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The Babylonian Talmud in Selection, by Leo Auerbach, [1944], at

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The Marriage Contract

(Tractate Kethuboth)

A VIRGIN is to be married on the fourth day of the week, and a widow on the fifth day. Because the court is in session in the towns twice a week, on the second and on the fifth days of the week. So if a man questions the virginity of his newly wedded wife, he may bring suit in court the next morning.

The marriage settlement of a virgin is two hundred zuz and of a widow one hundred zuz. A virgin who becomes a widow after betrothal, or a divorcee or an Haluzah, her marriage settlement is two hundred zuz, and if her virginity is questioned, may be taken to court.

An adult who had intercourse with a minor, or a minor who had intercourse with an adult, or one whose hymen was broken by accident, her settlement is two hundred zuz, according to Rabbi Meir. The sages say: If it was due to an accident, her settlement is one hundred. A virgin who becomes a widow after betrothal, a divorcee or an Haluzah, her marriage settlement is one hundred zuz, and the question of her virginity cannot be taken to court.


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SOMEONE came to Rabban Gamaliel and complained: I have found an "open door". Said the Rabbi: You might have moved it aside. I will give you an illustration: A man walked in the darkness of the night; he came upon a door. If he happened to move it, he found it open; if he did not happen to move it, it was locked.

Someone came to Rabban Gamaliel ben Rabbi and said: Master, I have had intercourse with my newly wedded wife and found no blood. The wife said: Master, I was a virgin. The Rabbi said: Bring me the sheet. When the sheet was brought he took it and soaked it in water and washed it, whereupon he found many drops of blood in the water. Then the Rabbi said to the husband: Go home and be happy with thine lot.

Someone came to Rabban Gamaliel ben Rabbi and said: Master, I have had intercourse with my newly wedded wife, and found no blood. The wife said: Master, I am still a virgin. Said the Rabbi: Bring before me two bondwomen, one a virgin and one that has been with man. They brought him two bondwomen; one a virgin, and one that had been with a man. He made them sit on a keg of wine. The one who had been with a man, the aroma of wine came through her, but the virgin,—the aroma of the wine did not go through her. He then made the wife sit on a keg of wine, and the smell did not go through her. The Rabbi then said to the husband: Go home and be happy with thine lot.



IF THE woman lost her marriage contract, or hid it, or it was burnt, and if she produce witnesses that any one of the following took place: If they danced before

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her, played before her, if the cup of glad tidings was passed before her, or the sheet of virginity was exhibited: if she can produce proof of any one of these things, her marriage dowry shall be two hundred zuz.



THE Rabbis taught: How does one dance before a bride? The House of Shamai says: According to what the bride is like. The House of Hillel argues: You say beautiful, charming bride. The House of Shamai argued with the House of Hillel: Suppose she is deformed or blind, how can one say "beautiful and charming bride"? The Torah has taught us: (Exodus xxiii, 7) Keep thee far from a false matter. The House of Hillel answered to the House of Shamai: As you wish. If one has brought back a bad bargain from the market, should one praise his purchase to his face or deride it?—No doubt one should praise it. Therefore the sages said: A person should always be pleasant to other people. Rabbi Dimi said: In the West they sing thus before a bride; No eye-paint, no rouge and no waving of hair, and still "charming and most beautiful".

When Rabbi Zera was ordained they sang before him: No eye-paint, no rouge and no waving of hair and still "charming and most beautiful".

When Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi were ordained they sang before them as follows: Ordain unto us such as these, such as these, but do not ordain unto us scoundrels and idiots.

When Rabbi Abbahu came from the academy to the palace of the king, maidens of the court came forth before him and sang; Prince of his people, leader of his nation, brilliant light, blessed be thy coming in peace.

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It is said of Rabbi Yehuda bar Elai that he used to take a twig and dance before the bride and say: Beautiful and charming bride. Rabbi Samuel ben Rabbi Isaac would also dance with twigs. Rabbi Zera said: That Graybeard is putting us to shame. When Rabbi Samuel passed away a pillar of fire came between him and the whole world. And it has been known that such a pillar of fire appears only once and at the most twice in a generation. Rabbi Zera said, it was on account of the twig. Others said it was because of his fine character, and some said because of his folly.

Rabbi Aha took the bride on his shoulder and danced. The Rabbis asked him: May we do the same? He answered: If the bride be on your shoulder like a beam, you may; otherwise not.

Rabbi Samuel ben Nahmani said in the name of Rabbi Jonathan: One may gaze upon the face of the bride all the seven days of the wedding festival, so as to make her husband more desirous of her. But the law is not in accord with this.



THE seducer pays three kinds of compensations. The violator, four kinds. The seducer must pay for indignity and blemish, and the legal fine. The violator must add to it compensation for the pain that he caused. What is the difference between a violator and a seducer? The violator causes pain; the seducer does not cause pain. The violator pays the penalty at once; the seducer only if he declines the girl. The violator must drink out of his pot; but the seducer, if he wishes, may decline the girl.

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How does the violator drink out of his pot? He is compelled to marry her even if she be deformed, blind; even if she be afflicted with boils. But if she was found to be immoral, and therefore not fit to marry an Israelite, he does not have to live with her. For it is said: (Deuteronomy xxii, 29) and she shall be his wife. This means a wife that is suitable for him.

What is the compensation for indignity? It is all in accordance with the case of the offender and the offended. And in case of blemish? The girl is considered as if she were a bondwoman that is put up for sale. How much was she worth before, and how much is she worth now?

The fine is the same for all, and whenever there is a sum fixed by the law, it remains the same for all.



THE father exercises authority over his daughter as regards her betrothal, through money, a contract, or intercourse. To him belong all that she may find and all her handiwork, and he may void her vows. He also receives her writ of divorce. But he may not use her property during her lifetime. If she gets married, her husband supersedes the father, because he has the right to her property during her lifetime; but the husband is responsible for her maintenance, her ransom, if she be captured, and for her burial. Rabbi Yehuda said: Even the poorest in Israel will provide not less than two flute players and one wailing woman.


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THE following are the chores which a woman must perform for her husband: Grind flour, bake, launder, cook, nurse her son, make ready his bed, and work at the wool. If she brought him one bondwoman she need not grind the flour, nor bake, nor launder. If she brought two, she need not cook, nor nurse her son. If she brought three, she need not make his bed, nor work at the wool. If she brought four she may sit in a chair all day long. Rabbi Eleazar said: Even if she brought him a hundred bondswomen, he should compel her to work at the wool, for idleness leads but to unchastity. Rabbi Simon ben Gamaliel said: If a man vowed not to permit his wife to work, he should be made to divorce her, and give her her marriage settlement, for idleness leads to ennui.

If a man vowed not to sleep with his wife, the House of Shamai says: She may agree to two weeks. The House of Hillel says: One week only. Students may go away to the colleges without their wives’ permission for thirty days; laborers may stay away from their wives only one week. The Torah prescribed the marital duties as follows: Men who are unoccupied: every day; laborers, twice a week; ass-drivers, once a week; camel-drivers once in thirty days; sailors, once in three months. These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer.

If a woman does not consent to her husband, he may reduce her marriage allotment by seven denars each week. Rabbi Yehuda says: seven tropaiks. How long may he keep on reducing? Until her whole allotment is used up. Rabbi Yosi says: He may keep it up forever. If, perchance, an inheritance falls to her lot, he may put a claim upon it. If a man does not consent to

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his wife, her allotment is to be increased by seven denars each week. Rabbi Yehuda says: three tropaiks.


IF A man maintains his wife through a third person, he must allot to her not less than two measures of wheat or four measures of barley. He must also give her half a measure of beans and half a loog of oil, a measure of dried figs or a minah of pressed figs. If he cannot provide these he may substitute other fruits in their place. He must also provide her with a bed, and a mattress. If he has no mattress, a mat. He must also give her a cap for her head and a girdle for her loins and shoes at each of the festivals and clothing to the amount of fifty zuz, each year. If he cannot give her new clothes for the summer and old clothes for the rainy season, he must provide clothes to the value of fifty zuz in the rainy season, and she may clothe herself with worn garments in the summer. The used garments remain her property. He must also give her a silver coin for her needs. And she is to dine with him each Sabbath eve. If he does not give her the silver coin for her needs, her handiwork belongs to her. How much must she produce for her husband? In Judea she must weave for him the weight of five selahs; in Galillee ten selahs, but if she is nursing a child, they must reduce the amount of her work and increase her food allowance. This is spoken of the poor, but the rich must provide according to their standing.



GRINDING of flour. How come you to say a thing like that? You can interpret it: supervise the grinding of flour, but if you will, you can say: grinding with a

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hand mill. The Mishna does not teach in accordance with the views of Rabbi Hiya, for Rabbi Hiya taught: A woman is only for beauty, or only for the sake of the children she will bear. Further Rabbi Hiya taught: A woman is only good for the finery she wears. And Rabbi Hiya also stated: Whosoever wishes his woman to look nice should dress her in linen garments. Whosoever wishes his daughters to have a clear complexion should feed her young chickens and give her milk to drink before she is about to attain her maturity.


OUR Rabbis taught: A child should be nursed twenty-four months. From then on, it is as if it sucked a detestable thing. These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer.

Rabbi Joshua said: The child may nurse even for four or five years, but if it stopped at twenty-four months and then started again, then it should be regarded as if it were sucking a detestable thing.

The Rabbis taught: If a woman agrees to nurse someone's child, she must not nurse her own child or a friend's child at the same time. If she agreed to a small fee, she still must eat plenty, and while she nurses, she must not eat anything that will be injurious to the milk.


A WOMAN that has her marital relations in a mill will have epileptic children; one that has intercourse on the ground will have children with long necks. A woman that steps on the blood of an ass will have scabby children. If she eats mustard, she will have hot tempered children. One who eats cress, will have bleary-eyed children. If she eats fish-soup, she will have children with

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blinking eyes. If she eats earth, she will have ugly children. One who partakes of intoxicating drinks will have dark children. The woman who eats meat and drinks wine will have strong children. If she eats eggs, her children will have big eyes. If she eats fish, her children will be very graceful. One who eats parsley will have beautiful children. One who eats coriander will have stout children. If she eats citrons, her children will have a pleasing scent. The mother of King Shapor's daughter ate citrons during her pregnancy, and the daughter used to be brought before her father as his finest perfume.


STUDENTS may go away to college, etc. For how long a period may they go with the permission of their wives?—For as long as they wish. What should be the usual time? Rab said: One month at college and one month at home. As it was said: (1 Chronicles xxvii, 1) In any matter of the courses which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year.

Rabbi Yohanan said: One month at college and two months at home. As it was said: (1 Kings v, 14) A month they were at Lebanon and two at home.

For laborers, twice a week. Were we not taught, laborers once a week; how is this? Rabbi Hanina answered: There is no contradiction here. One speaks of those who work in the town where they live, while the other speaks of those who work away from their home town.

How often should the scholars perform their duties

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to their wives? Says Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Samuel: Every Sabbath eve.

Yehuda the son of Rabbi Hiya and son-in-law of Rabbi Yanai spent all his time at the academy but every Sabbath eve he would go home. When he arrived one could see a pillar of light before him. Once he was so engrossed in his studies that he forgot to go home. When Rabbi Yanai missed the sign he said: Cover his bed, because if Yehuda were alive, he surely would not fail to do his duty towards his wife. This was (Ecclesiastes x, 5) as an error which proceedeth from the ruler, for Yehuda's soul went to its eternal rest.

Rabbi Hanania ben Hakinai went to the academy and remained there twelve years. When he returned, the streets in the town were changed and he could not find his home. He sat himself down beside the river. There he heard someone call: Daughter of Hakinai, daughter of Rabbi Hakinai, fill thy pitcher with water and we will go home. This maiden must belong to us, he thought, and he followed her. When they came to the house, his wife was sitting at the door and sifting flour. When she raised her eyes and saw him, her heart stopped beating and she passed away. Then the husband prayed to the Lord: This poor soul, is that her reward? Have mercy on her. And she came to life again.

Rabbi Akiba was a shepherd in the service of the wealthy Ben Kalba Sabua, and Sabua's daughter saw how noble and modest he was. She fell in love with him. One day she addressed him. If I should get betrothed to you, would you go away and devote your time to study and become a scholar? Most surely, replied Akiba. They were then secretly betrothed and she sent him forth to

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the academy. When her father found out about it, he drove her out of his house and vowed that she would not receive any inheritance from him.

Rabbi Akiba spent twelve years at the academy; when he returned twelve thousand disciples followed him. While he was home he heard an old man say to his wife: How much longer do you choose to remain in living widowhood? However, she retorted: If he would listen to me, he would spend another twelve years in the academy.

Whereupon Rabbi Akiba said: It is, then, with her consent that I may go, and immediately departed to the academy for another twelve years. When he returned this time there were twenty-four thousand disciples who followed him.

When his wife was advised that he was on the way, she went forth to greet him. Her neighbor begged her to borrow some clothes and finery and attire herself in them. But she answered: (Proverbs xii, 10) A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast. When she approached him, she fell upon her face and kissed his feet. His servants wanted to drive her away, but Rabbi Akiba said: Leave her alone. All that is mine and all that is yours belongs to her.

When her father heard that a great man had come to town, he said: I shall go to him, he may release me from my vow. When he came, Rabbi Akiba asked him: Would you have made your vow if you knew that your daughter's husband was a great scholar? Sabua replied: If he but knew one chapter of the Torah or one article of law, I should never have made my vow. Whereupon Rabbi Akiba said: I am the man. Sabua fell upon

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his face and kissed his feet and then bestowed upon him half of his wealth.

The daughter of Rabbi Akiba did the same thing with Ben Azai. This is just as the people say: One sheep follows another, like the mother so is the daughter.


WHEN Rabbi Yehuda, the Prince, was about to die, he asked for his sons. When they appeared before him, he said to them: Be careful to respect your mother. The candles should remain lighted in their place. The table should always be set in its place, and the bed shall always be made up in its place. Joseph of Haifa and Simon of Ephrath who attended to me while I was alive, shall attend to me when I am gone.

Then he asked for the Sages of Israel. When the Sages of Israel arrived, he said to them: Do not mourn over me in the small towns. Reassemble the classes in the academy after thirty days. Simon, my son, is wise. My son, Gamaliel, is Prince, and Hanina ben Hama shall preside over the academy.

Then he asked for his son, Simon. When Simon came in, he instructed him in the orders of wisdom. Then he asked for his elder son, Gamaliel. When Rabbi Gamaliel came, he instructed him in the traditions and conduct of his office. He said to him: My son, conduct your principality with honor and cast bile among the disciples.

On the day that Rabbi Yehuda died, a voice appeared and announced: All those who were present at the death of the Rabbi will be destined for the world to come. A launderer who used to come to the Rabbi every day did not appear that day. When he heard of the voice that

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appeared, he went up to the roof and jumped and was killed. The voice appeared again and announced: This launderer is also destined for the world to come.

The day before the Rabbi died, the Sages proclaimed a public fast and prayers for the life of the Rabbi. They further vowed that whoever would say the Rabbi died, would be killed.

The Rabbi's maid-servant went up to the roof and prayed: The angels want the Rabbi to join them and the mortals want the Rabbi to remain on the earth. May it please the Lord that the mortals be victorious over the angels. But when she saw how many times he had to go to the lavatory and how he suffered at the taking off and putting on of the phylacteries, each time, she prayed: May it please the Lord that the angels be victorious. But as the Rabbis did not stop their prayers for a moment, she took a crock and hurled it to the ground. The Rabbis stopped their prayers, and that moment the soul of Rabbi Yehuda departed.

The Rabbis told Bar Kapra to go in and investigate. When he went in, he found that the Rabbi was dead. He tore his garments and returned to the Rabbis and said: The angels and the mortals have gotten hold of the Holy Ark. The angels overpowered the mortals and the Holy Ark has been captured. Has his soul departed? they asked of him. You said it, he replied; I said nothing.


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