Meet Betsy Teutsch, The Jewish wedding contract. Traditionally, the ketubah protected the wife in marriage by spelling out the husband's obligations to her and guaranteeing her a financial settlement in case of divorce. Throughout the ages, ketubot (plural) have been illuminated and calligraphed, becoming significant as Jewish art. Today, all manner of egalitarian ketubot are written. Some dispense with the financial and legal aspects, focusing more on the emotional and spiritual sides of the relationship. Others maintain the rabbis' concern with the practical, but define mutual obligations for each spouse. artist and calligrapher extraordinaire!
Here at Ritualwell, we’re looking for ways to beat the winter blues (and a barrage of bad news), so we thought it was time to focus on things that brings us joy. Enter ketubah artist Betsy Teutsch, whose stunning ketubot have been used by thousands of couples over the years to both beautify and sanctify their weddings. January may not seem like the month to be thinking about weddings, but as we learned from Betsy, more often weddings are occurring during less conventional times of year.
Ritualwell: What are the most surprising times for a wedding that you’ve encountered?
Betsy Teutsch: I am surprised that it is becoming quite normal to marry on Shabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends.. This is traditionally not allowed, but has become so common, particularily for summer weddings when Shabbat isn’t over until 9:00 PM or so, that I no longer try to A writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. the couple to change the Hebrew date till after sundown, like I used to do in the past. Likewise, the prohibition on weddings during the From the second day of Passover until Shavuot, Jews count seven weeks – seven times seven days – to commemorate the period between the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Sinai. When the Temple stood, a certain measure (omer) of barley was offered on the altar each day; today, we merely count out the days. (from Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc). to Shavuot is the holiday fifty days after Passover and commemorates when the Israelite liberation from Egypt culminates with the giving of the Torah. Traditionally, Jews study in an all-night study session, eat dairy products (one interpretation is that the Torah is like milk to us), and read both the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth.) has really dissipated in the non-Orthodox world.
The weirdest time for a Jewish wedding? The holiest day of the Jewish year and the culmination of a season of self-reflection. Jews fast, abstain from other worldly pleasures, and gather in prayers that last throughout the day. Following Ne'ilah, the final prayers, during which Jews envision the Gates of Repentance closing, the shofar is sounded in one long blast to conclude the holy day. It is customary to begin building one's sukkah as soon as the day ends.! I did a ketubah for a couple who was getting married in a winery on Saturday afternoon, the 10th of Tishri. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Who gets married on Yom Kippur afternoon and wants a ketubah?
RW: What is the most unique ketubah you have created (in terms of language or design)?
RW: Do your couples tend to seek customized language for their ketubot or more standard, traditional texts?
BT: Most people go with standard language, since there are many choices. Occasionally a couple wants something very specific. I work with a graphic designer who can computer-generate texts and print them on my artwork.
RW: What is the most popular ketubah text you use?
BT: The egalitarian Hebrew and English text is the most popular. I have two versions. One has spiritual God-language and talks about Jewish values and rituals. The other is what I call “Interfaith Friendly”—the language is very secular, but in Hebrew and English. A big surprise was how many Jewish couples opt for the secular text. They are Jewishly-identified but not comfortable with religious language.
RW: What is the most interesting change you have seen in Jewish weddings over the years?
BT: Destination weddings! People get married in a lot of very exotic locations now. It is hard to figure out how to spell them in Hebrew! I often need to look at a map to even figure out where it is! Same-sex marriages, of course, are another change. I have a text for two women with female Hebrew plurals. I created it in the 1990s when no one imagined legal same-sex marriage, so I didn’t use the word “Covenant of marriage” on it. Now it’s a little dated!
Renowned for her captivating ketubot, ceremonial objects, and book illustrations, Betsy Teutsch is a prominent figure in the contemporary Jewish renaissance. Her outstanding lettering and design sense, combined with a wide-ranging Judaic knowledge, result in beautiful ketubot. Teutsch, born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, has specialized in illuminated Judaica and Hebrew calligraphy for over 40 years. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA. Her ketubot are available for sale in the Ritualwell store.