Letter: ENA NS 7.43

Letter ENA NS 7.43


Input date

In PGP since 2017


Letter of appeal from a woman whose husband had abandoned her with Muslims. "In this fragmentary letter a woman bitterly describes her marital misfortunes. Her husband brought her and her eight year old daughter to live among non-Jews. He then abandoned them with no food or drink. She fell ill [with pleurisy—"itbarsamt"] and was forced to turn to her gentile neighbours for assistance. Her daughter died. Deserted, diseased and bereaved, she sought release from her marriage. She was advised, "Sell your hair and ransom yourself". The iftidā' or "ransom" divorce, which is referred to here, entailed the wife's renouncing her claim to the delayed mohar payment. The purport of the advice here seems to have been that even if she would be left completely destitute and would have to sell her hair for support, she should initiate divorce proceedings and ransom herself from the marriage. This reminds us of R. Akiba's instructions to a man who wanted to divorce his wife without paying her the full ketubah settlement: "Even if you have to sell the hair on your head, you must pay her her ketubah" (M. Ned. 9:5). In the present case the wife seems to have been reluctant to do this. She wanted assistance in accomplishing the divorce without losing what was due her as divorce settlement (ḥaqq). This document is described by Goitein, in Med. Soc. 3, 272. Goitein offers a different explanation of the advice given the woman to cut her hair, viz. by cutting her hair and sending it to the religious authorities, she would humiliate herself and thereby compel them to take action on her request to perform the ransom divorce. See the reference on p. 487, n. 136, for women of the court sending their hair to an important general. The fragment is in a poor state of preservation, and some of my readings are uncertain." Information, edition, and translation from Friedman, "Divorce Upon the Wife's Demand," p. 117f. See also Zinger, "She Aims to Harass Him," and "Long Distance Marriages" (note 57).

ENA NS 7.43 1



ENA NS 7.43 2

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