event. The Gemara on our daf presents a series of cases where it appears that the woman is accepting kiddushin from the man, but upon closer examination of the case, she may be rejecting it.

For example, if a man hands a woman a coin and says, “Hitkadshi li be-maneh – marry me with this coin,” and she takes it from him and throws it into the ocean or into a fire, we interpret her actions to mean that she is rejecting his offer of marriage. The Gemara explains that we need to state this clearly lest someone argue that she had accepted the money, and is now simply testing her husband’s ability to deal with anger. The Me’iri explains that in all such cases we must rely on the understanding of the witnesses and the interpretation of the events made by the court.

In a similar case, the Gemara says that a man who offers a woman a loaf of bread, if she says, “Give it to the dog,” we understand that she is rejecting the offer of marriage. If, however, the dog belonged to her, then the marriage takes effect.

A case presented by the Gemara that ends with a different conclusion is when the woman responds to the offer of a loaf of bread by saying, “Give it to that poor person.” In this case, the poor person was someone who she regularly supported. The Gemara explains that in the case of a poor person, since the man is as obligated to support him as the woman is, her directive does not indicate acquiescence.

The Talmud Yerushalmi offers a similar case with a different conclusion. If a man offers a sela (a fairly large coin) to a woman, and she instructs him to give it to a poor person, the kiddushin does take effect. Most of the commentaries point to this as an example of disagreements between the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi. Others suggest that we must distinguish between a loaf of bread, which is a small thing and a valuable sela, which would not ordinarily be given to a poor person as charity.