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The Origin of the Ketubah

Posted by Jennifer on

Today, ketubahs come with many different texts that address the myriad of orientations in our modern society. But the original ketubah text, written in Aramaic is still the same after all these centuries and if you order an orthodox text…your ketubah will read exactly like the original.

The ketubah is the original wedding contract that states the obligations of the husband to his wife. The heart of the text defines the financial compensation due to the wife in the event of the marriage being dissolved through divorce or the death of the husband. The ketubah even contains provisions which place liens on the husband’s assets. The ketubah is always signed by witnesses who validate the authenticity of the document.

The sages of old were troubled by the relative ease that a man could divorce his wife. The ketubah ensures that no man may be married to a woman unless he is obligated to pay significant reimbursement in the event of a divorce.

When a Jewish man marries, he automatically obligates himself to his wife in ten areas; some are Torah mandated and others dictated by rabbinic decree. A number of these obligations are mentioned specifically in the ketubah but the rest are implied:

Ketubah Obligations

  • Feed his wife
  • Clothe her
  • Provide her conjugal needs
  • His estate is obligated to pay her a lump sum if he divorces her or dies before she does
  • He must, pay her medical bills if she falls ill
  • Pay ransom for her if she is taken hostage
  • If the wife passes away before the husband, he must pay her burial expenses
  • After he dies, her children inherit their mother’s ketubah money before the rest of the estate is divided amongst all the heirs.
  • In the event that the husband dies before the wife, she is entitled to live in his home and live off his estate until she dies or remarries
  • Her daughters, too, are supported by his estate until they marry.

Today, the typical ketubah can range from a standard printed form to a beautiful piece of fine art with an embedded text. All ketubot have blanks for the date and the names of the bride, groom, and witnesses. Before the wedding, the officiating Rabbi fills in these blanks and supervises the signing of the document by the witnesses. Alternatively, the artist of fine art ketubot may complete the ketubah by filling in the blanks with the Rabbi’s approval.

In the event that the document is lost or destroyed, or if a serious error is found in its text, the couple must immediately obtain a replacement ketubah from a Rabbi. This rule applies for the duration of the marriage so always keep your ketubah in a safe location.

Judaism is a way of life. It centres on a series of obligations and customs with the intent of getting closer to G-d. Making the ketubah legal is an obligation. The ketubah is signed before the wedding ceremony; the witnesses cannot be a blood relative to the couple and the ketubah is read under the chuppah out loud.

Your wedding ketubah is the covenant of everlasting love and devotion between you and your soul-mate. It will be a daily reminder to both of you of your commitment to one another, and should represent your customs, traditions and values. For many couples, the ketubah is the foundation of their wedding ceremony, signifying the moment when two became one.

All of the ketubahs come with a choice of your text including: Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, Interfaith, Anniversary and many more. Most come with Hebrew/English options and Lieberman Clause is available from many of our artists. You can even opt for your very own custom text.