What is a Ketubah at a Jewish Wedding
What is a Ketubah?
A Ketubah is a legal and binding Jewish document which is designed to protect, and ensure peace and security for the women in her marriage. The Ketubah lists all the husband’s obligations towards his wife during their marriage or after it, in case of the husband’s death or divorce. The reason for the husband to commit himself to his wife is, so that he shouldn’t take his marriage lightly and divorce his wife for no particular reason. The text was composed by R’ Shimon ben Shetach in Aramaic, and although there have been versions added throughout the ages, the goal stays the same for all of them, to ensure security for the woman.
It was established amongst the leaders of previous generations that a Ketubah written according to the Jewish law is a mascot for a peaceful home, in many cases where there was no peace between the couple mistakes were found in the Ketubah.
The obligation of having a Ketubah is stated in the Torah; on top of that our sages instigated a prohibition for the couple to live together in one house without a kosher Ketubah. It is the duty of the woman to safeguard the Ketubah and guarantee it doesn’t get lost.
Over the course of Jewish history different communities with different backgrounds were established, due to the fact that we were dispersed and scattered throughout our exile. Therefore certain differences in the text versions of the Ketubah came about. Today one can obtain the different text versions for every sect of Judaism with ease, these versions don’t change anymore. Since this law is written in the Torah, and it is a mascot for a peaceful home, it is advisable to stick to the Orthodox version of the sect where you belong and live. Here at Art Chazin you can find all the accepted Orthodox text versions.
Today, as well as in previous generations, it has been the custom to beautify and decorate the Ketubah, one can admire such impressive Ketubahs in museums, where you can sometimes even tell the country of origin of the couple by its style and colour. The basis of this custom is to enhance and enrich the Mitzvah, and the joy of bride and groom. It is brought down in the scripts of our sages that one should preferably write the Ketubah on parchment so that it will be preserved for many years to come, parchment lasts for hundreds of years as opposed to paper which gets ruined relatively quicker.
Advantages of getting a custom Ketubah:
The great Gaon R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, the posek of the last generation, officiated at weddings for over 60 years in Jerusalem and thought it to be a great honor of the Mitzvah, to have the Ketubah custom made for the bride and groom. The reason for this being that many mistakes made with the pre-printed Ketubahs will be prevented by making a custom Ketubah before the ceremony where only the witnesses are left to sign. (as stated in; ספר חסד יהושע מהדורא תנינא ל"ב)
Another important reason stated in the laws of the Ketubah is that one must scrutinize the text and make sure that all the letters are of equal sizing and that there are no large gaps between the words, so that no words or letters can be added in the future, which will render the Ketubah as disqualified. With hand writing this is very difficult to notice whereas if the Ketubah would be custom made there would be no hand writing on the document.
It is advised to get a custom made ketubah with all the details of bride and groom already filled in beforehand, ready to hand over to the bride under the Chupah. This way one avoids any distress caused by filling in the Ketubah just before the ceremony. Today most Ketubahs contain errors or mistakes, inquiries are done at the wedding hall itself and are then written by the Rabbi manually. All kinds of mistakes that may not be erased according to the law are made, which render the Ketubah as invalid.
Structure of the Ketubah:
In the first paragraph of the Ketubah the wedding date, place of marriage and names of bride and groom are stated. Then the monetary value that the husband undertakes to pay his wife in certain circumstances is specified. At the end the witnesses sign the contract.
In the first part of the Ketubah the obligations of the husband are listed
The husband undertakes to provide, support and honor his wife, as it is stated in the Torah: "שארה כסותה ועונתה לא יגרע" (שמות כא, י)
In the ketubah the amount the husband promises to give his wife in case of divorce or, G’d forbid, death is also stated.
In the middle section of the Ketubah the guarantees of the husband are listed
In the Ketubah the husband undertakes three commitments: to provide his wife with food, to pay the amount stated in the Ketubah and pay a dowry. The promise to provide his wife with provisions needed is as long as they are married, while the sum for both the amount promised in the ketubah and the dowry is in case of divorce or, G’d forbid, death of the husband.
Obliged Amount for a Ketubah
The minimum amount of money to write on a ketubah is 200 ‘Zuz’ for a virgin (‘Zuz’ is an ancient coin used in Israel in the Talmudic times), 100 zuz for a divorcee, a chalutza, a widow and a convert. A ketubah for a Bat Cohen is 400 Zuz, and for a widowed Bat Cohen is only 100 Zuz. The value of 200 zuz in today’s currency does not exceed a few hundred Dollars; therefore it was instituted to add 100 coins called ‘Zkookim’ as a dowry from groom to bride. On top of that one adds an amount in the currency used in the country of marriage, as an addition to the Ketubah.
written and should take care to keep her at home you do not lose, according to rabbinic person should stay with his wife without a written one hour.
In the last section of the Ketubah the signatures of the witnesses and groom are listed
At the bottom of the Ketubah the witnesses sign the contract. The witnesses must be present at the time of the ceremony, and must witness the groom handing over the ketubah to the bride.
From the moment the ketubah is handed over to the bride, she must safeguard it and make sure it doesn’t get lost, according to the laws established by our Sages a man cannot live with his wife for even one hour without a ketubah in their home.
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