Marriages are made in heaven: marriage and the individual in the Roman Jewish ghetto.
But there were also differences. To begin with, Christian painters were surely unaware that the celebrant in the marriage ceremonies they depicted was performing a strictly Christian function. Their High Priest was blessing not the matrimonial state in the abstract, as does a rabbinical officiant,(4) but the spouses and, more, the rings used in the immediate ceremony, which were symbolic of the union of Christ and the Church--and of faith itself--that Christian marriage was said to embody. This blessing was also a reminder of the increasingly indispensable role, ratified in 1563 at the Council of Trent, of priests in the marital ceremony.(5) Furthermore, although the portraits do not seem to convey this, the values of Christian marriage are reemphasized during the nuptials through the mutual and freely willed plighting of troths, or consent.(6) In normative Jewish ceremonials only the groom speaks, taking the bride contractually as his own. The injection of theology thus ensured that any visual similarities between Jewish and Christian nuptial rituals were ones of form, not concept.
The "content of the form" also differed before the nuptials. For once again a similarity of Jewish and Christian forms in the rites of engagement and betrothal did not necessarily portend a similarity of outlook or, more importantly, of overall marital strategies. Jews and Christians also differed over the question of consent by the affianced to be married and the role of the clergy in the nuptial celebration. Both Jews and Christians normally predicated marriage on such matters as economic and familial or lineal advantage. However, Christians--at least in certain circles--sought to attain these ends by insistently determining whom their offspring would marry. Jews, as a rule, were willing to grant children the privilege of vetoing unwanted parental initiatives.
Moreover, for Christians this problem was doubly complicated, since for the Christian clergy, the necessary link between faith and marriage and, alternatively, the perception of marriage as a sacrament were instrumental in creating a specifically clerical, as opposed to lay, vision of the marital bond.(7) The clergy also appears to have valued fides and sacramentum more than the third benefit of marriage, proles, and it lauded couples who pledged themselves to continence if not to total sexual abstinence.(8) This emphasis on marriage's spiritual values explains why consent embodied through the spoken word, the so-called verbum de praesenti--the intent of both bride and groom--became so important. Throughout the Middle Ages its expression was said putatively to constitute matrimony under any and all conditions, to wit, even when the parents of the spouses were unaware that a marriage had taken place.(9)
Consent was a requisite for Jewish marriage, too, but its basis was not fideistic. From Talmudic times and in the halachah (Jewish law), Jewish marriage appears as essentially a civil institution, whether in rabbinic or lay eyes; rabbis were themselves lay family heads. Legally, although not in fact, Jewish marriage was an emption of the bride by the groom, completed through a written contract and formal act of symbolic acquisition.(10) The "purchaser" was the husband, whose consent was embodied in the act of "purchase" at the betrothal, when a binding marital state was created, and through the formula: "Behold you are sanctified [actually, reserved] for me by this ring." The bride's consent was passive. Tacitly, but consciously, she agreed to become the object of a marital transaction--although one medieval formulary has the bride depose in an agreement of engagement prior to betrothal that "I, Miss A, the daughter of Mr. B, of my own free will and under no duress have willed to become the wife of Mr. C--if God has willed it--[to be married] on day X."(11) Nonetheless, despite the repeated emphasis on "will," the consent of both Jewish bride and groom was recorded and made binding primarily through performance.(12) Intent--the affect informing the spoken or implied consent-was secondary.
With this stance, many of the Christian laity would likely have agreed. For them, it has been suggested, the conception of what nuptials were and when a marriage actually occurred remained hazy through as late as the fifteenth century. The Christian laity did recognize the centrality of clerically defined consent and its underlying intent. But priority was given normally to consent expressed through performance, sometimes as simple as a publicly made promise followed by sexual union. Moreover, before the Council of Trent in 1563, even the question of direct clerical intervention in the nuptials was unresolved. At the nozze of a "certain Giacomo" late in the fifteenth century, the name of God was invoked by a layman alone, "one ser Zanino Dardanese" (perhaps not even a notary), who asked both parties "in accordance with the command of God and the Holy Mother Church" to express their will to be wed.(13)
This congruence between lay Christian and Jewish perceptions of consent also embraced--up to a point--pre-nuptial rituals and procedures, something that records from Florence, but in particular Rome, illustrate well. The Li nuptiali of the early sixteenth-century Roman aristocrat Altieri--which, says Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, represents the contemporary lay Roman ideal--is especially enlightening.(14) Marriage, Altieri wrote, was accomplished in three distinct steps. The first--following, of course, the intervention of a matchmaker or some other well-meaning person, often a relative (or "friend")--was the drawing up of an informal instrument, sealed by a kiss on the lips, the abboccamento, or a clasp of the hands the impalmamento. This first step was followed within a week or two by the fidanze, when a formal notarial instrument would be drawn up--and exit from the match became extremely difficult, although still possible--following which, gifts of rings and jewels were exchanged.(15) About a week later, on what was sometimes called "ring day," a notarial instrument, the instrumentum matrimonii, was prepared, wedding rings exchanged, and troths, the verba de praesenti, plighted. The couple now was married. Yet the actual nozze and the consummation of the marriage might not take place for up to a year or more, when the bride publicly and festively was led to her husband's home and bed, the ductio. At some point during this ceremonial procession, bride, groom, and attendants paused at the church for the couple to receive a priestly blessing.(16)
With but minor changes, Altieri's text may be said to describe the betrothal rituals of Jews as well. Most, if not all marriages were arranged; at the least, they were a family affair. Of literally hundreds of matches recorded by Roman Jewish notaries during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, only second marriages were--and even then exceptionally--contracted by the marrying parties themselves.(17) The match was also realized in three separate steps. First came the engagement (the Christian fidanze), known as the shiddukhin and formalized through a pre-nuptial agreement, the shetar hittun, tenayyim, or parentato (to use the Jewish notary's own terms) in the presence of the groom and his father, or uncle(s), and sometimes even his mother (should there be no appropriate male to represent him) and a similar representation on the part of the bride. By about 1560 these agreements, at least at Rome, had become wholly standardized as the Jewish notarial art itself matured. These agreements specified the amount and date of payment--normally before the wedding--of the dowry, the additional jointure tosefet given by the groom, the date of the betrothal (qiddushin) and, last, the date of the wedding, the nissu'in. The betrothal, the second stage, involved the giving and acceptance by the bride of a ring,(18) much like on the Christian "ring day," and the groom's recitation of the formula "sanctifying" or "reserving" the bride unto himself. Finally, came the wedding, normally held before at least ten adult males, during which the bride was led to her husband, who awaited her under a canopy, the huppah, symbolic of the groom's house, hence, the Jewish version of the ductio. Under the huppah, a rabbi (after the fourteenth century)(19) recited seven blessings lauding the marital state and its divinely ordained universal necessity, emphasizing it, it would seem, the social functions of matrimony yet blessing directly neither the couple nor the ring. Immediately preceding the huppah, another contract was signed by the groom and duly witnessed, the ketubbah, which was then given to the bride as her personal possession to guarantee the dowry and other financial settlements.
Nonetheless, these carefully measured steps paved the way for ambiguity. The Jewish emphasis on performance left no doubt that matrimony began with the betrothal. But at times there was doubt about when-or whether-a betrothal had taken place (as opposed to the Christian query whether intent had been mutually expressed.)(20) To avoid potential ambiguity, Jewish authorities had traditionally linked the betrothal to either the engagement or the wedding. In early medieval Italy, and still practiced in the Balkans as late as the seventeenth century, engagement and betrothal were celebrated as a single event.(21) Ashkenazi, northern European, Jews separated the betrothal from the wedding by at most a single day, usually the Sabbath, with both occurring as much as a year after the engagement. Eventually, this would become the modern custom of consecutively performed betrothal, reading of the ketubbah (signed minutes before the betrothal), and, finally, the marriage, with all three ceremonies taking place under the huppah.
However, in Renaissance Italy, and Rome in particular,(22) this tradition dating back to the eleventh century was exchanged for another which, despite distant precedents in Talmudic times, was ostensibly influenced by contemporary Italian Christian practice. Namely, the betrothal was distanced from the engagement by at most three weeks, and the huppah was then postponed for a further six months to a year.(23) During this interval, the Jewish woman, although considered truly married, was forbidden to engage in sexual relations; where the time was shortened to weeks, or even days, the speed was to save the bride embarrassment. This pattern was followed by all, from the poorest Jewish day-laborer to the wealthiest banker.(24)
This detachment of the betrothal (qiddushin) from the engagement (shiddukhin) and the wedding (nissu'in, huppah) complicated a vexing problem. With the engagement, gifts were exchanged. Occasionally--especially if a bride asked to annul the engagement--reluctant grooms claimed that they had bestowed these presents not as customary gifts of engagement (sivlonot) but as tokens of betrothal (in lieu of the ring), and their prospective brides had accepted these gifts as such.(25) Whether the groom had verbally pronounced the formula of betrothal seems to have been irrelevant. The result was confusion and usually consternation, further enhanced by the common failure properly to distinguish the term shiddukhin from 'erusin, also betrothal, but often used to refer to engagements as well.(26)
The difficulty, in these cases, as was already pointed out by the Ashkenazic commentator Rashi in the eleventh century, was inconsistent local custom.(27) In some places, custom specified that "the groom gives the [engagement] gifts and then betrothes his wife"; elsewhere it specified the reverse. Therefore, was the groom, who in these cases of "suspicion" (hashash qiddushin) invariably said there had been a betrothal, to be believed, or was the bride, who also invariably said she was only engaged? Jewish authorities bitterly disputed among themselves the legitimacy of these cases of "suspected betrothal." The evidence for and against was never unequivocal, and the disputes at times turned into testing grounds for relative rabbinic strength. Yet the rabbis were not disputing whether the couple must remain together. They seem always to have assumed that the relationship would be severed. Rather, they were debating whether the bride could walk away free and clear, retaining the status of an unmarried maiden--and this did occur--or whether she would have to submit to receiving a "bill of divorce" (a get), making her into a divorcee.(28) The probabilities of being required to take this second road were greatly increased by the Italian usage to betroth so soon after the engagement.
Christian authorities, too, were wont to dissolve marital bonds that were created by such stratagems as gifts whose acceptance was said to express intent. Such stratagems were viewed as popular practice that properly ought to be repudiated, since no true intent had been expressed or consent given and, hence, no real betrothal effected.(29) However, had real intent been expressed and a betrothal effected--not the mere resort to stratagem--clerical Christian courts normally upheld the pact.(30) This practice clearly differed from the Jewish norm. It was also one the Christian laity severely disliked. Christian parents were avid to void engagements and betrothals made without their prior knowledge, whatever the circumstances, especially clandestinely. The laity was willing to uphold, indeed it insisted on upholding, only matrimonial pacts made with its agreement.(31) Sometimes this insistence even led to the demand that children not exercise their canonical privilege of refusing a match before the engagement.(32) On other occasions it produced the argument that the financial arrangements of the sponsalia, or engagement contract made between parents, were tantamount to marriage itself and thus irrevocable.(33) For Catholics, the debate about parental control over matrimony came to a head at the Council of Trent. The Council conditioned the traditional teaching that freely given consent created a marriage on the capacity of both spouses to give that consent; yet prime among the elements constituting capacity was parental assent. In addition, weddings were to be celebrated and registered in the parish register by a parish priest.(34) Lutherans sought to ensure the rule of parental assent by secularizing marriage and assigning its supervision to lay municipal councils.(35)
Such regulations imply that at the time of the Tridentine Council and the period of the Protestant Reform, the principle of freely willed consent, as opposed to unswerving parental control over the choice of a spouse, was being reexamined, if not contested, and the question of whether children's wills should be suppressed legislatively or somehow accommodated was being worked out. However, no single resolution or direction was ever achieved, not even among the laity itself. In legislation issued in sixteenth-century France, parental prerogative was overwhelmingly reaffirmed.(36) By contrast, in certain seventeenth-century English circles, the veto of one party to a proposed match was sufficient to convince parents to terminate pre-nuptial negotiations.(37) More, children who themselves desired to unite in matrimony often were not kept apart. For "such a . . . match," said one contemporary English Protestant preacher, "were(!) made in heaven."(38)
Unwittingly, perhaps, this preacher was citing a phrase from the (late ancient) Jewish midrash about a pagan Roman matron who believed she could "take God's place" by arbitrarily mating her slaves. Eventually, this phrase became widely used. Sixteenth-century Roman Jews, in particular--and their notaries--often remarked that "this match was--or was not--made in heaven" to signify compatibility or incompatibility to justify not creating a match in the first place or to sanction a match's eventual termination. These Jews were admitting, of course, that matches were not the exclusive domain of parents and matchmakers and that the desires of the intended spouses also had to be considered. In other words, like Protestants and Catholics, sixteenth-century Jews, too, were wrestling with the question of the parental role in the creation of marriage. However, the Jews' response to this question was uniquely their own. It imitated neither the traditional clerical position (whether Catholic or, sometimes, Protestant) favoring freely given consent nor the Christian lay stance generally favoring full parental control. Rather, Jews found a way of responding to children's wills while remaining simultaneously attentive to familial interests.
Jewish fathers were assumed to have at least some say about the initial choice of their offsprings' prospective mates. Without exception it was the two fathers (or widowed mother or mothers) who negotiated and made the marital contract for their children's first marriage. Fatherly prerogatives are also echoed in the venerable usage of returning to the father a portion of the dowry if his married daughter died, on the grounds that a father should not be bereaved of his daughter and his money simultaneously (dubiously seeming to equate daughters and goods).(39) It was for the sake of fatherly welfare, too, that Jews never seemed to question that clandestine or fraudulent engagements had to be dissolved, even if they had been legally constituted (admittedly, Jews had a concept of permissible divorce). At the same time, the halachah explicitly frowned on fathers (mothers, and other relatives, for that matter) flouting their children's wills, and as early as the sixteenth century parents were prepared in practice to admit the right of children--indeed, of daughters--to refuse a match. This they made clear through the novel application of an ancient halachic rule. Namely, the halachah traditionally extended to orphan girls under twelve a right known as "refusal" (me'un), allowing them to dissolve not just an engagement but a full betrothal unilaterally, and without the need for a formal bill of divorce.(40) In the Renaissance, the term metaphorically began to be applied to engagements as well as betrothals, and the age limit in the case of the former had begun to blur.(41) Adolescent girls older than twelve, orphaned or not, were claiming--and winning--the right to terminate engagements just by saying: they "refused" (mema'enet).(42)
Parental attempts to dictate whom a child should marry had in fact long been queried not only by the halachah but also by influential pietistic writings. Should sons, asks Sefer hasidim (a book of exempla composed about the year 1200), follow the prompting of their hearts(!) in settling on a mate, or should they bow to parental will?(43) In its day this was a difficult question, one that Sefer hasidim presented as a moral crux with no facile solution. Moreover, the problem was complicated by the opinion that grooms were legally--halachically--married, even if they had been forced into a betrothal.(44) In the sixteenth century, however, Moshe Isserles denounced this opinion as null and void, explaining that the legal justification forcing a man to become betrothed, the subsequent right of a husband unilaterally to divorce his wife, had been invalidated in the twelfth century. Isserles's thinking was paralleled by that of his near contemporary Joseph Colon. At the end of the fifteenth century, Colon responded to the question of Sefer hasidim, saying that a son could reject his father's choice of a bride without violating the precept of "honoring one's father and mother." The principle of hibbah, affect or even desire, Colon added, must be honored. His student Elijah Capsali went further, to say that "a man should not follow his parents to marry one he does not want . . . the result will be constant feuding in the home, quite the contrary of the Holy Torah's precept. And so much the more when one loves his spouse [should he disobey his parents]." By precept of the Holy Torah, Capsali was referring to such as the dictum found in the authoritative 'Arba`ah turim: a wife is blessing, peace, and joy.(45)
There was an equally growing concern that women, too, be allowed to express their wants. The halachah, basing itself on the verse, "Let us call the girl [Rebecca] and learn her will" (Gen. 24:57), had traditionally taught that "a woman is not betrothed (qiddushin) unless she desires it." Using terminology reminiscent of Christian marriage, Joseph Karo in the sixteenth century elaborated: "A woman betrothed with her consent [da`atah] is indeed betrothed; without it, she is not."(46) These halakhic concepts were then incorporated into individual agreements of betrothal. Formularies from diverse periods all contain phrases in which the bride-to-be intervenes, as she does most clearly in the twelfth century Sefer ha-'itur, in fact twice, to say that she is acting "of my own free will."(47) A later text from Salonika requires the prospective bride to say she "is satisfied, and desirous, and convinced."(48) The theme of will and consent was especially stressed in early modern rabbinical synods. One synod, meeting at Ferrara in 1555, propounded: "She-lo' yehi shum'ish . . . she-yiqadesh'ishah . . . 'ella "im ken yehi mi-da`atah" ("No man may betroth a woman, except with her consent").(49) A second synod, held at Corfu in 1652, insisted that her will (retsonah) be registered in the agreement of engagement; thus "no opportunity would exist for [anyone to] say that her father forced her to become engaged [neged retsonah]."(50)
Nonetheless, a synod held at Ferrara in 1554 stipulated that a daughter was not to be married "without her father and mother's permission, if they are [both alive], or without the assent of two of her closest relatives, should her father be dead."(51) Jews, as said, were no less concerned about parental, and especially paternal rights, than they were about children's consent. This concern was longstanding. Indirectly echoing the Sefer hasidim's apparent ambivalence, the late thirteenth-century Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret of Barcelona indicated that it was best to achieve both da`atah ve(!)-da`ato (the bride's and her father's consent).(52)
But ibn Adret also assumed daughters would regularly accept their father's choice, which perhaps they did in ibn Adret's Catalonia. This was doubtful in neighboring southern France. Drolly, but reassuringly, the very early fourteenth-century Menahem ha-Meiri reinterpreted the statement of the talmudic (third century) Rav, who had said that fathers must not engage their daughters before they reach maturity and say: "I desire ploni [this one]." Ploni, the Meiri explained to fathers anxious about losing control over their daughters, does not mean she is actually to choose a husband. Rather, it means "she'll take `this one,' that is, whomever you give her, once she grows up [and starts to worry about remaining a spinster]."(53)
Expectation thus was not always consonant with fulfillment. Daughters, like sons, the Meiri was implying, sometimes wished to choose a spouse by following their hearts' desires. They were not satisfied merely to consent--as the ancient halachah surely stipulated--to their fathers' choices. And in support of their desires, they could cite the words of the truly venerable Rav. Ignoring Rav's dictum, accordingly, necessitated justification and no little manipulation--which is precisely what the great Tosafist scholars of twelfth-century France supplied and did, saying: "[As for the statement that] it is forbidden for a man to betroth his daughter when she is under age, . . . [this is quite understandable]. For in the case of a mature girl who receives the betrothal herself, one has little concern that she will renege, since she has agreed [to the match]; with a minor who is betrothed through her father's agency, one rightly is anxious that were she mature, she would not agree. Nonetheless, [and as far as we ourselves are concerned] our custom is to betroth our daughters even under age, because every day the exile gains in power over us. And if a man has sufficient funds to give his daughter a dowry now, [he does so], lest in the future, he will not have the means, and his daughter will remain forever [and unacceptably] unmarried [an `agunah]."(54)
Whether the Tosafists were expressing concern that their everyday practice ran counter to ancient teaching or whether their explanation was a mere pretext allowing them to evade a preceptual obligation, we cannot say. However, Tosafist practice and outlook was consistent with that of many, especially early medieval Jews. One engagement scene, described by an eleventh-century Italian source, but putatively taking place in the early tenth, skirts the issue of consent altogether. Shefatyah, merchant, communal leader, and rabbi in Apulian Oria, simply decided that the time to engage his daughter Cassia had arrived, and he concluded the engagement by summoning his brother to make a match for Cassia with his brother's son. Cassia herself was never consulted. More, she had explicitly reached puberty, when no amount of manipulation could free her father from the obligation to seek her consent. Shefatyah, however, was surpassed by his contemporary Theophilo, who engaged his daughter despite fierce familial opposition, stating bluntly that she was subject to the patria potestas of Roman law and was his to engage as he wished. Jews clearly were not immune from the influence of contemporary non-Jewish practice.(55)
Jews, like Christians, were also determined to blot out the greatest foe of paternal right and privilege, clandestine marriage. But as opposed to the Catholic clergy,(56) Jewish rabbinic authorities supported the laity to invalidate these marriages. Indeed, Jews pressed their sacral institutions into the service of this lay goal (however much medieval and early modern Jews would have rightly insisted in their own terms that lay and sacral norms were identical) by insisting through local ordinances that betrothals and weddings take place before a quorum of ten men, the so-called minyan required for communal prayer. Ibn Adret demanded that the hazzan, roughly a rabbinical figure, be present as well,(57) anticipating in a certain sense the Christian decision to register marriages before a parish priest (itself a compromise with lay desires) made two and a half centuries later at Trent. Some rabbis even advocated resorting to the device of hafqa`at qiddushin (communal intervention to annul improper betrothals, obviating the need for an actual divorce), although there is much debate whether this device was ever actually employed.(58)
Nonetheless, Jews applied these restraints discriminatingly. In selecting a marriage-partner, the halachah's insistence upon consent was becoming ever more the arbiter of actual practice. Judging from the Meiri and Sefer hasidim, and to some extent ibn Adret too, the paternal advantage enjoyed by Theophilo, Shefatyah, and the Tosafists had begun to yield--even before the period of the Tosafists itself had drawn to a close--to decisions like that of Joseph Colon to honor the will of children. Instead of limiting by arbitrary legislation the age at which children were free to marry without parental consent, as was done in sixteenth-century France, the Jews were seeking to prohibit parents from engaging and betrothing their daughters before the "age of discretion." Accordingly, as early as 1506 Judah Mintz qualified his edict insisting on the presence at the huppah and qiddushin of a minyan in order to prevent clandestine marriage by saying that "ve-she-yehiyeh le-da`atah u-ve-retson ha-'ishah ha-mitqadeshet" (the ceremony is to take place at the will and consent of the woman being betrothed).(59) There was to be no circumvention either in theory or in practice; both parents and children, daughters as well as sons, had to give their consent.(60) Some balance between the wills of parents and children was being forged. But how? For the notion of truly honoring the will of both parent and child had created an entangling cultural antinomy, one, moreover, that was sharpened by the rights and privileges women otherwise enjoyed.
However oligarchic it may have been, sixteenth-century Jewish society, and that in Western Europe in particular, was not one "where fathers ruled." Wife-beating, for example, was publicly denounced, as in fact it had traditionally been.(61) Much more indicatively, Jews were at most ambivalent about what Christiane Klapisch-Zuber has called the syndrome of the "cruel mother," the widow who must leave her children with the family of her late husband should she return to her parental home, collect her dowry, and remarry.(62) Very likely, this ambivalence was an effect of the Jewish practice of divorce, where the intermediate solution adopted by Christians (and sometimes Jews) of leaving children with their widowed mother until she remarried could not automatically apply. Halachically, girls of divorced parents remained with their mothers; sons were to stay with mothers until the age of six, when fathers could either take and support them or leave them (unsupported) with their mothers.(63) Girls remained with widows, too, lest, it was said, paternal relatives might kill a daughter to get any inheritance she might have; or, more rationally, because only a mother could properly instruct a daughter in modesty and good behavior.(64) Boys were to go with fathers since the latter were responsible for educating them. Yet, cautioned Moshe Isserles, a father might educate his son even were he living with his mother; and, Isserles went on, in practice this not infrequently occurs.(65)
In fact, the question of who was to rear Jewish offspring had no fixed solution. One woman in sixteenth-century Rome had stipulated in her wedding contract that should she be widowed, her husband's brothers would retain the children; six years later this potential scenario was realized.(66) Similarly, a father-in-law agreed to support a widow for two years while she nursed an (as yet unborn) male or female child; afterwards, he would take the child himself.(67) Other widows retained control over their children (dominio) until they remarried.(68) For this, however, they might pay dearly. Despite accepted practice, some paternal uncles reneged at cowering their orphaned nieces, let alone to furnish continuous support.(69) And in 1564 one divorcee formally, and most exceptionally, bestowed her dowry on her former husband as an "irrevocable gift" on the condition that he shelter and rear all his children at his own expense.(70)
Indeed, who normally supported the children of a divorce? Two fathers-in-law disputed the cost of nursing their divorced children's daughter,(71) although one divorced father insisted on taking in his daughter when she turned three.(72) Former husbands were also indecisive. On 5 October 1536 Salomone Ram threatened his ex-wife Diana Uriel that if she did not send him their son, all the costs of support would accrue to her. Barely a month later, Salomone's brother David paid Diana 12 scudi on the understanding that she would never send Salomone the boy.(73) However, nobody surpassed Samuele Bacalul. In early October 1536 Bacalul agreed to take in the offspring of his marriage with Simha Zarfati, swearing "never to say to these children: Go back to your mother; I cannot support you." Yet on 8 April 1537 Bacalul reappeared to pay his ex-father-in-law 10 scudi for these children's care.(74) No doubt, he had never received them into his home in the first place.
The marital pecking order, normally so determined by clearly cut and defined rights over children, was thus considerably shaken. It was shaken even further by women's varied economic activities, which in Rome ranged from banking to so-called lavori femminili (embroidery and fine sewing) whose profits were often stipulated as included in--or excluded from--the income that husbands contractually obligated themselves to divide with their partners in business.(75) When such women were granted the status of Donna and Madonna--a device not unknown to Christian husbands too, who used it to protect their widows by granting them full control of an estate until their dowries were settled--this was a very serious step.(76) The Jewish notary Rabbi Pompeo del Borgo resorted to it to ensure that his daughters-in-law would not be rapacious, and other husbands invoked it to help their widows' escape the potential extortion that sometimes accompanied the ritual of being freed from a Levirate marriage.(77) But Jewish women invariably had economic leverage, for their dowries as a proportion of their fathers' estates were at this time constantly increasing, meaning that because the dowry was effectively mortgaged property, they were gaining eventual control over larger portions of Jewish family wealth.(78) Women with such standing and rights may well have considered their marital options with great care.
Whether the dictum of Rav determined actual practice is another matter. Did parents truly allow children, daughters in particular, actively to participate in the selection of a marital partner? There is no question that by the early modern period opinion was leaning ever more strongly, if not unanimously, toward daughters enjoying some initiative, or at the least toward affirming their right to reject a parental choice. Such was the tenor of the Italian rabbis who met at Ferrara in 1554 and again in 1555, as well as at Corfu in 1652; and in the edict of Judah Mintz about clandestine marriage.(79) Almost matter-of-factly, the authoritative sixteenth-century Shulhan `arukh (code of Jewish law) confirmed that engagement gifts may be returned if the groom dies, or if he or she decide not to marry ("hazar bo hu', 'o 'afilu hazrah bah hi'").(80) Moreover, to justify a specific instance of just such a change of heart, despite the father's strenuous objections, the influential Rabbi Menahem Azariah da Fano cited Rav's dictum verbatim.(81)
Yet under what circumstances did these refusals and broken engagements occur? Among Christians, terminating an engagement was a most difficult step, which also had to occur before the verbum de praesenti was given. Indeed, giving a verbum de praesenti to a second fiance was the only guaranteed method for breaking a verbum de futuro to a first.(82) A more common pretext, apart--supposedly--from mutual agreement, was a radical change in health or circumstances. At Chalon-en-Provence in the mid-Quattrocento, one woman complained to the magistrates that "non potest tenere acquam, sed immergi in rectum" and, in the long run, worse: "plus debet quam habet."(83) It was the financial reverses of one John Astlott, too, that in 1422 brought his fiancee Agnes to spurn him at the insistence of her Yorkshire family. John protested to the church court his unwillingness to exit the match and his amazement, since the two had been "in love" for years.(84)
Jewish fathers also were sensitive to financial issues. The Jewess Astruque of Chalon-en-Provence said of her affianced Isaac: "Non places sibi . . . prediliget mori" than to marry,(85) seemingly a case of affectionate incompatibility. More likely within the context of balancing parental and children's wills, it was a case of manipulation with Astruque's father masterminding the "plot." Astruque was engaged for two entire years before she severed relations on 12 December 1430. Yet barely one month later, she was not only reengaged, but her dowry--increased by a full one-third--had been paid in full, as it had not been the first time around. One suspects that Astruque's father had alighted upon a more promising match.
Such manipulations may have been reasonably common. Over one hundred years later, in about 1560 at Ferrara, a groom's lawyer claimed that the father of the bride had secretly urged his daughter "to refuse" (me'un). In fact, this unnamed young Jewish woman "had been repeatedly content in her fiance's company . . . [and] changed her mind a considerable time later, at the advice of her mother and her female relatives [because of the] groom's health";(86) a justification that nobody seemed to believe, just as Astruque's claim of "non places sibi" probably rang hollow in her day.
However, affect as a reason for terminating engagements must not be ruled out. In Rome, more than one engagement was made conditional or annulled on the grounds that both prospective groom and bride "must suit each other, he and she, she and he," ("im ye'otu zeh la-zeh ve-zeh la-zeh") or because "non se amano ne se vonno bene," a phrase that may be taken literally or figuratively to mean that the fiances had no common language.(87) Because of an unwanted match, Lariccia in 1537 declared herself to be "the unhappiest of all women."(88) A working class girl--be it noted--she had been crying for days, saying she'd been tricked (gabato) by her brothers into becoming engaged and then by her father into a betrothal. This, it seems, communal authorities learned from Clemenza, a washer-woman, who testified that Lariccia had said to her father: "I do not like this man, nor do I desire him. I refuse [mema'en!] him and reject him, nor do I want [him]." She heard all this, Clemenza said, on a Thursday, the day before the qiddushin (betrothal). On the Sabbath afterward, Lariccia was crying even harder, and when she protested that she had no intention to let "the qiddushin become nissu'in," her father began to hit her with the butt of a knife.
Such behavior was impermissible, and Angelo Galante, the groom, knew it, deposing before Jewish notaries that he had said to Lariccia, "Do not go through with the qiddushin" ("non ti far cadissma"), to which she replied, "I cannot do otherwise; I have been forced into it" ("no posso far altro che so sforzata").(89) The community, of a certainty, was going to oversee an annulment. Yet would the community itself act to bring this about (hafqa`at qiddushin)? Halachically, such an annulment would have been a grave, if not an unheralded act, using all the community's resources to ensure that a get was delivered.
Perhaps then, Lariccia's tearful tale as Clemenza told it to the notary was a managed one. No doubt Lariccia had been unwilling, and no doubt she had been threatened. But her triplet of I refuse (mema'en!) him and reject him, nor do I want him, together with her other claim of having been "tricked," not only invoked but also exercised the right of me'un.(90) Admittedly, in its strictly legal sense Lariccia was not entitled to invoke me'un. She was neither an orphan, nor had she been betrothed under the age of twelve. But, as mentioned above, the authorities had transposed this concept, and they were now applying it metaphorically to justify ending engagements (not betrothals) of girls older than twelve whose fathers were alive.(91) Clemenza thus had specified that Lariccia had "refused" before she was betrothed. Cleverly--and probably (as was so often the case elsewhere) with the advice of a lawyer--Lariccia had sent the community a signal:(92) it ought to direct Angelo Galante to grant her an uncontested divorce even before the betrothal she had wanted to "refuse" (me'un). In a word, Lariccia's plaint was none other than a Jewish version of the contemporary French "pardon tale."(93) How her story concluded, we regrettably do not know.
But does Lariccia's story mean that the Jewish community of Rome, or at least some of its more influential members, had set out to enforce, even enhance, the privileges of women to ensure that halakhic principles about marital assent were truly observed? Such a conclusion, however attractive, would be hasty. Texts like those containing the story of Lariccia do not make us privy to all that went on. These texts, moreover, are neither chronicled accounts nor court decrees but notarial acts. And often, as with Lariccia, their substance was a deposition given by interested parties, taken down by Jewish notaries, most particularly those at Rome, whose notarial skills and craft were not a product of hallowed tradition. Outside of Rome and previously, such notaries were almost if not wholly unknown.(94) Consequently, the formulas the Roman notaries employed, as well as their level of technical precision, evolved slowly over a number of decades. In addition, these notaries--all rabbis--were employed by the Jewish community. Yet the acts they drew also were public ones. As every act avers, it was "as valid as though it had been drawn up by notaries of the Apostolic Chamber." These acts, therefore, had to conform to both Jewish law and Roman civil usage.
The result was no little invention, so that notarial narrative -- by which I mean the phrases and stratagems the notaries used to create their (somewhat) novel textual forms--more often than not recast the loose everyday speech of deposing parties in precise legal terms.(95) The most striking example of this recasting, albeit an extraneous one to our immediate interests, comes from an act drawn in 1569 to legalize the adoption of a baby girl orphaned by her mother.(96) Adoption was still an essentially unprecedented practice. The notary Rabbi Isaac Piattelli, accordingly, had to legitimate it, and this he did by making it fit the halachic category of an "irrevocable gift." However, in addition to specifying that the child had been given and received as a gift, the parties to the act--the natural and adoptive father--stated that she was "to be loved and reared by the adoptive parents as though she were their own." The adoptive father also changed the girl's name from that of her natural maternal grandmother to that of his own mother, symbolically creating a transfer of identity. The baby, as Piattelli was emphasizing, was also a person, not just a giveable object. These notarial texts thus composed reality through a legally filtered lens that was amplified by feeling and ritual. By so doing, they staged halachic dramas.
Some of these dramas, or at least certain lines of the script, were also good enough for a second performance. In 1560, twenty-three years after Lariccia's ordeal, Speranza di Rosa reneged on her engagement--and possible betrothal--to Mattitia the son of Isaac Zamat, a prominent Roman communal figure.(97) The circumstances were complex and warranted the direct intervention of the fattori, the Roman community's highest officials. Repeating Lariccia almost to a word, Speranza told the fattori: "ani mema'enet,'ein retsoni [bo']" ("I refuse him, I do not want him, I do not desire him"). And Speranza's invocation of me'un seemed truly legitimate, literal and not as a metaphor, since according to her mother Rosa, Speranza was only eleven years old and orphaned by her father. As it turned out, a neighbor, Isaac Habli, said that Speranza was already fourteen.
Yet just about this time Menahem Azariah da Fano was writing that "even a grown daughter [bogeret] [might] refuse [me'un] her father's initiative,"(98) and under these circumstances the issue of Speranza's age might have been raised only for the sake of parrying Isaac Zamat's prominence. Nevertheless, as a minor Speranza's situation would have been much stronger. She would have been entitled to invoke me'un to terminate even the betrothal that Zamat said had occurred without the need for a get; Menahem Azariah was speaking only of engagements. Besides, the debate was originally prompted by Zamat's charge that during their engagement Mattitia had been "intimate" (ba' li-yedei ma`aseh) with Speranza, making her automatically his wife. The best defense was to call Speranza a minor whose cohabitation might--halachically--not be considered to consummate the marriage.
But the story does not end here. Mattitia Zamat himself was no older than sixteen, and Speranza was the second fiancee who had left him. The first was Pazienza Toaff in 1557, and on that occasion Eliezer Castelnuovo testified that Mattitia was younger than Eliezer's own son, who was less than thirteen! Pazienza was only eleven. Since both were under-age, said Isaac Zamat, there was no need for a divorce, just the opposite of what he would say about his son's betrothal to Speranza.(99) What Isaac did not say in either case, likely explaining the unusually--and atypically--young age at which he pursued not one but two matches for his son, was that Mattitia had a terrible temper. Over a decade later, when Mattitia was finally married, his wife Vittoria Scazzocchio came running home one day to her father Judah teen Aron beaten black and blue.(100)
In the event, there was a certain irony. For in resting their arguments--their monologues, as it were--on specific halakhic issues, both Isaac Zamat and Speranza's mother Rosa must have been coached--"taught" (melumedet), as Menahem Azariah da Fano put it--by a lawyer.(101) And the lawyer most active among Roman Jews during these years, especially in pre-nuptial suits, was none other than Judah teen Aron's brother Rabbi Abramo Scazzocchio. Abramo appears in more than one hundred and forty notarial acts, defending disappointed grooms as well as reluctant brides; the halachah, after all, facilitated balancing family strategies with personal matrimonial preference irrespective of gender. Once Abramo even defended a man notorious for violent moods.
In 1552, and with her brothers vigorously supporting her, Rosa di Judah ended her engagement to Sabato di Yeruham Capone (later Milano). Initially, the match had seemed desirable for reasons of status and economics--and because Rosa was already a not so marriageable twenty-two. But soon afterward it was learned that Sabato Capone had been accused of beating his first wife Speranza di Stella di Sicilia, so viciously, in fact, that he had been thrown in jail. He also had a reputation as a gambler.(102) To defend himself--there was no hope of saving the engagement, but he hoped at least not to suffer a loss (and perhaps to profit) from the terms of its dissolution--Capone turned to Abramo teen Aron. Ingeniously, Abramo said that Sabato and Rosa had been betrothed, not merely engaged, and that to free herself Rosa would have to accept a divorce. This was so, he explained, because during the engagement, there had been a quorum of ten, a minyan, in the town of Sermoneta near Rome, where Rosa lived. Normally, no minyan met there; the Jews of Sermoneta were too few. This extraordinary minyan, therefore--which was constituted for that matter only by summoning men from nearby Piperno--had to have been gathered to witness a betrothal, namely, that of Sabato and Rosa,(103) precisely as recent ordinances had required.(104)
Abramo did not rest his case here. Instructive about the limits to which defense strategy might go (and also perhaps about contemporary practice in distinction to theory), Abramo argued that one should not take the question of wife beating seriously, since some men beat their wives, but others do not. Furthermore, Sabato's first wife may have merited the beating, for had it not been rumored that she was not a virgin when first she stood under the wedding canopy. One wonders whether Abramo would have said these things had he been writing a dozen years later, in the light of the travails of his niece Vittoria, the beaten wife of Mattitia Zamat.
We know less about why other matches went awry. For example, did the broken engagement suit only the bride-to-be or her immediate family as well, as was the case with Rosa di Judah. There were at least twenty-three broken engagements out of about 560 matches registered by Jewish notaries during the fifty years 1536-85, or 4.1%.(105) This does not mean that up to 4% of Roman Jewish girls rejected a parental choice or were persuaded to so do; rather, up to 4% of those (registered) who had already taken the first formal step to betrothal (or occasionally had actually been betrothed but not yet wedded) subsequently extricated themselves--or were extricated.(106) In nearly two out of three broken engagements, those who appeared before the notaries were the father (or other relatives, mother, or brothers) of the bride and the groom, not the bride herself: The initiator, moreover, might also be the groom, such as Leone Piattelli in 1551.(107) Piattelli first said he lacked the money to fulfill his commitment but then added that his mother and sister had witnessed a certain Abramo secretly climb through an attic window to keep an adulterous tryst with his fiancee Ricca Zarfati.
Piattelli's claim may have been unique. But with regard to the money, which indeed was the essential hurdle to his marriage, Piattelli was not alone. Various others ended an engagement because they were unable to meet the financial terms of their pre-nuptial contracts.(108) Often, such cases ended amicably, with the groom freely reciting the prescribed formula of "she is free to marry whomever she wants."(109) Nonetheless, at Rome and those other Italian locations where contracts regularly specified that the qiddushin be celebrated within weeks of the shiddukhin, and the huppah, nissu'in, six months to a year later, such amicable endings raise the question of whether these contracts were being observed in the breach and the custom being followed was the more general one of qiddushin only on the eve of--or together with--the huppah. Or had the qiddushin been repeatedly postponed and the engagement eventually broken because the bride's father was unable to pay even a deposit, let alone the entire dowry? This latter was likely the case when engagements ended within but a month or two, or, alternatively, two years or more after the original match.(110)
Postponements of qiddushin may also explain why the concept of me'un was being applied metaphorically and without regard to age or the state of being an orphan. In the heightened sixteenth-century Jewish awareness of the need to secure the bride's consent, authorities like Menahem Azariah da Fano were seeking by way of me'un to provide an acceptable justification for terminating soured engagements, much in the same way married women might initiate a suit for divorce by saying they spurned their husbands (ma'us). Needless to add, disgruntled parents, too, found me'un to be an attractive mechanism. Nevertheless, even reinterpreted me'un was ineffective if a betrothal had already occurred and the bride was mature; hence, the posturing of Rosa di Judah to deny that she was fully betrothed and the claim of Speranza di Rosa that she was underage. Both women were seeking to avoid protracted disputes like those that accompanied the "dubious betrothal" (hashash qiddushin) of the widow Rosa Montalcino in 1535 and the get--possibly invalid because it may have been issued under coercion--in the Tamari-Venturozzo affair in 1560.(111) Uncontested ends to betrothals were rare. As in the case of smoothly terminated long-term engagements, it seems to have taken an impoverished father of the bride--like a certain Samuel, who in 1559 could not afford to pay the dowry of his daughter Paloma--to convince grooms like Judah Sabatello to give a get with grace.(112)
But what explains those matches that ended because non se amano or because "they were not made in heaven"? In two such matches, in 1577 and 1631,(113) neither side claimed a qiddushin--indeed, in the former it was said explicitly that none had occurred. Yet notably, the engagement contract had been drawn up "in years gone by," when the spouses-to-be, Stella Ceprano and Giacomo di Tivoli, were probably quite young. If years later, the two were convinced that their prospective marriage was not "made in heaven," what surely contributed to their change of heart must have been the rituals and practices of Jewish courtship. It was likely these same rituals and practices that persuaded Mandolina and Abramo di Ascoli (whose engagement in 1631 lasted twelve months) that they just "could not get along."
These rituals varied from the polite and the courtly to the virtually sexual. The latter were a constant source of ambiguity. Leone de Modena, in his famous Rites of the Jews of the early seventeenth century, wrote that the dews draw up a writing of "espousals . . . and then cloth the man take the woman by the Hand and acknowledge her as his Spouse. [Subsequently, they wait a period of two to twelve months] during which time, the Man hath libertie to visit, and to sport, and toy with his betrothed Mistresse, but he must not know her carnally."(114) Often, however, this limit was flouted. Therefore at Corfu in 1652 (admittedly over fifty years later, but within the same attitudinal ambient), decrees were issued that "no engaged man [meshudakh] may enter the house of his fiancee, nor she his abode, until one month prior to the wedding . . . [in order to remove all] stumbling blocks."(115) Similarly, at Rome in 1561 a (possibly) extraordinary ceremony took place, a qinyan 'erusin, to formalize an engagement and publicly guarantee a future qiddushin; for "Reuben's spirit was so gas [unbridled] that he wanted to be able freely to enter his fiancee's home." Restricted pre-marital physical intimacy was apparently grudgingly accepted.(116)
Acts of a courtly bent, on the other hand, were publicly lauded: "On the third intermediate day of the Passover festival, 1538, Isaac Piattelli [the notary, no less] arrived at the home of David Piccio . . . carrying a handkerchief tied and filled with fruit . . . which he presented to Oravera, David's daughter, his bride, which she accepted. And this was exceedingly pleasing to Oravera's mother Miriam and the other three women in the room. . . . A half hour later, Isaac entered, carrying a precious veil, worth three scudi [a large sum]. This gift, too, Oravera accepted with great joy."(117) This scenario reenacted what appears to have been a well approved Roman Jewish custom,(118) one that was also desirable since publicly it sealed the engagement (hence, the notarial record), but was also safe since no metal, especially gold, or jewelry was involved; thus, the presents could never be mistaken as tokens of betrothal. In addition, the notary recorded--or, more likely, was instructed to record--the pleasure of the bride-to-be, her mother, her mothers' friends, and, by implication, that of her father and his friends, too (who were present playing chess). Isaac's genteel behavior, especially his unexpected return with the second gift, generated warmth and affection, or so, at least, the notarial act represents it. How could anyone, in its wake, later claim that this was not a fitting match, one, moreover, that was not desired by all the parties involved?
This same promise of marital compatibility was registered when Giuseppe di Moise gave some musk to his bride Fiorina di Abramuccio. The act so pleased Fiorina's companion Laura di Manutilla, that when Laura's fiance ('arusatah) Dattelo di Moise soon appeared, Laura asked him for the same. To this he responded by tying a sprig of musk to a silver toothpick and saying: "Behold I give you this musk with the toothpick by way of qiddushin, and you Madamme Fioruccia be my witness . . . And Laura took these objects with pleasure.(119) So testified Fiorina [and her husband Ioseppe as well]." Courtship ritual had thus become pretext for a clandestine marriage--although one between two people already engaged and with their obvious mutual complicity. Was the notary, therefore, recording this testimony in order to remove all doubt about the marriage, or had someone lodged a complaint? Indeed, might not the whole episode have been staged because Laura's and Dattelo's parents were at odds: about the dowry, its payment, or something else?
What alone is certain is that the community had to deal, positively or negatively, with the couple's will. However, as the Piccio-Piattelli script reveals, the community had to deal with motherly and fatherly will as well. And parents were not always of one mind--once again, a potential product of courtship rituals. It will be recalled that at Ferrara about 1560 an engagement had been "formalized, gifts sent, and [during the courtship] the bride-to-be was content," until her mother and her mother's female relatives interfered and the bride reneged. This interference infuriated the father. He stood to pay a stiff fine for the broken pact, but more, he had in the interim come "to like his prospective son-in-law a great deal, whom he also wanted as his partner to study Torah." Nonetheless, Menahem Azariah da Fano ruled in the women's favor. "First she thought she would accept him, for the sake of her father's honor [or, to honor her father], now, she cannot abide him." Not to accept this fact, he said, would be to treat the bride as a "captive" (shevuya). It would also be to violate the dictum of Rav about respecting a daughter's matrimonial will.(120)
The father's righteous anger may have also been fueled by reading some of the misogynous literature Jews had long produced, including writings on the interfering mother. This latter tradition dates back to at least the eleventh century, when Shefatyah of the Megillat 'Ahima'az learned that his wife and the mother of his daughter Cassia had been putting off potential suitors one after the other. Shefatyah "soundly berated his wife and took her to task," after which he unilaterally arranged a match.(121) Isolated instances, nonetheless, prove the existence of neither a war of the genders nor of a perpetual conflict between parental desires. Besides, daughters could frustrate mothers as easily as fathers.
Such episodes occurred mostly when girls too timid to renege on their engagements during their fathers' lifetimes (which probably was the case more often than not) were orphaned and freed to deal with their mothers and other relatives alone. The case of Ricca d'Aversa, whose fortunes were intimately linked to those of Donnina Zarfati, daughter of the late Rabbi Samuel Zarfati (also a papal physician), is a prime example. In 1519, immediately after her father's death, Donnina's fiance Judah Corbito claimed that he had betrothed Donnina with gifts in front of witnesses. Donnina protested and took the initiative her father seems to have pondered, but never had the courage to take himself. Namely, she requested that the engagement be broken. She had "never been satisfied" with it, she said; indeed, in the eight years(!) of its duration, "Corbito had never sent her a letter of greeting, much less given her gifts." Donnina won her case. Whether she was opposed by her mother or by other relatives is not known, but it is certain that she was supported by rabbinical opinion. Unanimously, it was declared that in Rome, since 1504 the rule--whose infringement Rabbi Samuel would no doubt have protested--was that engagement gifts always precede a betrothal. Thus, any gifts Judah had given Donnina were engagement gifts alone. Donnina's wish to break off the engagement, accordingly, was acknowledged, and she was declared free "to marry any man her heart desired."(122) Donnina's case also paved the way for that of Ricca, daughter of the late Gerson d'Aversa, in 1556. Ricca's was a match that only the parents, yet neither of the potential spouses, seem to have wanted. Indeed, Ricca's mother opposed her daughter at every step of the way, as the notary's retelling of the story makes crystal clear:
It is public knowledge that some years ago a match [hitun] was made between
a modest and educated young lady named Ricca, daughter of the late
and illustrious Mr. Gerson, and the wise and well-educated Menahem, son
of the illustrious and exalted Salomone of Pisa. But, at present, Ricca does
not consent [da`atah] to marry [le-hinas'et] the young man. For, she says,
"He never smiles at me; in fact, he spurns her [mu'as bah]. The match was
made strictly for money." This she said today, 1 April 1556, right in her
own home, in front of the witnesses whose names appear below, as well
as before Rabbi Abraham teen Aaron Scazzocchio and Rabbi Yehudah teen
Rabbi Shabtai Piattelli [the notary's father].
Now, when the illustrious Mrs. Gentildonna, Ricca's mother, heard all
this, she erupted in anger: "My child," she said, "I don't like what I'm hearing.
As far as I'm concerned, what's right is for you to go with your mate.
I beg you not to bring my hoary head down to the grave in sorrow [Gen.
42:38]. I'll try to give you your entire dowry at once. I'll even add to it.
After all, your mate is from an illustrious family, as everyone knows. Nobody
has anything bad to say about him; and he has many personal merits.
So, my daughter, if you've considered reneging, forget it: This thing [the
match] was God's doing. Unite with your intended, and make me happy."
Nevertheless, Ricca refused [me'anah], and she explained herself saying:
"When they married me [hisi'uah], I was underage [qettanah]. Now that I'm
mature [ba'ah li-yedei gedolin], I spurn him [ma'us]. I do not want him [heftsah],
nor do I desire him [retsonah], especially since I've heard what he has
said to my mother, and even to my face, that: "My father [Salomone] acted
hastily to make a match for me so quickly; I'd rather wait another ten years
before taking a wife." Besides, I've endured all kinds of vilification and
slurs from my intended, so I've not the faintest doubt that all he did was
for money. I tell you three times over that even were I to be given a thousand
thousand thousands, I'd never ever marry him."
She said these things three times over, and although her mother glowered
at her and made all kinds of slighting remarks, practically cursing her
outright, Ricca refused to budge and indicated as much to those of us whose
signatures appear below. She even said: "Since he left Rome, he's never
once written me, not even a single line."(123)
Ricca's pleas were quickly accepted. The rabbinical court constituted to judge the issue did not, however, rule in Ricca's favor because she was not enamored of Menahem, nor only because they may have agreed with her that the "match was not God's doing," that it was not "made in heaven," regardless of what her mother Gentildonna said. Their concerns as arbiters were primarily halachic ones. And it was to halachic issues that Ricca's advocate--once again Abramo teen Aron--had her speak. Indeed, as Abramo stressed in one of a bundle of acts memorializing this case, he was Ricca's lawyer, hers alone, and wholly unassociated with Gentildonna; Ricca, as a mature unmarried woman, albeit an orphan, was entitled to fight her own legal battles.
The substance of that battle was twofold: Did Ricca consent to the match; and had she ever accepted qiddushin from da Pisa, which at one point Menahem da Pisa's father Salomone said she did? Abramo thus instructed Ricca to say she "refused" as grounds for breaking the engagement. Ricca also expressed her lack of "consent." That she was "mature" and entitled to express consent did not prejudice her case, which was further strengthened by Menahem's own obvious disdain, despite his father's protest. Finally, Ricca said she "spurned" Menahem, establishing valid grounds for seeking a divorce in case da Salomone's claim was accepted. In fact, this concern was superfluous. What surely decided the question of betrothal was the precedent of Donnina Zarfati; indeed, one wonders whether Ricca's closing phrase that "he's never once written me" was not a calculated reference to Donnina Zarfati's "never sent a letter" thirty-five years before. At Rome, the gifts which Menahem's father said had been given were no proof of a betrothal. Only a minyan gathered specifically to celebrate a qiddushin, as Abramo had argued in the Capone case, could furnish prima facie evidence to that effect.
Salomone da Pisa thus quietly accepted the arbiters' decision in Ricca's favor, admitting that his many previous legal maneuvers--protesting, for example, the validity of witnesses or questioning whether the case should be decided before Jewish arbiters or the court of the Roman Vicar--had failed, all of which were orchestrated, need it be said, by his own attorney, Rabbi Joab di Rignano. As for Ricca, within six months she was engaged to Isaac teen Moise Rignano, a member of one of Rome's leading families. Ricca's father Gerson was a banker and a one-time Roman fattore; Ricca's exercise of will in accepting a marital partner had led her into neither the byways of marrying down nor into the "mad passion" that so many still considered romance to be.(124) No doubt, a matchmaker, a shadkhan, usually gifted with many wiles, was likely involved.(125) But it was probably Ricca herself who initiated this second match, which resulted in a marriage that lasted over a generation. Moreover, had even this second match or the subsequent marriage failed, Ricca's will would still have been honored, for like other Jewish women, she could have sued for divorce.
The reasons justifying such a suit were many, including impotence, unbearable husbandry behavior, and repeated vilification.(126) As the Talmud specified, "One should not live in the same basket as a snake."(127) There was also self-respect: one mature woman who refused to have children from a childless second husband agreed to a divorce only on condition that he stay out of Rome so that she not "be shamed."(128) Women needed protection, too--hence, the device of gittei zeman, a pre-written get., to be "delivered" should such problems as gambling or habitual disappearance for lengthy periods become irreparably chronic. Divorce was also granted when grooms could not fulfill their contractual obligations of betrothal.(129) With rare and purposeful exceptions, dowries were re stored to divorced wives, and into their own hands.(130)
Divorce thus signified a reversal of the process of matrimony, and its ritual inverted that of the wedding. Even if his wife originated the suit, a husband would still be asked, however formally, whether (according to the ruling of Rabbenu Tam in the twelfth century) she consented to the divorce.(131) Indeed, the question of consent was incorporated into the ceremony of divorce itself, to wit: "On 21 Tammuz 1560 Rafael ben Joab appeared and gave a bill of divorce [get] to his wife, Mrs. Diana, daughter of Hananiah, in the Scola Tempio, before fit witnesses, properly, and according to appropriate procedure and the law of Moses and Israel, namely, by to their common will [retson nafsham]"--in other words, through a publicly expressed, duly witnessed, and notarized record of mutual consent.(132) And to guarantee that mutual consent embodied satisfaction to the extent possible, the parties to a divorce, like those in difficulty over an engagement, also resorted to legal counsel (murshim).(133) Mutuality was ignored only in such extremes as when a certain Aron in 1552 "behaved deceitfully against Stella di Giacobbe Natronai, doing a filthy thing worthy of excommunication, not even thinking of giving Stella a get, making her into a potential `agunah [an `anchored,' unmarriageable, because still technically married woman]. [Perforce] the fattori [unilaterally] freed Stella to marry any man." She had been a victim, almost certainly, of a premeditated clandestine marriage, not merely a post factum claim about the meaning of gifts.(134)
Individual will and its formally registered expression were thus indispensable for creating or dissolving a marital bond--even after contracts of engagement had been signed and sealed. When in 1632, "perche non se amano ne se vonno bene, . . . Abram de Ascoli . . . e la d. Mandolina e de comun consento . . . cassano e annullano . . . e guastano il detto parentato, . . . il d.o Abrammo licenzia la d.a Mandolina e glie da licenzia de poterse remaritar ad altri, e simelmente la d.a Mandolina e la d.a Bella sue madre danno licenzia e autorita al d.o Abrammo de pigliar per moglie qual se voglia donna che lui vorra."(135) A release, explicitly worded and granted by both bride and groom (and in this case the bride's mother, too) freely to marry another, was something that law and usage had come to demand. This principle was never more eloquently demonstrated than in the chilling circumstances of 1736 surrounding the execution for burglary of the 25-year-old Abramo Caivano. Dictating his last words to a Christian notary (for in the attempt of the Society of S. Giovanni Decollato to convert him, no contact with any Jew was allowed), Abramo said "che lasciava in liberta Brunetta Spizzichino, colla quale era promessa per sposa, di potersi doppo la sue morte [sposare] con chi piu li piacesse, augurandoli buona fortune." Abramo's companion on the gallows, Angeluccio della Riccia, 26 and already married, took care "che in conto di ristituzione di dote di sue moglie," various sums be collected and paid; with certain other objects to be divided between wife and mother, "brammando [perhaps indicative of women's prerogatives] non siano picche tra di loro."(136)
In so stipulating, at once formulaic and--under the circumstances--with unquestionable affect, Abramo and Angeluccio, but especially the former, were also testifying to the congruence of theory and practice. One might figuratively picture Caivano, even at this delicate moment, in the company not of a Christian notary, but of a Jewish one or an advocate like Rabbi Abramo Scazzocchio, telling Caivano what words he was required to say: creating, writing, and directing, as it were, a halachic drama within whose framework--or so most dews thought--it was possible to mediate between the will of one and the conflicting will of another, between filial desires of daughters and sons and family hopes. For the halachah may have favored and always searched out consent, but it neither defended consent unconditionally, nor did it unreservedly advocate patriarchal rights. The ideal halachic portrait was that depicted by Judah Mintz: the requisite minyan, protecting the family, yet, in addition, the marriage celebrated be-da'atah and presumably, as Joseph Colon and Elijah Capsali argued, be-da`ato as well--that is, by both her and his free will together. Menahem da Pisa, it should be recalled, was as anxious to be free of Ricca d'Aversa as she was to be free of him.
Such a portrait presupposed, however, careful oversight and precise application of the halachic rules. And to that end the rabbi was insinuated into the rites of betrothal and marriage, apparently on a regular basis first in fourteenth-century Germany.(137) Called the mesader qiddushin, the rabbinic celebrant was to oversee the wedding's proper performance. The rabbi, one might say, took the place not only of the Tridentine priest but also of the notary in the nuptial scenes described by Altieri and in Florentine ricordanze. It was thus a rabbi standing alongside a rabbinical notary who presided over an extraordinary ceremony held at Rome in 1561 intended to restrain untoward premarital sexual behavior and ensure an eventual exchange of nuptial consent. During this ceremony the prospective spouses each promised that at some future date, he would give and she would receive qiddishin from the other.(138) This ceremony appears to have been a Jewish version of the practice legislated by the ecclesiastical synod that met at Florence in 1517 that required prospective husbands to promise before a notary or priest to wed their fiancees on a specific date the girl's parents eventually chose.
Yet the goal of the clergy at Florence was to eliminate confusion on the part of poorly informed (lower-class) Christians who were to be aided to properly distinguish the verbum de praesenti from the verbum de futuro,(139) hence to differentiate constitutive from future intent. In the Jewish instance the promise (this time given exceptionally by both prospective groom and bride) was made to guarantee performance. No matter how similar Jewish and Christian practice seemed to be--to return directly to the theme on which this study opened--the two never quite meant the same. One, indeed, would like to know how aware dews and Christians were of each other's conceptual language. The Jewish preoccupation with performance rather than with matrimony's spiritual symbolism led at least one Jew, David Arbi, into claiming the almost preposterous. In trying to save his daughter's engagement--he had not the funds to pay her dowry, and this had gone on for three years--Arbi said, "What God has joined let no man put asunder."(140) Arbi was no doubt citing the New Testament for the ears of the papal vicar who had exercised his legal prerogative to take an interest in the case. Arbi surely did not view marriage, let alone engagement, as indissoluble; this was a purely Christian dilemma. Nonetheless, it is a real question whether Arbi was being genuine--not artful or possibly even disingenuous--in trying, as he clearly was, to stage a defense by forensically manipulating unmovable Christian principle, just as he or a lawyer might have manipulated malleable halachic arguments.
What Arbi and possibly other Jews seem not to have perceived as they observed Christian behavior or even adopted its outward forms was that unlike Christians, Jews lived within a social and cultural system that effectively united--or at least never theoretically gauged the distinction between--the temporal and the spiritual, the sacred and the profane. The Jews' essentially civil concept of matrimony could thus be adjusted and reinterpreted without challenging hallowed (halachic) principle or, as was then occurring in the Christian world inventing novel marital forms.(141) For it had been halachic principle itself that for centuries had prescribed the forms that the Jewish civil concept of matrimony would take.
Nonetheless, the issues involved here were more than those of religious tradition alone. Indeed, no matter how much their actions grew out of time-honored specifically Jewish halachic mechanisms, the Jews were not the only ones at this time to acknowledge a need to honor children's marital will. Had not the very aphorism of heavenly-made matches been invoked in near contemporary England? Yet the pastors now giving their blessing to these matches were, like rabbis, also married heads of families. And the English parents sanctioning these matches were primarily members of those social strata that today we would label the middle and often lower-middle classes.(142) These, of course, were the same social strata to which the vast majority of Rome's sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Jews belonged--Jews whose lifestyle was typified by a two-generational nuclear family structure, a rapidly expanding out-marriage pattern (between different Jewish immigrant and local ethnic groups), a heavy reliance on "neighborhood" (shekhunah, as they themselves called it) networking rather than on relatives to meet immediate and emergency needs, and, of course, well entrenched women's rights, including over their late husbands' orphans and estates.(143) The voice of sons and daughters as a real factor in arranging marriages thus seems to have at least partially been linked to social class and status.(144)
These social factors were surely more predisposing than determining ones. Still, the Jews of sixteenth-century Rome were not the first Jews to combine a "middle-class" lifestyle with a readiness to acknowledge marital will. Intimations of marital will's recognition appear already in the Talmud. But its first clear acceptance, and of mutual will at that, appears in the records of those quintessentially "urban (middle-class)" Jews of the eighth and ninth centuries, the Karaites, a product of what has been called the Judaeo-Islamic symbiosis at the height of its medieval flowering.(145) Arch-exponents of intellectual protest and opposition, the Karaites challenged the common practice in the Islamic world that parents control all aspects of their children's marriages, and they asked: "Is it not written [Ruth 4:13] that `Boaz took Ruth,' [to teach us] that by his own will he took her? And he said, `Will she not be for him a wife?' [to instruct us that she became his wife] through her own will [too]. Hence, whoever marries a woman ought to marry her at his own will, and it is not proper for his father to marry him to a woman he does not want. A woman also should not be married unless it is by her own will, and it is not proper for her father to marry her to one she, [too], does not want."(146) Was it not principles like these whose application daring girls like Ricca and, for that matter, her fiance Menahem, too, were demanding?
The Riccas and Menahems of the Roman Jewish community had thus moved the Jews to the forefront of those in the early modern world who acknowledged, or perhaps better, reacknowledged, the propriety of children participating in their marital fate, if only through the privilege of refusal. And here we are reminded of the conclusions of Livi Baci, who placed the dews among the forerunners in the conscious use of contraception.(147) With regard to establishing a working balance between parental and filial will in making a matrimonial match, the Jews--at least those of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Rome, whose practices may yet be proven the norm--seem to deserve the label of forerunners once again.
But as said, these Jews were not forerunners of the truly new. Both the halachic principles and social structures underpinning their actions were venerable. In Western Europe in particular, the commercial activities of Jewish women and the rights they exercised over their children were no sixteenth- and seventeenth-century innovation, but existed already in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Jewesses at that time even went to court to insist on adequate dowries--despite the haste with which their fathers putatively engaged them while they were still underage.(148) However, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries such privileges were exercised by Christian women as well as by Jews, for example, in thirteenth-century Siena. Nonetheless, in the fourteenth century the powers of Sienese women (admittedly, women whose social status was somewhat higher than that of most urban Jews) began to be curtailed by dotal and devolutionary structures that heavily favored men, a trend that climaxed in Siena and elsewhere in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.(149) Dowries--once conceived as a woman's inheritance--now began in certain circles not to be paid at all and became--as their nominal value skyrocketed--essentially symbols of status, as in fact they had always been in part among the upper classes.(150) By contrast, Jewish dowries continued to be paid. Jewish women's rights, especially in the southern European tier, expanded. Underlying the decision to admit sixteenth-century Jewish women's demands to terminate engagements and halakhically to recognize da'atah, therefore, lay a fundamental legal and structural conservatism. What seemed--and seems--so new was thus effectively a reconfiguration of the old.
Whether, paradoxically, what precipitated this reconfiguration was the animated debate about marital will then going on in Christian circles, one can only speculate. But if this was the case, then we are witness to a striking phenomenon. For at just the moment when so many in the Christian world and its hierarchies were striving to resist giving children a voice in determining their conjugal futures, Jewish authorities--with parental collusion--were moving in the opposite direction. The common features of Jewish and Christian marriage and prenuptiality were thus indeed no more than skin deep. The disparity between similar form and divergent content and between diverse ideals of the single institution, matrimony, were carrying Jews and Christians socially, not only religiously, further and further apart.
[Figures 1 to 4 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
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Yedi`ot Aharonot. January 1, 1993. (*) I wish to thank Robert Bonfil, Esther Cohen, Anna Foa, and Giovanni Levi for their careful reading of this paper, and also Tom Cohen, Diane Owen Hughes, Jeffrey Woolf, and Natalie Z. Davis for reading an earlier, much abbreviated version. Their comments were valuable; the responsibility for the final product is mine.
(1) See esp. the discussion by Klapisch-Zuber, 199-209; and for Jewish parallels, see Metzger, plates no. 183, 187, 199, 335, 336, and 344.
(2) Roper, 67.
(3) Previous comparative studies are Cohen-Horowitz, 225-49; and Falk, passim.
(4) For the Jewish wedding service and related rituals, see Stern, passim; and the texts of the seven blessings recited in Maimonides, Hilkhot 'Ishut, chap. 4; for the English trans., see Abrahams, 1896; and for varying practices over time, see Freimann, passim.
(5) On the role of the priest and on Christian nuptial rituals, see Klapisch-Zuber, 187-89, 194-95; and John Bossy, 22-26; on the Jewish use of a wedding ring, even in the early Middle Ages, see Klar, 62.
(6) The most thorough discussion of all matters concerning theories of Christian marriage is Brundage.
(7) On clerical as opposed to lay views of marriage, the so-called "two patterns of [Christian] marriage," see Klapisch-Zuber, 208; and esp. Duby, 1983; idem, 1978; and idem, 1990, 34-49, on marriage as essentially a male domain, including of course its planning and purpose; note, too, the controversial argument about the Church's reaction to secular marital goals in Goody.
(8) Vauchez, 203-09; but now see Elliott, which regrettably I have been unable to consult directly.
(9) See the synthesis of Brundage, 331-37; and also diverse presentations of the issue in Sheehan, 1978, 1-33; Noonan, 429; Stone, 1990, 51-58; Ruggiero, 25; and the discussion of theory in practice in Casey, 92-98.
(10) On Jewish consent and on the secular and contractual aspects of Jewish marriage, see particularly Maimonides, 'Ishut, 3:19, 4:1; Jacob ben Asher, 'Arba'ah Turim (hereafter Tur); idem, 'Eben ha-`Ezer (hereinafter E.H.), 37 and 155; and Friedman, 83, 86-87.
(11) The text is cited in Gulak, 4.
(12) On the relationship between performance and intent among Christians, see Helmholz, 33-35.
(13) See Accati, 23-24; Ruggiero, 26-28; and Helmholz, 31-33.
(14) Klapisch-Zuber discusses this tract at length, 183-89.
(15) See also Helmholz, 35.
(16) Klapisch, 187.
(17) These notarial texts are housed in the Roman Archivio Storico Capitolino, Sezione 3, known unofficially as Notai Ebrei. They form the documentary foundation of this essay and will be referred to as ASC, x,y,z, where x = Fascicle, y = book, and z = the folio number (e.g., ASC 11, 1, 20). The texts run continuously from 1536 through 1640, in Hebrew through about 1580, then Italian. A prefatory discussion of their contents is in Stow, 1992(1) 286-96; idem, 1991, 43-57; and idem, 1992(2), 61-75.
(18) See Klar, 62 and 25.
(19) Falk and Cohen-Horowitz have discussed this issue at some length. One should stress, nonetheless, that the rabbinic function was not a sacral one; it was purely supervisory, to ensure the proper halakhot had been followed; see, Freimann, 66. In theory, a wedding can still be performed without a rabbinical presence. One must also be aware of the sense of the ceremony of qiddushin. The literal meaning normally given this word, "sanctification," is a misconstrual. The root Q-D-Sh means to separate, to dedicate, implying exclusivity. The woman becomes legally reserved for the husband who says: "Behold you are `sanctified' to me through this ring by the law of Moses and Israel." Modern Hebrew, too, speaks of objects which have been "set apart" (qodesh) for specific purposes, albeit the "object" in question in the marriage, the bride, was supposed to have consented--albeit tacitly--to becoming such; see Babylonian Talmud (henceforth, B. T.), Qiddushin 1a, and again Freimann, 65, in both cases citing the early fourteenth-century Catalonian Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret. Thus Jewish weddings include no mutual plighting of troths, possess no intrinsic sacrality, and even today retain their legally emptive character--a source of many contemporary legal problems.
(20) Helmholz, 32.
(21) Klar, 62; Freimann, 46.
(22) The exception was Ancona (ASC, 1, 1, 92v), which retained the old practice. But see Falk, 36, 37, 94. For Rome, see Freimann, 122. (23) On lengthy Christian and Jewish engagements/betrothals, see Horowitz, 1987, 357, and the literature cited there.
(24) For example, ASC, 7, 1, 217v and 244v; 2, 1, 65v; and 2, 2, 118v.
(25) See Boksenboim, 1983, 197-98, and idem, 1977, 333-76; also Falk, 98, and Freimann, 128-31, on the case of the widow Rosa Montalcino; and most recently Bonfil, 1992, Hebrew nos. 19-28, which notes the voluminous literature about this affair. See also the attempted fraud in ASC, 1, 1, 180.
(26) Freimann, 218.
(27) Cited in Tur, E. H., 45, and see esp. 42 and 46.
(28) See Bonfil, 1990, 107-08; Freimann, 128-31. See Tur, E. H., 42 and 46 discussing the the will of the bride and whether its expression was properly witnessed, so creating a marital bond. It must be noted that the freedom taken here in passing from halachic authorities in Europe to those centuries earlier in the Islamic East and return results from the way halachic students themselves related to forebears, namely, as debating partners, as if present in the same room. This attitude may sometimes paper over severe disagreements, but as a whole the halachah does retain an underlying unity.
(29) Stone 1990, 74-76, see also 57-69.
(30) Brundage, 497; Helmholz, 36-37.
(31) Roper, 73 and 97; but cf. Brundage, 498, for his view of pre-Reformation attitudes.
(32) A. S. Haskell, 467-68; see also Sheehan, 1971, 228-63.
(33) See Roper, 97; but cf. Ozment, 1983, 59, 63.
(34) Bossy, 24-25; Accati, 24; and Cavallo-Cerutti, 347.
(35) Roper, 97.
(36) Bossy, 24; Casey, 92-98; and Macfarlane, 125-26, 132-34, 138.
(37) Mendelsohn, 128.
(38) Houlbrooke, 77; see, too, Abrahams, 1890, 172-77; and see the text cited by Baer, no. 1065.
(39) Cited in Finkelstein, 139-40, 169.
(40) B. T. Yebamot, 107a-b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah (hereinafter M. T.), Gerushin, chap. II; and Tur, E. H., 155. See also B. T., Qiddushin, 41a; M. T., 'Ishut, 3:19; and cf. B. T., Ketubot, 46b on parental control.
(41) See Boksenboim, 1983, no. 115; Fano, 143, no. 81; and ASC 1, 1, 78, also as discussed below.
(42) This rather metaphoric usage, Haym Soloveitchik graciously informs me, is not halachically problematic since engagement (shiddukhin) is not a true halachic category with precise rules, such as those applying to betrothal (qiddushin), which is a halachic category.
(43) J. Wistinetski, esp. 930, 951.
(44) M. T., 'Ishut, 4:1, and Isserles on Tur, E. H., 42b; see further, Saperstein, 1992, 231.
(45) Woolf discusses both Capsali and Colon. On emphasis on choice by another contemporary, Rabbi Judah Mintz, see Bonfil, 1976, 77.
(46) Tur, E H., 42b, and Karo, in the margins of the Tur there.
(47) Gulak, 4; also Paniri, 17, for a modern view; and even the description in Yedi`ot 'Aharonot, 1 January 1993; and see the apposite entries in the Encyclopedia Judaica, e.g., "Betrothal," "Marriage," "Child Marriage," and so forth.
(48) Gulak, 9.
(49) Finkelstein, 307.
(50) Ibid., 323.
(51) Ibid., 302.
(52) Cited in Freimann, 56, and see also 139 and 219. See Stern, 13, citing a thirteenth-century Italian responsum concerning the possible refusal of either the bride or groom, which refers to the notion of matches made in heaven.
(53) Meiri, cited in Freimann, 86; and see the discussion of this passage and other related ones in Grossman, 1990, 118-19.
(54) Cited in margins of B. T., all standard editions, Qiddushin, 41a.
(55) Cited in Klar, 27 and 36. On cousin marriage, see Goitein, 1978, 3:27-33; his summary, 1974, 25-35; and Bresc, 187-93. On Cassia's age at marriage, see Grossman's arguable position, 1990, 118, and compare Sofer, 123-24, suggesting an early age for premarital arrangements but not the actual marriage itself.
(56) See Brundage, 189-90, 276-77, and 496-501; also Bossy, 23-24.
(57) Discussed in Tur, E. H., 28:21; see, too, ASC 7, 1, 225v-226; Ibn Adret's Responsum 314 is cited in Freimann, 66.
(58) See Freimann, 219.
(59) Cited in Bonfil, 1977, 77.
(60) Assuming they had reached the statutory age of discretion, which was 13 for boys and normally for girls 12 1/2; however, in Italy 133 was frequently given as the age for girls, too.
(61) See Grossman, 1991; compare Ozment, 51-55, on Protestant behavior and comments on it, which had Jewish parallels, too; see ASC, 11, 3, 5v-7.
(62) Klapisch-Zuber, "The `Cruel Mother.'"
(63) Tur, E. H., 82:7.
(64) Syrkis (Cracow, seventeenth century) on E H., 82:7, commentary printed in the margins of the Tur.
(65) Isserles, commentary on E. H., 82:7, but this time in the Shulhan `Arukh of Josef Karo (sixteenth century), again, in all standard editions; the Shulhan `Arukh follows precisely the order of the Tur; see also Ketubot, 60a, 65b, 102b on these problems. Most recently, see the discussion of Shochetman, that courts today freely decide custody in all cases, basing themselves on the child's welfare; effectively disclaiming hard and fast rules granting boys to fathers and girls to mothers.
(66) ASC, 7, 2, 205.
(67) ASC, 1, 1, 137.
(68) ASC, 5, 3, 5v-9v; see also Simonsohn, no. 4043; and the comment on this document in Adelman, 1986, 202, n. 36.
(69) ASC, 1, 1, 127. (70) ASC, 2, 3, 78.
(71) ASC, 2, 2, 55 and 55v.
(72) ASC, 11, 1, 10-11v.
(73) ASC, 11, 1, 50; 11, 2, 55v and 56v.
(74) ASC, 11, 1, 53-54v; 11, 2, 91v.
(75) ASC, 2, 1, 62v and 6, 2, 42v-43; and see also Stow and Stow.
(76) ASC, 2, 2, 140; 1, 3, 52; 1, 1, 122v; cf. Kuehn, 198-99, on Christian women's rights and privileges.
(77) ASC, 8, 2, 54v.
(78) References to this process appear in the comment of Isserles on E. H., 111:16 and 113:1. See also Bonfil, 1976, 78; and for Turin in the eighteenth century, culminating a long process, Allegra, 29-58.
(79) See above, nn. 57 and 58. One, of course, must distinguish a general theoretical development from its application in practice. The cases of Rosa Montalcino and Tamari-Ventorozzo, cited in n. 24 above, reflect considerable tension, including between various Jewish ethnic groupings, essentially over whose interpretation would be accepted. What they were arguing about, nonetheless, was whether consent had been given and what constitutes consent, as well as which practice had initially been followed.
(80) Isserles on E. H., 50.
(81) Fano, 143.
(82) See Helmholz, 44.
(83) Wernham, 201.
(84) Helmholz, 32-33.
(85) Wernham, 191-205.
(86) Fano, 141.
(87) ASC, 8, 2, 54v; 11, 4, 12v.
(88) ASC, 11, 2, 95v-96 (and see those texts in Italian trans. in Stow, 1986, 105-06).
(89) ASC, 11, 2, 94v and 11, 1, 86-86v.
(90) M. T., 'Ishut, 4:1,7, and esp. 8; see also Gerushin, 11:3.
(91) See e.g., Boksenboim, 1983, 453.
(92) See the remark of Fano, 142.
(93) See Davis, 1988. These "tales," told in letters to the French king requesting clemency, were superficially ones of pathos. Their substratum was legal principle.
(94) Similar notarial activity--excluding the preparation of such as ketubot--has been described for Navarre in the fifteenth century; see Gampel, 59-60. See also Maire Vigueur, 21, who presents evidence that Jewish notaries were active in Rome already in the late fourteenth century. However, whatever were the precedents, the Roman notaries seem not to have benefited from them. The formulae in the early sixteenth century lack uniformity and clauses are inconsistently phrased. By the late century, Isaac Piattelli had achieved a high level of professional standardization and clarity. On the change of the language in the late sixteenth century from Hebrew to Italian, see Bonfil, 1988, 19-20; however, in this particular instance pressures by the Apostolic Chamber may have also played a role, just as the bull Cum nimis absurdum of 1555 ordered Jews not to keep account-books in Hebrew. See further Bonfil, 1990, 207-30, on Jewish arbitration, its limits, and documentary exigencies, in which notaries played a central role.
(95) The best example of invention--indicative of the meeting in sixteenth-century Rome and the eventual social and cultural amalgamation of Jews from all corners of the Jewish world--Spain, Southern France, Germany, Southern Italy, and native Romans--is the clause in prenuptial contracts discussing return of the dowry. Ashkenazim had followed the dictate of Rabbi Jacob Tam to return the entire dowry during the first year, whereas Sephardim divided the inheritance in half, a problem created by the preexisting Talmudic rule that husbands fully inherit their (late) wives; see Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v., "dowry." The Roman rule, universally adopted by later centuries, was to return in all cases one-third; Stow, 1992(1), 295-96.
(96) ASC, 2, 4, 9.
(97) ASC 1, 1, 77v-78 and 80-80v.
(98) Fano, 141; and see Boksenboim, 1983, 453.
(99) ASC, 12, 1, 90 and 92v.
(100) ASC, 2, 4, 42. On the average age at marriage, see Horowitz, 1994, 106-08.
(101) Fano, 141.
(102) ASC, 7, 1, 224 and 224v.
(103) ASC, 7, 1, 226v-227.
(104) See Finkelstein, 302, 307.
(105) The acts of the Notai ebrei register a large percentage of Jewish marriages, although possibly other Jewish notaries were at work whose acts have not been preserved. Jews also registered marriages before Christian notaries, but these were really a second registration, apparently required by papal officials, indicating the specific sums and goods included in dowries. The problem is whether the Jewish marriage rate was the same as the general one, which, Giovanni Levi has been kind enough to point out to me, would have been somewhat greater than 1300 in a fifty-year period for a population somewhat larger than 3,000; the Jewish population at this time grew from about 1,800 to slightly over 3,000, if numbers gathered may be trusted. However, Jewish marriage rates did fluctuate, especially downward, in response to outside stimuli; see Stow, 1992(3), 396.
(106) It would be interesting to compare this percentage with that of women today who, having already accepted an engagement ring, terminate their engagements.
(107) ASC, 7, 1, 208.
(108) ASC, 11, 2, 11-12.
(109) ASC, 12, 1, 83v.
(110) ASC, 12, 1, 133; 2, 4, 69; 9, 1, 39v; 9, 1, 46; and 9, 1, 117. (111) See n. 24 above.
(112) ASC, 1, 1, 32.
(113) ASC, 12, 1, 83v and 8, 2, 54v.
(114) Modena, 174-75: part 4, chap. 2 and 3.
(115) Finkelstein, 321; although see a nearly identically worded precedent in 1238 at Crete (Finkelstein, 271).
(116) ASC, 1, 1, 93v, and relatedly, Benayahu, 33-52.
(117) ASC, 11, 2, 78.
(118) Robert Bonfil, 1990, 177-78.
(119) ASC, 9, 4, 133v-134.
(120) Fano, 142.
(121) Klar, 27; and on misogyny, see Debenedetti-Stow, 7-64; and Adelman, 1992.
(122) Freimann, 129-30.
(123) The actual text of Ricca deposition is ASC, 12, 1, 34. Other pertinent texts used below are ASC 12, 1, 38v, 39v, 40v, 41, 42v, 43, 71v. It has been suggested that Ricca's mother was really a willing party to this drama. For did she not pay the lawyer's bills since putatively Ricca had no funds of her own? I would argue that if Ricca really needed to turn to somebody for funding, it was to Menahem, her fiance, who clearly wanted the marriage no more than she did (Menahem apparently spent his time as a scribe of "holy books," especially prayer-books, which might explain, were Ricca telling the whole truth, why he was too busy to write to her), and who was surely prepared to act behind his father's back. An even more tantalizing possibility, and hardly unlikely, is that Abramo Scazzocchio worked for free. He had been infuriated in 1555 by Salomone da Pisa, who failed to assist Abramo in assessing Jewish taxes at Bologna at the order of the papal commissioner Marco Spavenzio (ASC, 12, 1, 14, 15).
(124) Ruggiero, 23.
(125) See Boksenboim, 1985, 91-92.
(126) ASC, 11, 1, 10v-11v; 11, 3, 13v; 11, 4, 3v; 11, 1, 169v-170. Be it noted that courts could apply all kinds of pressure to convince a husband to grant a divorce, but they could not actually--nor can they today--force him to do so. On the other hand, women may not be forced to accept a get unwillingly.
(127) Cited by the notary, in ASC, 2, 2, 116-v.
(128) ASC, 2, 3, 20 and 2, 3, 69.
(129) ASC, 12, 1, 105; 12, 1, 110v; and 12, 1, 115.
(130) ASC, 1, 1, 90; 2, 4, 29v; 9, 1, 99; and see on questions of return for Christians, Klapisch-Zuber, 225-26; and, in general, see Hughes, 1985, 13-58.
(131) ASC, 11, 2, 11v-12; 12, 1, 71v; and 12, 1, 83v.
(132) ASC, 1, 1, 76.
(133) ASC, 2, 4, 36v.
(134) ASC, 7, 1, 225v-226; although what Aron actually did, registered in an unpreserved document of 12 October 1550, remains unknown. It was likely a betrothal by deceit, after which he may have run away, leaving Stella no recourse; and see here, with caution, hafqa'at qiddushin in Ha-Encyclopedia Ha-'Ivrit, 7:404.
(135) ASC, 8, 2, 54v.
(136) This episode is described in Foa 296, 299-300.
(137) See esp. Abrahams, 1890, 199-209; also Falk, 76-85, who believes that priests anticipated rabbis as officiants, a claim which has some justice North of the Alps, but certainly not in Italy. It was, therefore, likely not accidental that the three rabbis just mentioned were all Ashkenazim, whereas Sephardi authorities as late as the Council of Valladolid in 1432 were still speaking of a minyan without referring to the will of the spouses (Finkelstein, 365), even though ibn Adret had (Finkelstein, 307; Freimann, 56).
(138) ASC, 1, 1, 93v.
(139) Klapisch, 211.
(140) ASC, 1, 1, 14v. (141) See Bossy, 22-26; and Accati, 24.
(142) See Davies, 568; Macfarlane, 125-40; Mendelsohn, 126-35; and Houlbrooke, 69-78, on the preaching of choice and its actual practice in the lower classes. By contrast, Rossiaud, 168, writes that among modest artisans and journeymen in the late fourteenth century and afterward, marriage was "very frequently a matter of personal choice, [but that was] because fathers had nothing to give and lacked paternal authority." This is not an analogous situation to the Jews--and those mentioned by Houlbrooke as well--who seem to have all considered themselves middle class, saw dowries as obligatory, and at least acknowledged a father's rights.
(143) On Jewish family behavior, see Stow, 1992(1), 286-96; idem, 1991, 48-56; and idem, 1986, passim; and also Adelman, 1991, 27-40 and idem, 1992.
(144) To be sure, this must be read in the light of Stone, 1977, who stresses the dominance of the patriarchal family in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. But Stone is writing primarily of the upper classes.
(145) The best introduction to the Karaites remains the opening chapter of Ankori; on the Jewish Arab symbiosis, Goitein, 1964.
(146) Harkavy, 113. See also Nemoy, 284, for a Karaite ketubah which indicates explicitly--unlike rabbanite (standard) ones--that the bride has given her consent.
(147) Livi Bacci, 1983, 913-39.
(148) Stow, 1987, 1100-02; and idem, 1992(4).
(149) Riemer, 59-81.
(150) Hughes, 55; and Klapisch-Zuber, 225-26.
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|Author:||Stow, Kenneth R.|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1995|
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