Judaica Guide: A Complete Guide to Essential Judaica & Hebrew

Ketubah - Ketubot

Ketubah, (also spelled Ketuba, Kettubah, Katuba, Katubah, and in the plural, Ketubot, Ketubbot and Ketubahs) means "it is written" in Hebrew. The Ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, was originally formulated to protect a Jewish bride (Kallah) in the event of divorce or her husband's death.

KetubahSigning the Ketubah

As part of the Jewish Wedding ceremony, the husband gives his wife a Ketubah. Ketubahs are typically beautifully illustrated pieces of artwork which are kept for safekeeping by the wife.

Throughout the history of the Katuba, Jewish artists made Ketubbot that are influenced by their particular time and country in which they worked, which makes the ketuba one of the most visually vibrant aspects of Jewish wedding customs.

The Ketubah's purpose

At about 2000 years of age, the ketubah is certainly among the first documents conferring legal status and financial rights to women. Some people are surprised to learn that the traditional Ketuba is not a romantic document about the love between man and woman or the establishment of a Jewish home and future family.

What the katubah does include is the date and place of the marriage, the names of the bride and groom (and their father's names) and the bridal price (two hundred silver zuzim). It then enumerates the trousseau brought to the marriage by the woman which the groom agrees to match as the additional sum. The groom agrees that "all my property, real and personal, even the shirt from my back, shall be mortgaged to secure the payment of this marriage contract, of the trousseau, and the addition made to it, during my lifetime and after my death...". The signatures of two non-related witnesses validate the Jewish marriage contract.

Because it specifies the groom's financial obligations to the bride, the ketubah made divorce a costly option, thereby strengthening the Jewish family.

Ketubah Versions

The traditional ketubah formula, written in Aramaic, not Hebrew, is still used today (and is the only one legally recognized in Israel).

The Conservative movement makes the marriage contact more mutual and contains a clause whereby the groom agrees to obtain a get (divorce decree) so that the bride may remarry in a Jewish wedding ceremony.

There are also numerous egalitarian ketubah texts used by the Reform movement, as well as Reconstructionist, and Sephardic ketubah texts, kettubah texts for interfaith marriages, commitment ceremonies and commemorative anniversary ketubot.

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