כ״ה בשבט ה׳תשע״ה (February 14, 2015)

Ketubot 12a-b: A Close Relationship

As we have learned, during Talmudic times it was common practice for the kiddushin to take place a full year before the nissu’in . Our Mishna teaches that in Yehuda – Judea, the southern part of Israel – it was not unusual to allow the bride and groom to become intimate prior to the nissu’in, and that in such cases the groom could not claim at the time of the nissu’in that his wife was not a virgin (as we have learned – see 2a – such a claim would need to be brought before the to clarify whether adultery may have taken place).

The Talmud Yerushalmi offers an explanation for the tradition of Yehuda that is quoted by many of the commentaries on our Gemara. As we learned earlier in Massekhet Ketubot (3a), during the times of the Mishna there was a governmental decree stating that, “Betula ha-niset be-yom ha-revi’i, tiba’el la-hegmon tehilah – any virgin marrying on Wednesdays will first be deflowered by the prefect.” In order to ensure that the couple would develop a healthy marital relationship – and that the wife would not have her first sexual experience at the hands of a Roman prefect – the man and woman were encouraged to develop a close relationship even before the completion of the marriage ceremony. Rabbeinu Yehonatan adds that once the prefect realized that the Jewish women were no longer virgins at the time of their weddings, the edict was no longer kept and it fell into disuse.

What is clear from all of the rishonim is that for all that the Mishna uses a term of modesty “when one eats at his father-in-law’s home in Yehuda,” the bride and groom actually engaged in a physical – and perhaps even sexual – relationship. The Meiri writes that this relationship, which was, in effect, consummation of their marriage, was often celebrated with a festive meal, which is the reference in the Mishna to a meal at the father-in-law’s house.

The Talmud Yerushalmi concludes by saying that this Judean tradition remained, even after the governmental edict ended.

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