I am the only woman under the age of 50 in my Gemara class, and today was one of those days when that really mattered.
We’re up to Ketubot daf ayin gimel, although we spent most of the day on a machloket in the Yerushalmi. If a man does Kiddushin on a woman (to say “with a woman” would imply too much reciprocity) and then discovers that she has “blemishes” (mumin), does he have to give her ketuba money upon dismissing her? Resh Lakish says yes; R. Yochanan says no. But then later amoraim clarify that Resh Lakish, too, thought that the woman was not eligible to receive her ketuba money in the case where her husband had done “knisa” but not “be’ila,” that is, if he had taken her into his home but not yet slept with her. The stam of the gemara (Yerushalmi) explains that if he slept with her, it is a sign that “nitratza da’ato” — he wanted her fully. Once he accepts her as she is, Resh Lakish holds that he can’t hold her blemishes against her and withhold her ketuba money.
In class we had a long discussion about how the husband’s act of sleeping with the woman signifies a shift in his attitude towards her. Once he has slept with her, it is a sign that he wants her enough to take her “warts and all.” But no one mentioned anything about the woman’s subjective experience. Surely for her, it would be dramatically different to be dismissed after he has already slept with her rather than before, no? The emotional connection that would be forged as a result of their physical union would be far stronger, and it would be much more difficult for her to bear his dismissal. And so it makes sense that if he has already done be’ila (i.e. “mastered” her?), the very least he could do is give her ketuba money. But sadly, I had to be the one to make this point in class, and no one else (except Reb S, it later emerged) seemed to have thought that this was an important part of the picture. Arghh.
Oh, and by the way, this whole legal ruling only applies in a case where the woman had “mumin she-b’seter,” that is, blemishes in a concealed place on her body. But if she had “mumin she-b’galui,” then the husband cannot claim that he did not know that she was defective. And if they lived in a town with a public bathing house, then the husband cannot hold even “mumin she-b’seter” against her, because he had the responsibility of asking his relatives to check out her body before he agreed to marry her. (You can read this for yourself in the mishnah: Ketubot 7:8.)
The moral of the story? Don’t marry a woman until you check out her blemishes. Make sure you know all of her faults and her weaknesses and her insecurities, and make sure you can love her in spite of them. Make sure. Make good sure. If you make a mistake, you’re going to have to pay for it. But far more importantly–at least as I see things–you’re going to hurt her a lot.