י״ד באדר ה׳תשע״ז (March 12, 2017)

Bava Batra 49a-b: A Husband and His Wife’s Property

According to Jewish law, what are some of the mutual responsibilities of husbands and wives?

This question is discussed by the Gemara in response to the Mishna’s teaching (see daf 42a) that ba’al be-nikhsei ishto – a husband working his wife’s property – will not gain a ḥazaka (presumption of ownership) on the field. Since the husband has legitimate reason to be on the field – he has rights to the produce – there is no reason for his wife to complain about his presence there, so his being there cannot support a claim that the field had been purchased by him.

The Gemara objects that this is obvious, and need not be taught, since everyone knows that a husband has rights to the produce in his wife’s field. In response the Gemara suggests that this is talking about a case where the husband says din u-devarim ein li be-nekhasayikh – I have no claim to your property – renouncing his right to the produce that ordinarily belongs to him by law. Thus, the Mishna is teaching that even in such a case, where the husband has no right to be in his wife’s field, still he cannot claim to have a ḥazaka if he has spent three years in the field, since it is likely that his wife did not object to him being in the field even without a legal right to be there.

In explaining how the husband may lose his rights to the produce in his wife’s field, the Gemara quotes Rav Huna in the name of Rav who rules that a woman can say to her husband eini nizonet ve-eini osa – you do not have to feed me, and I will not turn over my earnings to you.

The Gemara in Massekhet Ketubot explains that the mutual responsibilities between husband and wife established by offer a measure of equality between them. The Ritva understands that according to Rav Huna the parallel obligations of mezonot and ma’aseh yadayim (food for the wife in exchange for her earnings) were established for the wife’s benefit, since the husband must provide full support even if she earns very little. It is for this reason that she can choose to reject the Rabbinic enactment if she chooses.

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