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Monday, 27 April 2015

Do you have a prenup?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 82

Before I marry any couple, I always make sure they sign the halachic prenup.  Should the relationship end in divorce, G-d forbid, this important document ensures there will be no issues with delivery of the gett.  I walk the couple through the issue, they sign, and then I instruct them to put it away never to be seen again.  After all, we hope and pray that this marriage will be forever!

The Mishnah states: A man may not say to his wife, ‘Behold, your ketubah entitlement is sitting on the table.’  Rather, all of his assets are held in lien for her ketubah. 
A Beraisa similarly teaches: Originally, when the ketubah payment of two hundred zuz for a first-time marriage and one hundred for a widow was enacted, the men were becoming old bachelors (the women would contend that there was no guarantee the money would be there upon dissolution of the marriage, since it could be tied up in property). 

And so they instituted that the money be left in a designated place in her father’s home.  But, at the first sign of conflict, he would say to her, ‘Go take your ketubah money and get out of here!’  They then instituted that the money be left in a designated place in their own home.  Rich women would use the money to fashion bowls of silver and gold; poor women would fashion urinals.  And still, at the first sign of conflict, he would say to her, ‘Take your ketubah and get out of here!’  Until Shimon ben Shetach came along and instituted that a man shall write for his wife, ‘All my assets are held in lien for her ketubah.’

The purpose of the ketubah money is so that it shouldn’t be easy for a husband to divorce his wife.  For most people, it’s no simple matter to suddenly come up with a hundred thousand dollars, and so he’ll think twice before calling it quits.   But if the money is already set aside in the safe to access whenever needed, it doesn’t really serve as a deterrent, because in the husband’s mind, it’s already a sunk cost.  And so eventually Shimon ben Shetach instituted that no money may be set aside, rather all the assets are responsible for the payment.

Before his institution, why would they fashion gold bowls and urinals using their ketubah monies?  They were sending a subtle message to their husbands: the poor women were saying, ‘If this marriage is about some transaction between us and you’ve already decided how much I’m worth to you, this urinal here is what I think of our marriage.’  Similarly, the rich women were symbolically telling their new husbands, ‘You think I need your money?  That’s not why I got married.  Life was great in my wealthy parents’ home.’  The message both were conveying to their husbands was that marriage is about the coming together of two halves of a soul.  If it’s going to be about what’s mine and what’s yours, I’m not interested.

Sadly, we live in a world today where financial prenups are the norm. 
‘What, you’re not writing a prenup?’
‘Why would I?  I intend to stay married to this person forever!’
‘Seriously?  I can’t believe you’d be so naïve!’

Is that what our society has come to?  We get married with no intention or hope that it will be forever.  And so we write prenups.  We keep separate bank accounts.  We save our own money and keep it in our own little safes just in case things go south. 

It’s time to become one with your spouse.  Marriage is not a business deal.  Marriage is about forever.  Unless you can have that trust in your spouse, why bother?  If you’re coming into it with a backup plan, that’s really sad.  Take that leap of faith and give it your all!  If you want your spouse to give you their ultimate trust, you must be prepared to throw yourself headfirst into the relationship, no strings or backup plans attached!

Rabbanit Batya tells the story of the fellow who confided in his wife that he was dealing with some major legal issues at work.  Next thing he knows, she’s found herself a lawyer to find out how she can protect herself from going down financially with him!  Talk about a lack of trust!

Marriage is forever.  Trust in your spouse and take that leap of faith into the relationship.  May you merit sharing everything with your spouse from finances to the deepest recesses of your mind, heart and soul!