The Mishna (Ketubot 4:12) in today’s daf (Ketubot 52b) relates how אנשי ירושלים, the men of Jerusalem, would include the following clause in their Ketubot: ‘you shall live in my house and be supported by my estate all the days of the duration of your widowhood in my house’ – and that the אנשי הגליל, the men of the Galilee, subsequently adopted this clause and included it in their Ketubot as well. What this teaches us is that good practice has the possibility of spreading.
In contrast, the אנשי יהודה, the men of Judea, took a quite different approach and they would write the following clause in their Ketubot: ‘you shall live in my house and be supported by my estate until my heirs wish to give you your ketubah payment [at which time they will not be obliged to maintain you in my house]’.
Reflecting on the difference between these two approaches, the Yerushalmi (Ketubot 4:14) states that the former חסו על כבודן ולא חסו על ממונן – ‘concerned themselves about the honour due to a widow and did not concern themselves about what this would cost’, whereas the latter חסו על ממונן ולא חסו על כבודן – ‘concerned themselves about costs and did not concern themselves about the honour due to a widow’.
Significantly, the halacha does not follow the men of Judea – and this is because, as is implied by the Yerushalmi, the men of Judea, notwithstanding their attempt to provide a halachic justification for their position, did not show sufficient concern for the spirit of Judaism which emphasises personal and family responsibilities and loyalties above financial considerations.
Sadly, there are instances in some families and in some relationships where greater concern is shown for money than for dignity and honour. However, what we learn from here, as well as countless other places, is that such a choice is not reflective of the Jewish way.