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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach| 5763

Pninat Mishpat

Intra-familial Obligations–Part VII-Support for a Widow (II)

We saw last week that a widow receives support (mezonot) from her husband’s estate after his death. This, however, continues only as long as she is content to live as the widow of the deceased. According to one opinion in the gemara (Ketubot 54a), once she starts acting in a way which indicates that she is preparing for remarriage (which is certainly reasonable behavior), she no longer is entitled to mezonot. We do not accept that opinion, because she can still decide to continue to live as a widow. However, once she is betrothed, she has effectively severed her status as a dependent of the estate and no longer receives mezonot (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 93:7). Other cases where she loses mezonot include when she demands full payment of her ketuba or other cases where she is no longer entitled to a ketuba (sold or relinquished her rights, etc.) (Shulchan Aruch, ibid. :8-12). The logic is that the support as a wife even after termination of marriage by death is an extension of the concept of ketuba (t’nai ketuba). In a case where the ketuba itself no longer exists, its extension ceases to exist as well.

The cessation of mezonot is not to be seen as a tragedy, as the ketuba which she receives is designed to be sufficient to supplement her income until she is able to continue a normal life, hopefully with remarriage. From that point, she is in the same situation as a divorced woman.
We should stress that the orphans/inheritors do not have a personal liability to the widow/mother (beyond tzedaka, where applicable). Rather, the obligation is on the property of the estate. If the deceased left no property or if the property was already used up, she cannot demand payment from the personal earnings of the inheritors.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
Dedicated to the memory of R’ Meir  ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.

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