Shabbat Parashat Vayeira | 5763
Intra-familial Obligations - Part III
We saw last time that Chazal wanted a father to feel comfortable providing a significant dowry for his daughter without fear that his wealth would be lost to his family upon his daughter’s death.
The institution which rectifies the situation is known as ketubat banin dichrin. The basic law of ketuba works as follows. The dowry of a bride reverts to her full control if the marriage ends by divorce or the husband’s death, along with the rest of the ketuba. If the wife dies first, her husband, not her sons, inherits the dowry. According to ketubat banin dichrin, when the husband subsequently dies, his sons from different marriages do not inherit equally. Rather, the sons of each of his wives receive the ketuba/dowry of their mother. Only afterwards, do the sons divide the remainder of their father’s estate equally. Thus the father/grandfather, who provides the dowry, knows that his riches will either go back to his daughter or eventually end up by his own grandchildren after his son-in-law dies.
While the rationale for this institution is agreed upon, there is much discussion as to its halachic mechanism. For example, the gemara (Ketubot 52b) questions why it should apply in a case where the father did not, in fact, provide a dowry (it applies in regard to the other elements of the wife’s ketuba). The gemara also inquires whether payment of the ketubat banin dichrin follows the rules of payment of a ketuba or those of receiving an inheritance. There is further discussion about a case where a woman sold, during her lifetime, the rights to her ketuba, whether or not the institution of ketubat banin dichrin still applies (ibid. 53a).
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