Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
Who wants to get married more, a man or a woman? Elsewhere in Psychology of the Daf (Yevamos 107) we discussed social research on gender attitudes toward marriage and various rabbinic assumptions. Today we will look at a different angle of willingness versus reluctance to marry.
Our Gemara on Amud Beis reports at first they would write the kesuba, but set aside the funds instead of having the husband’s entire estate subject to a lien. But the women did not feel secure, as they were concerned that should their husbands pass away the other inheritors would hide the assets. This led to a reluctance on the part of the women to get married. In response to that, the rabbis required that the husband's estate to be subject to a lien for the value of the kesuba.
The implication of this particular teaching is that if the women are not given financial security they would be reluctant to enter into a marriage. Shaare Metzuyanim Behalacha asks, usually the default assumption by the rabbis is that the woman is more eager to marry than a man, and even the situation where she would be less incentivized to marry such as a handicapped husband or financial impediments, her desire to not be alone overrides it. For example, Yevamos 113a and our Gemara earlier on 75a discussed situations where the rabbis made legal decisions based on an assumption that the woman would want to stay married even if financial and other compensation, or personal status were reduced. His answer is, though in the rabbis felt most women would prefer to be married even if the financial compensations were, there was a significant minority who would not. Even that significant minority was interfering in the marriage process, and so the rabbis in our Gemara enacted these financial protections.
It is a difficult answer because it is playing both sides of the coin. In certain situations the rabbis were worried that women would not want to get married, or at least some women, while others would want to get married no matter what the financial insecurities were. Interestingly, Saul Leiberman in Tosefta Kefshuto (Kesuvos 12) offers a creative new interpretation of our Gemara. Namely, before the kesuba was financially authorized to put a lien on The husband’s property, either the women expected or it was a rabbinic expectation that the man set aside the cash prior to marriage. Since most men did not have that cash on hand, it was the men who delayed marrying. Despite this being a brilliant answer, that actually reads much better into the language of the beraisa quoted in our Gemara, none of the rishonim suggest this
I will offer a psychological explanation. It is known in trauma psychology that interpersonal trauma is more damaging than natural events. For example, if someone lost a loved one due to a tsunami or an earthquake, on average, there would be less traumatic devastation to the family as compared to an act of violence such as terrorism or murder. It seems that when a violent devastation is performed by a personality, the damage is worse because it is felt as a degradation and shameful victimization. In a similar vein, we might say that a woman would be relatively comfortable marrying a man who does not have financial means, or a man with other types of limitations and handicaps, because she does not feel that anybody “did this to her“. However, in the scenario described in our Gemara, it is not about her husband not having the funds. It is about a fear that her husband‘s family will deliberately hide the assets. That’s personal, and that is why the reaction and the revulsion is much stronger.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation .)