י״ד באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״ו (March 24, 2016)

Kiddushin 13a-b: Betrothal by Stolen Property

The most common method of establishing kiddushin is the use of kesef kiddushin, where an object of value is given by a man to a woman with an agreement made between them that she accepts it for the purposes of marriage. What if the money that he had was money that he stole? Can stolen money be used for kiddushin?

The Gemara on our daf tells of a woman who was selling varshkhei. A man came and snatched some of the varshkhei. When she demanded that he return them he said, “If I return them will you marry me?” She took them back from him without saying anything. Rav Naḥman ruled that there was no marriage in this case, since the woman can claim that she was taking something that in any case belonged to her. In response to Rav Naḥman’s ruling Rava points to a baraita that clearly rules that a man can marry a woman with money that he stole, and even if he snatched a coin from her hand and then returned it to her, the kiddushin takes effect! Rav Naḥman explains that the ruling of the baraita would be true only if they had discussed – and agreed – to marriage beforehand. In our case, where no such discussion took place, the attempt at kiddushin will not work.

Several explanations are offered for the case in the. The Rashba, for example, argues that the kiddushin does not work because of the value of the coin that he gives her, since it is her coin. Rather, she agrees to marry him based on the satisfaction that she receives in having her object returned to her (that satisfaction is considered as having a monetary value).

Regarding the varshkhei that are at the center of the discussion in our Gemara, Rashi defines them as being ribbons of some sort. Rabbeinu Gershom suggests that they are scarves, while Rabbeinu Ḥananel translates the word to mean pearls.

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