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Thought for the Day: Dowry, Property, and Profit Rights for Woman

I couldn't make this up.  According to my very, very cool Hebrew-American-English dictionary, the word "m'log" (mem-lamed-cholam-gimmel) means "usufruct".  I am not even going to bother to translate that; you can look it up if you are that interested.  When that sort of thing happens, my plan is to try the word as a verb instead of a noun.  I was not disappointed: malag (mem-lamed-gimmel) means: to scald (hmm... not what I am seeking); to pour boiling water on (shouldn't end a sentence -- even a fragment -- in a preposition, but I assume it is Israelis who wrote this dictionary, so I'll be forgiving; still not it); to benefit from rent/dividends -- THAT'S IT!

The woman in a Jewish marriage takes a lot of responsibility and risk; the Torah mitigates that somewhat via the k'suva.  The usual situation is that the man takes ownership of income and anything the wife acquires during the marriage, in consideration of which the k'suvah guarantees her a lump sum payment of 200 zuz (if she hasn't been married before).  In today's market that comes to approximately $400.00 (according to Aish HaTorah, updated for current price of silver); don't spend it all in one place.  But that's only the beginning.

Property that she brings into the marriage comes in two flavors: nichsei m'log (ah-hah!  that's why I was looking up that word)/usufruct property, and nichsei tzon barzel/iron sheep property.  Nichsei tzon barzel would be something like a dowry.  Say the father is willing to give 10 camels for an appropriate suitor.  We appraise the property, which in this case is $10,000 for ordinary camels; he gets that camels, but the $10,000 is written into the k'suva as money to be returned to her on his death or upon divorce (lo aleinu).  It is called "tzon barzel" because its value to her never changes; the husband takes all the risk.

Nichsei m'log (is there any reason to translate that... be honest, usufruct doesn't mean anything more to you than "m'log" does; unless you are a lawyer... don't get me started), on the other hand remains wholly owned by the woman, but the husband reaps any profits.  If she owns an orchard, for example, the crop produced each season belongs to the husband so long as he is alive and is her husband.  The nichsei m'log property is not written into the k'suva because it always belongs to her.

There are some fascinating details about what if she sells her factory or orchard and then dies before her husband (so he should inherit from her, but there is the sale thing).  Or the fruit gets stolen and the thief pays double (keifel)... who gets the keifel?  There's more, but I guess we'll need to discuss it another time.


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