Thursday, August 22, 2013

Conditional Love

One of the contemporary issues is the saddening existence of agunos, women who are bound in a travesty of marriage from vindictive husbands. There has been some chatter to add a clause in kesubos to avoid the problem altogether, but it doesn't seem to be catching on.
Perhaps our squeamishness to meddle with the classical text would be allayed if we were aware of what was the sort of clauses that were in the marriage documents way back when: 
Outhwaite’s team, for example, has uncovered a prenuptial agreement in which Faiza bat Solomon made her fiancé, Tobias — nicknamed “Son of a Buffoon” — promise to “abandon foolishness and idiocy,” and “not associate with corrupt men,” or face a hefty penalty of 10 gold dinars. Another document spells out a legal agreement between Sitt I-Nasab and her husband, Solomon, preventing his mother and sisters from entering his wife’s quarters or making “any request of her at all, not even a match.”  
Here I was panicking that I may have to diplomatically navigate shviggur-infested waters, but I could easily insert a clause that my mother-in-law can never insult my cooking! 

Scene: Cairo, 1182 C.E., Solomon Residence

Tobias knocks on the front door and asks Solomon for Faiza's hand in marriage. Solomon says, "Hang on, let me ask." 

"So, Faiza, Tobias has asked for your hand!" 

"Tobias? 'The Son of a Buffoon'? Are you kidding me?" 

"I'm sure his foolishness, idiocy, and association with corrupt men will change with marriage." 

"Abba, please, I'm not taking that on faith. I want that in writing."

"OK. How much should the penalty be?" 

"Let's see . . . 10 dinars? I could build up quite a nest-egg that way." 

Solomon hurries back to Tobias. "No problem! If I could just scratch in a teeny-tiny condition . . . got a quill?" 

What would I stick into my prenup? Must attend davening on time except in instances of travel, illness, and hostage situations. Penalty: Wife may purchase a pair of shoes and he must remain silent about lack of storage space.  


FrumGeek said...

Well how would you feel if your husband wanted to demand that you must cook him dinners of his choice every night or face a penalty?

Oh, and a common thing I've heard is women spending all night staying up talking to their husband and then complaining when they sleep in and miss shul.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

>promise to “abandon foolishness and idiocy,” and “not associate with corrupt men,” or face a hefty penalty of 10 gold dinars.

Sounds like a reasonable price. Does she have a pre-payment system or do I go through Paypal?

Princess Lea said...

FG: Oh, sweetie, it's so cute how you think that in Jewish law, it's an equal partnership. It isn't.

Was it the Rambam, I think (it is the Cairo Genizah, after all), who established that a man must treat his wife better than himself, while a wife merely has to treat him adequately.

Keep in mind that in 1182, marriages were based primarily on DOWRY. These boys had to behave themselves.

MGI: I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Then my mother nearly fell off her chair laughing. I am quite grateful to anyone who can make me crack up. A git Shabbos to you!

Princess Lea said...

P.S., FG, I go to bed at 9:30. So he wouldn't be late on my account.

FrumGeek said...

Treating a guy "adequately" does not a healthy marriage make.

Princess Lea said...

Your issue is with the Rambam, not with me. Take it up with him.

FrumGeek said...

Remember that he lived in a time and place where women could be killed without consequence if they were walking outside without a man. And if a woman was raped, she could be put to death. Marriages were quite different. But hey, if you're ok with a middle east marriage, I'm sure your hubby will be glad to follow the Rambam's advice.

Sefardi Gal said...

Princess Lea, you are awesome. This post made me laugh! Thanks :)

Frumgeek - middle east marriage? Are you seriously equating Muslim and Jewish marriages to be equal?
Firstly, the Rambam is not the source of the concept "hamechabed et isho yoter m'atzmo" (the husband must honor his wife more than he honors himself.) That concept is actually from chazal in the Gemara.

Secondly, you're right that marriages were different. They were BETTER.
The divorce rate now is... what? 60%? 70%? And is that with assuming that the remaining 30%-40%are in happy marriages?
The sources for a happy marriage in Western Society are therapists and secular magazines with articles written by people who have never been married or have been married 2, 3, or 5 times.

Read what is written of the Rambam's marriage. How much he loved his wife and mourned her death.
And look at what a tzaddik son he raised (Rav Avraham, who became a well known mefaresh on the Torah.)

BH whoever follows Chazal's advice on marriage will succeed in having a happy marriage.
Chazal teach us that the wife should do her husband's will, and that the husband should respect his wife more than he respects himself.
If both follow mitzvoth and stick to that advice, that's a beautiful harmonious marriage.

Jewish law never states that a raped woman should be put to death. That's shariyah (Muslim) law.

Princess Lea said...

FG: Were you paying attention the the parsha the other week? If a woman is taken against her will there is no punishment. B'feresh in the Torah.

How is a man being required to respect his wife more than himself makes his wife being mistreated? Shouldn't that PREVENT abuse?

As Sefardi Girl wrote, the Rambam merely codified that which first appeared in the Gemara. Feel free to argue the point with them. I didn't make up the Jewish laws.