י״ד באייר ה׳תשע״ה (May 3, 2015)

Ketubot 90a-b: When a Man with Two Wives Dies

The tenth perek, called Mi she-hayah nassuy, deals with an issue that first appeared in the last perek: how the estate should be divided in a case where a man was married to more than one woman and has children with each wife. Clearly, if the estate has enough money to pay all of its obligations, there is no problem. What happens, however, when the ketubot of the women amount to more than the money that was left?

In such a situation, three issues need to be dealt with:

  • First of all, which of the wives has first priority in collecting her ketuba, and how is this determined?
  • Secondly, how do we deal with a case where the value of each ketuba was different? Does it make sense that each should get an equal amount? Should each get according to a percentage that matches the basic obligation? Should one party simply win out?
  • Finally, how should the ketubat benin dikhrin be treated?

The ketubat benin dikhrin is one of the standard conditions that is included in the ketuba, which guarantees that the woman’s sons will inherit the value of her ketuba, over and above any other inheritance that they deserve. Given the fact that the value of each woman’s ketuba might be different, and the reality that each woman may have a different number of children who are inheriting, we will need to clarify how the various claims on the estate will be worked out.

The first Mishna in the perek lays down one straightforward rule for setting priorities – if a man is married to two women and he dies, his first wife has priority over his second with regard to collecting her ketuba. This stems from the fact that each of them comes with a claim based on a written contract, and the date of the first wife’s contract precedes that of the second. The Talmud Yerushalmi points out, however, that this rule applies only to the ketuba payment. With regard to other obligations, like ongoing daily support, both widows are on the same legal footing.

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