A man marries a woman, thinking she is a virgin, and claims after the marriage that she was not a virgin, but her parents argue that she was indeed a virgin and bring proof of hymeneal bleeding on the sheet. The husband is found to have made a false claim and to have slandered the girl. In this case Torah law obligates the husband, the slanderer, to pay the bride’s parents 100 shekel of silver and to remain married with no possibility of divorce, a sort of Catholic marriage. In the language of the Torah and of the sages this case is called “bringing a bad name,” for it is written in the Torah “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her…and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’ then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. ‘Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days” (Deuteronomy 22:13-19).
The early sages were divided on the interpretation of this Torah law. According to one sage, Rabbi Elazar the son of Jacob, the slandering husband is punished only if he had sexual relations with her and the slandered her as having not been a virgin. According to another sage, even if the husband did not have sexual relations with the virgin whom he had married, Torah law requires the above punishment. The scholars asked: According to the sage who interprets the Torah’s law to include a case in which the husband has not had sexual relations, how does he interpret the meaning of the words which explicitly state that the husband has had sexual relations with his virgin wife and only then slandered her? It is written, the scholars argued, “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her.” “Goes in to her” means that they had sex. Answer: The words “goes in to her” should be interpreted to mean that he goes to her with slanderous words, not that they had sex. The scholars went on to ask: It is written “‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,” meaning that he had sex with her. Answer: The words “and when I came to her” mean that he approached her with conversation and words alone. The scholars went on to ask: It is written “I found she was not a virgin,” implying that he had sex with her and did not find her to be a virgin. Answer: The Scriptures meant that the husband has witnesses to the fact that she had sex before her marriage to him and therefore he claims “I found she was not a virgin.” The scholars went on to ask: It is written “yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity,” meaning that the bride’s parents show the judges the hymeneal blood, implying that they had sex. Answer: The bride’s parents found witnesses who refute the testimony brought by the husband’s witnesses about whether the girl had had sex prior to marriage, and the words “yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity” means these are the witnesses who claim that our daughter did not make herself a harlot. The scholars went on to ask: It is written “yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity and they shall spread the cloth,” meaning that the bride’s parents spread the sheet which is stained with hymeneal blood. Answer: The word cloth is a metaphor; the judges spread the witnesses’ evidence out like a new cloth. It does not mean that they literally spread the bloodstained cloth. One of the scholars argued that if the husband had anal sex with the virgin he had married and then claimed that she had previously had vaginal sex, the Scriptures make him liable to the punishment listed. The scholars asked him: Your words match neither of the early sages — according to one the sex must be vaginal and then the man can make his claim; the sex must be vaginal for him to claim he did not find an intact hymen. According to the other sage the husband does not need to have sex with her at all — neither vaginal nor anal. Their conclusion was that the husband must have vaginal intercourse and claim she had previously had vaginal intercourse with others, leading to his not finding an intact hymen; as they put it, “The husband is not held guilty unless he had intercourse in a natural manner and he brought up an evil name upon her in respect of a natural intercourse.”
(Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ketubot 46a-b)