A ketubah (Hebrew: כתובה ; "document"; pl. ketubot) is a special type of Jewish prenuptial agreement. It is considered an integral part of a traditional Jewish marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride.
The rabbis in ancient times insisted on the marriage couple entering into the ketubah as a protection for the wife. It acted as a replacement of the biblical mohar - the price paid by the groom to the bride, or her parents, for the marriage (i.e., the bride price). The ketubah became a mechanism whereby the amount due to the wife (the bride-price) came to be paid in the event of the cessation of marriage, either by the death of the husband or divorce. It may be noted that the biblical mohar created a major social problem: many young prospective husbands could not raise the mohar at the time when they would normally be expected to marry. So, to enable these young men to marry, the rabbis, in effect, delayed the time that the amount would be payable, when they would be more likely to have the sum. The mechanism adopted was to provide for the mohar to be a part of the ketubah. It may also be noted that both the mohar and the ketubah amounts served the same purpose: the protection for the wife should her support (either by death or divorce) cease. The only difference between the two systems was the timing of the payment. A modern secular equivalent would be the entitlement to maintenance in the event of divorce. Another function performed by the ketubah amount was to provide a disincentive for the husband contemplating divorcing his wife: he would need to have the amount to be able to pay to the wife.
Traditionally, the content of the ketubah formalises the various requirements by the Torah of a Jewish husband vis à vis his wife (e.g. Conservative Jews often include an additional paragraph, called the Lieberman clause, which stipulates that divorce will be adjudicated by a modern rabbinical court (a beth din) in order to prevent the creation of a chained wife.
Design and language
The ketubah is a significant popular form of Jewish ceremonial art. Ketubot have been made in a wide range of designs, usually following the tastes and styles of the era and region in which they are made. Many couples follow the Jewish tradition of hiddur mitzvah which calls for ceremonial objects such as the ketubah to be made as beautiful as possible.
Traditional ketubot are not written in the Hebrew language, but in Aramaic, the lingua franca of Jews at the time ketubot became standardized. Nowadays many Orthodox ketubot also have translations into English or other vernacular languages. In a similar manner, Conservative Jews still use traditional ketubot, but each is combined with an additional official version in Hebrew, since Hebrew has been reborn as a living language.
Role in wedding ceremony
The ketubah is signed by two witnesses and traditionally read out loud under the chuppah. Close family friends or distant relatives are invited to witness the ketubah, which is considered an honour. The witnesses must be halakhically competent witnesses, but cannot be a close blood relative of the couple. The ketubah is handed to the bride for safekeeping.
Ketubot are often hung prominently in the home by the married couple as a daily reminder of their vows and responsibilities to each other.
However, in some communities, the ketubah is either displayed in a very private section of the home or is not displayed at all. Various reasons given for this include the fact that the details specify personal details, prominent display may invite jealousy or fears of the evil eye. Historically, the ketubah specified whether the bride was a virgin. In Sephardic communities, it still specifies the actual contributions of the family to the new household and the divorce settlement; Ashkenazi communities have adopted the custom of having set amounts for all weddings.
Conditio sine qua non
According to Jewish law, spouses are prohibited from engaging in marital relations if the ketubah has been destroyed, lost, or is otherwise unretreivable. In such case a second ketubah is made up (called a Ketubah De'irketa), which states in its opening phrase that it comes to substitute a previous ketubah that has been lost.
- Jewish view of marriage
- Nikah (Muslim marriage contract)
- Quaker wedding (Christian marriage "by declaration" signed by all witnesses present at wedding)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ketubah|
- Ketubbot collection, Jewish National and University Library
- Art of the Ketubah: Decorated Jewish Marriage Contracts From the digital collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale Universitycs:Ketubalt:Ketubahpt:Ketubá