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The Mishna says: If a man says to a woman, "Marry me. I am rich.", and she agrees, but it turns out he is poor, the betrothal is not valid. If a man says to a woman, "Marry me, even though I am poor.", and she agrees, but it turns out he is rich, the betrothal is also not valid. [Kiddushin 48b, see also Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 38:24]

The Gemara asks: Why the second? Because she may say, "I do not want a shoe that is too big for my foot." [I.e., I do not want to marry above my social standing -- my husband may act haughtily towards me and I also do not want to constantly worry about whether I am using the right fork for the fish.] [Kiddushin 49a]

My question is: The Mishna and commentaries assume that "rich" and "poor" are clearly defined. Are they? I could not find precise criteria anywhere.

  • Clear cut didn't have to be clearly defined. It could be that there is no objective definition in this context, but to the man and woman involved there could be a clear meaning and deception. It's hard to imagine nullifying a betrothal on an even slightly questionable deception here. – Mordechai Dec 31 '19 at 21:41
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    I think that as in Nedarim הלך אחר לשון בני אדם – kouty Dec 31 '19 at 21:44
  • The point is that the woman had a certain understanding about the man's wealth and that understanding turned out not to be true. – Daniel Dec 31 '19 at 22:28
  • This is not something which lends itself to being well-defined, and I would not expect to find a strict definition. – simyou Jan 1 at 13:44
  • If I were to reinterpret the Mishra, I would say "richer than you" instead of "rich" and "poorer than you" instead of "poor". That would fulfill the intention even if "rich" and "poor" had clear definitions. – Maurice Mizrahi Jan 1 at 15:26
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See the Talmud’s elaboration on 49b:

על מנת שאני עשיר אין אומרים כרבי אלעזר בן חרסום וכרבי אלעזר בן עזריה אלא כל שבני עירו מכבדים אותו מפני עושרו

‘On condition that I am wealthy,’ we do not say, like R. Eleazar b. Harsom and R. Eleazar b. Azariah, but as long as he is honoured by his fellow citizens on account of his wealth.

(Soncino translation)

Rashi there explains (based on other Talmudic passages) that the former had 1,000 ships and 1,000 cities, and the latter would tithe 13,000 calves from his flock each year.

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    Still a little loose as a definition, but better than nothing. – Maurice Mizrahi Jan 1 at 0:48
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The opinion of the Aruch Hashulchan (EH 38:94) regarding this matter is that rich is a fluctuating term which is determined per the locale.

וזהו ידוע שבעיר קטנה נקרא עשיר בסכום קטן ובעיר גדולה לא נקרא עשיר בסכום כזה, ולכן תלוי לפי המקום שהוא דר בו [נ"ל]

It is commonly known that in a small city it takes less wealth to be considered rich than in a big city. Thus, this law depends on the location.

See too Chazon Yechezkal on Tosefta, Kidushin 3:10.

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