Not a practical question! I'm reading a parable (from haza"l) that I don't understand.

If a woman wanted to get out of a marriage because she committed adultery and the choice was between divorce or death (as we see, for instance, in the life of Hosea). Is there some way in which destroying the ketubah would help her force the issue in favor of divorce? Is she somehow making the kiddushin unproveable? Is she forcing her husband to divorce her because he can't sleep with her? (Though she's already forbidden to him because of the adultery.) Is there something that would prevent him from writing a new ketubah and then insisting on the death penalty?

I realize that question mixes up rabbinic and biblical law. I'm trying to understand how the rabbis who wrote a particular allegory would have understood the halacha in a(n imaginary) world in which capital punishment was still in force but ketubah was already a reality.

I'm primarily interested in the question as described above. But if anyone would like to know what brought it to mind: Jacob Neusner/Louis Epstein both suggest that tosefta Bava Kamma 7:4 and parallels compares the first tablets to a ketubah and the second tablets to a get. If you went with this reading, then you would read the smashing of the first tablets as Moshe's attempt to force the issue in favor of divorce over the death penalty (https://books.google.com/books?id=zuxMLzsCrF0C&lpg=PA8&ots=fqU_ZZ7qZC&dq=destroy%20ketubah%20evidence%20of%20marriage&pg=PA8#v=onepage&q=destroy%20ketubah%20evidence%20of%20marriage&f=false). I realize this interpretation of the story is odd. But I'm less interested in the story itself than in why anyone would read it like that.

Related but not identical:

What is the status of a married woman without a kesuba?

Is marriage without ketubah considered marriage, concubinage, or kiddushin she’einah re’uyah le’biah (marriage that cannot be consummated)?

May a woman who has had an affair remain married to her husband?

  • 3
    Divorce doesn't absolve an adulteress from punishment!
    – Double AA
    Jul 13, 2016 at 21:43
  • @DoubleAA perhaps the intent is that she does'nt want to continue the sin with the husband following the rule אחד לבעל אחד לבועל and the husband doesn't believe that he is prohibited for her.
    – kouty
    Jul 14, 2016 at 0:36
  • @DoubleAA. That's what I thought! But the previous passage in the tosefta version of the story also says something along those lines: i.e. the first exile should be compared to a woman who has been "ruined" for her husband so he divorces her and sends her home to her father's house (i.e. Abraham's former country). And not to cast aspersions on Am Yisrael, but the 'wife' in that story was committing pretty public adultery, if the prophets are to be believed... Is it possible there was a custom that the husband had some say in the question of punishment? (Like the wife in the Sotah ritual?) Jul 14, 2016 at 1:48
  • 1
    @NotGoodAtExamples If there aren't witnesses and warning she isn't killed. She is forever forbidden to her husband and to the adulterer. The husband never has a say in punishment, even in the Sotah ritual.
    – Double AA
    Jul 14, 2016 at 1:50
  • 1
    @Kouty. You're right, I found the line he quoted somewhere else entirely (Shemot Rabbah 46:1)! It's out of context in that chapter but it says: "משל לשר שנטל אשה וכתב לה כתובה ונתנה ביד השושבין, לאחר ימים יצא עליה שם רע, מה עשה השושבין קרע את הכתובה אמר מוטב שתהא נדונית כפנויה ולא כאשת איש, כך עשה משה אמר אם אין אני משבר את הלוחות אין לישראל עמידה שנאמר (שמות כב) זובח לאלהים יחרם, מה עשה שברם אמר לו להקב"ה לא היו יודעין מה היו כתוב בהם Jul 15, 2016 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Kiddushin (technical marriage) is independent of Ketuba. The mishna in Kiddushin said that, after the Kiddushin, she gets out of marriage by Get (bill of divorce) or death of the husband.

Ketuba is a written contract (Kettuba may be translated by written).

Gemara in Ketubot says that there were communities that did not write a Ktuba.

The lack of a written Ketuba may be a proof that the divorced husband already paid it. But if the husband has not divorced, it is more complex.

Anyway, the act of tearing the Ketuba is not in itself a cancellation of nothing (fairly sure, there is a great complexity in halacha concerning the true nature of a Shtar (written legal act), but Shtar Ktuba does not interfer with kiddushin, the fact of being married) but absence of Ketuba can have a marked effect in case of dispute concerning its payment.

  • I'm not sure how we'd know what I'm about to ask, exactly. But is there any way that tearing up the ketubah would make it impossible to prove that she was a married woman subject to the death penalty? It seems like the witnesses to the kiddushin could still prove that, no? Jul 13, 2016 at 20:24
  • @NotGoodAtExamples Yes, if there were witnesses (which there must have been), then the fact that she tore up the ketuba makes no difference. The ketuba is written for the woman's benefit. I can't imagine any scenario where destroying it would benefit her.
    – Daniel
    Jul 13, 2016 at 21:08
  • @Daniel ketuba is not needed in most cases a document proving that she was married. Everybody in the neighborough know that mrs Plonit is married. the Ketuba will not change something.
    – kouty
    Jul 14, 2016 at 7:50
  • @NotGoodAtExamples I will bli neder examin the link, and the references inside text its seems very interesting
    – kouty
    Jul 14, 2016 at 8:04
  • @Kouty, thanks! By the way, someone pointed out to me that it may not be a story about nissuin only erusin (which is what Avot DeRabbi Natan says). So then the story would be: Erusin (ADRN), God writes the first tablets as a ketubah, he appoints Moshe his shaliach to deliver it, but before that happens Israel fornicates with the golden calf and God threatens to kill 'her', so Moshe rips up the ketubah-tablets to protect her (Shemot Rabbah), and then God writes out the second tablets as a get (Tosefta) or a second ketubah (Devarim Rabbah). Jul 14, 2016 at 14:14

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