October 22, 2022

Ketubot 74

One of the various well-known rules of a wedding is that the gift that the groom gives his bride – which nowadays is generally a ring – must be worth a ‘perutah’. Given this, the question addressed in today’s daf (Ketubot 74a) is what is the marital status of a couple who formally wedded through the groom giving his bride (either knowingly or otherwise) a gift worth less than a ‘perutah’, but who then subsequently cohabited together – which itself is considered to be a means of getting married.
The answer, we are told, is that they are married such that were they to choose to separate, a ‘get’ (Jewish divorce) would be required. And why? Because, as the Rif explains, this is due to the principle – discussed in my commentary on yesterday’s daf (Ketubot 73a) – of אין אדם עושה בעילתו בעילת זנות which means that whenever someone has sexual relations with another, we do not presume that they do so casually.
So far we have addressed the legal dimension of the question asked by our Gemara. However, beyond this issue, this couple may possibly wonder whether their relationship was ‘jinxed’ by the fact that their first endeavour to marry (i.e. the gift) was invalid and therefore unsuccessful – such that they are only married by virtue of a secondary act (i.e. cohabiting together).
Interestingly, the period of time that we are currently in – namely the month of Ellul up until Yom Kippur – has some parallels with this Gemara. As we know, God originally gave us the Torah on Shavuot, but then, because Bnei Yisrael built the Egel Hazahav, Moshe broke the first set of tablets. However, in response to Moshe’s petitions on behalf of the people (which form the basis of the selichot), God forgave the Bnei Yisrael as reflected by the second set of tablets. Simply put, though the first ‘giving’ was marred, God did not consider this relationship to be ‘jinxed’.
Similarly, there can be instances when a friendship can be marred by misunderstanding or dispute. Yet while work needs to be done to repair the relationship, the very fact that those events occurred does not mean that the friendship is ‘jinxed’.
What we learn from all this is that oftentimes our first attempt at doing things doesn’t work out. However, this doesn’t mean that it will never work out. Instead, all it means is that we need to find a better way of doing things.
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