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A mishna on Ketubot 59b lists the household tasks a husband may demand of his wife (grinding corn, baking bread, washing his clothes, etc). It then goes on to say that if she brought a bondwoman (into the marriage?) that exempts her from certain of the chores, and if she brings a second then she's exempted from even more, and so on up to four (when she's exempt from everything on the list). R' Eliezer dissents and says that even if she brought a hundred bondwomen she'd have to do one of the chores.

All this got me wondering: who supports these bondwomen? Is a husband automatically obligated to do so, the same as he maintains his wife? Only for ones that predate their marriage (he knew what he was getting into)? Only if this was specifically negotiated? Only up to a certain number (and we assume R' Eliezer is exaggerating)? And if he doesn't, is his wife likely to be able to or would her father somehow still be obligated or what?

  • These women are the nechasim of the wife that the husband has rights to during the marriage. Therefore, he is obligated to support them (since he benefits from their production.) Mishnayos talk about this, but I can't say I've seen it in the halachic texts. – Isaac Kotlicky Apr 2 '15 at 15:13
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    See the Rambam Hilchot Avadim 9, 7 who deals with a number of these issues. – Meh Apr 2 '15 at 15:26

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