Today’s daf (Ketubot 47b) cites Shemot 21:10 which emphasises how a husband is obligated to provide his wife with שְׁאֵרָהּ כְּסוּתָהּ וְעֹנָתָהּ – ‘her food, her clothing, and her conjugal rights’. Significantly, beyond these biblical duties, the Ketubah also includes seven further rabbinical obligations known as ‘tena’ei ketubah’ (the conditions of the ketubah) which are: a) for a husband to provide medical treatment if his wife becomes sick; b) to redeem her if she is held captive; c) to bury her if she dies; d) the right for her to continue living in his home after his death as long as she remains a widow; e) the right for her daughters to receive their subsistence from his estate after his death until they become betrothed; f) the right for her sons to inherit her ketubah in addition to their share in her husband’s estate together with their brothers.
Yet it is worthwhile taking a closer look at the text of the Ketubah, because while we would have assumed that the three biblical obligations would be explicitly stated in the Ketubah, we actually only find explicit reference to two of them where the husband commits himself וַאֲנָא אֶפְלַח וְאוֹקִיר וְאֵיזוּן וַאֲפַרְנֵס יָתִיכִי כְּהִלְכוֹת גֻּבְרִין יְהוּדָאִין – ‘and I will work, respect, feed and materially support you according to the obligations of Jewish men’ – such that only שְׁאֵרָהּ וכְּסוּתָהּ, food and clothing, are directly mentioned.
Admittedly there are those who see an allusion to the obligation of וְעֹנָתָה within the words כְּהִלְכוֹת גֻּבְרִין יְהוּדָאִין (‘according to the obligations of Jewish men’). Still, Rabbi Shmuel Segal, author of the Nachalat Shiva (Hilchot Shetarot 12:19) clearly notes how מזכיר שאר וכסות למה אינו מזכיר גם חיוב עונתה – ‘[the Ketubah] makes direct reference to food and clothing, but it doesn’t make direct reference to the obligation of conjugal rights’. But why is this the case?
Rabbi Segal answers by explaining that, in principle, since all three obligations are already explicitly stated in the Torah they do not require explicit repetition in the Ketubah. Still, our Rabbis felt that it is the things that are often overlooked by men which deserve emphasis in the Ketubah – which is why food and clothing are explicitly mentioned.
Yet while this answer may apply to many men, it doesn’t apply to all. Moreover, while it is generally understood that the provision of food and clothing requires effort, it may be (incorrectly) implied from here that deliberate effort in the provision of conjugal rights is unnecessary. And this is why, when a man prepares to get married, it is essential that he understands both the biblical and rabbinic duties of marriage; not just what is explicit in the ketubah but what is stated in the Torah itself; not just what is explicit, but what is also implied. And why? Because, while marriage contracts are important, the best of marriages aren’t just those which fulfil what is explicitly written in a marriage contract. Instead, they are marriages which, at every moment, are guided by the desire to fulfil the needs of each other.