By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 39 – It Just Isn’t Worth It
The Chachamim hold that she does not get paid any kesubah, and Rabi Yosi holds that although she doesn’t get a full kesubah of a besulah, she does get paid a kesubah of one hundred zuz.
So what’s the basis for the machlokes?
The Chachamim hold that since a m’aneis is forced to marry his victim (if the father and girl both agree) and is never allowed to divorce her against her will, there is no reason for a kesubah. The whole reason why kesubah was instituted (for non besulos) in the first place was only to serve as a deterrent; that it shouldn’t be so easy for a man to divorce his wife (since before the takanah of Rabbeinu Gershom a man could divorce his wife against her will). It’s going to cost him so he thinks twice about it. This guy can’t divorce his wife anyway, though, so there is no need. That’s what the Chachamim say.
Rabi Yosi, on the other hand, holds that we have to be concerned that the m’aneis-husband may incessantly agitate his wife to the point where she will want to be divorced from him. To prevent him from potentially employing such a backhanded way of getting rid of her, we do impose on him the obligation to pay a one hundred zuz kesubah in the event that she asks to be divorced and he acquiesces.
At first glance, Rabi Yosi’s argument sounds really solid. After all, we are dealing with a guy who, in a moment of volcanic, unchecked animalism, committed an act that is quite beyond the pale. Now that the father and girl both decided that, given the circumstances, their best option is to take advantage of the absolute obligation that the Torah imposes on the m’aneis, and the latter was forced to marry her and can never relieve himself of her; he may very well be motivated to attempt strong-arming her into wanting to get divorced.
So why do the Chachamim argue with Rabi Yosi? What is their sevara?
What they hold, apparently, is that he won’t do it. At least not in the vast majority of situations. Why not? Because it just isn’t worth it for him. For all he knows, she doesn’t feel that she has any other options. Particularly so given the fact that she exercised her right to insist that he marry her to begin with. And a husband who acts like a jerk to his wife is most likely to get repaid in kind. With interest. She can make his life miserable no less than he can do to her. What he stands to “gain” from trying to backhandedly “convince” her that divorce is her only salvation, is an ongoing situation of misery and suffering for himself, with no end in sight. That tunnel of darkness is just way too long. There is no light visible at the end. So even if he would like to, it is just not worth it. He just won’t do it.
You see, even though this guy did something bad – really bad – that doesn’t mean he is plain dumb. Yes, in that moment that his yeitzer hara threw a tsunami of tempestuous lust in his face he didn’t stop himself from acting like a wild animal. But that doesn’t mean that because of that he is going to stew in his own juices and cause himself to suffer for the rest of his life. Whatever got him to this point is done already, and there is nothing he can do to change that. Brooding and internally sulking about it, just being all angry and bitter about it, is not going to change anything. On the contrary, all it will do is take that moment of intense ignominy, freeze and preserve it, and empower it to define and determine the quality of his life, and marriage in particular, from here on in.
And that would just be plain dumb. Because all he is going to get from that is suffering. Misery. Plain and simple.
Sometimes spouses can get stuck in rut of standing on principle. He is unhappy about this. She can’t put up with that. They wind up harping on another and bickering about their petty differences. It can become just an absolute mess. When you ask each one why he/she fights, the response will often be, “Because he does such and such and I just cannot stand it…doesn’t he realize that there is another person in this marriage…”, or “She has no interest in seeing my side of things…it always has to be done her way…her expectations are so unrealistic…”, and so on.
But there is a basic question a thinking person, who is interested in their own well-being, needs to consider: “What do I stand to gain from all this bickering?” If he or she will think about it for a moment, they’ll realize that the lack of harmonious, mutual effort to work things out in a civil manner is causing themselves so much distress. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now, a spouse may say, “Wait a minute! I’ve tried that before but it’s like I am talking to a wall! There’s no one on the other end of the line! Do you expect me to be the greatest tzadik in the world and always take the hit and forever be saying ‘Yes dear”, “I’m so sorry”, and “You were right, I was wrong” all the time?! What am I, a shmatah?!”
It’s a good point. Except for one thing. It’s totally missing the point. Because this is not about right or wrong. It’s about your own happiness. Being mevater all the time, even if you really are the party that was wronged and your spouse really is the one who ought to be apologizing and giving in, is in your best interest! Because, at the end of the day, irrespective of who was right and who was wrong, who should have said sorry and who did say sorry; if there is Shalom Bayis, you will be happy. And if there isn’t it, you won’t. Period. So the bickering is just not worth it. It just isn’t.
Does that mean that if there are things your spouse does that really bother or hurt you that you should not try to find a solution to the problem? Of course not! Try. Try hard! But only in a manner that you are not assuming a bull-headed position of standing on principle that is going to compromise your Shalom Bayis. Not only because it is morally the incorrect thing to do, but also because it is you who will lose out from so doing. Because, ultimately, taking the stance that Shalom Bayis is above all else will afford you a happy life and peace of mind.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.