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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5771

P'ninat Mishpat: Divorce With Problems About the Ketuba

(condensed from Shurat Hadin, vol. IV, pp. 101-104)

Case:  The husband (=pl) has been demanding divorce for 12 years. Beit din ruled that the wife (=def) is obligated to receive a get. Pl is poor and cannot pay the ketuba, but def is living in an apartment owned by his parents, and they are willing to let her continue staying there for free as instructed by beit din.  


Ruling: The minimum value of a ketuba (200 zuz) is, according to the Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 66:6) 37.5 drahm or 120 grams of silver. The Rama rules that the currency of the ketuba is based on Torah-level currency, which means this is multiplied by 8, making the sum 960 grams. A standard Ashkenzai ketuba adds 200 zekukim for property the wife brings into the marriage and an addition to the basic ketuba. That sum comes to 57,000 grams, according to the Chazon Ish, and 2,784 grams, according to the Nachalat Shiva. The more accepted ruling is like the latter (Piskei Din Rabbaniim XI). In the couple’s ketuba, the ancient silver currency was also translated into Israeli currency, at 170,000 liras. However, since the ketuba does not link the lira sum to any price index, that is now worth less than a basic ketuba, due to inflation.

There are different opinions regarding whether raising the amount due to change in the currency is a violation of ribbit. The Taz (end of Even Haezer 66) says that a ketuba is not a loan, and therefore it can go up if the currency is increased, except regarding the element of the dowry. The Maharit (II, EH 2) says that although the gemara says that after a currency change one uses the lesser currency, that is only in regard to the usability of the currency, but if the weight of coins changes, one follows the original currency to which one obligated himself. The Chatam Sofer (EH 126) says that this is a case where the authority of the king/government determines how to translate the old currency into present-day use. In the final analysis, because of the different opinions, def is entitled only to the weight in silver of the 200 zuz plus the calculation of zekukim according to the Nachalat Shiva.

However, pl is unable to pay even that amount in the immediate future, and the question is whether he can give a get under those circumstances. The Beit Yosef (EH 117) cites the Rosh that the woman is to receive the get, after which he will have an obligation upon him which will be paid as feasible. On the other hand, he cites (in EH 119) the Rashba as saying that he is not allowed to give a get if he is not able to pay the ketuba. The Beit Yosef and Rama (EH 119:6) side with the Rosh. The Chelkat Mechokek (119:5) says that the Rosh may only have spoken in a case where the wife has an obligation to receive the get, but that in a case that the get is optional, he has be able to pay the ketuba. The Oneg Yom Tov adds that the husband is allowed to give the get without the ketuba only when it is possible to force the husband to pay.

In our case, since def is obligated to receive a get, beit din has the ability to enforce obligations, and there is a reasonable solution for def (use of pl’s parents’ apartment) in lieu of ketuba payment, there is no need to delay the get any further.


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