The 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., or marriage contract, was created in the 1st century CE to protect the woman in marriage. The document spelled out the husband’s obligations in marriage (the wife’s were assumed) and provided for a financial settlement for her in the event of divorce. It is not a contract between equals, but a statement, signed by witnesses, that the groom “acquired” the bride “with two hundred silver zuzim, which is due you according to the The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. law…” on such and such a date and agrees to support her. For its time, it was an incredibly progressive document—a man could no longer discard his wife on a whim, leaving her financially bereft.
However, the world has changed a lot in 2,000 years and what was once progressive has become regressive. The traditional ketubah hardly reflects the egalitarian vision of marriage most couples share. Changing it, however, is complex. Many people feel attached to the ancient language of the traditional ketubah (it is written in Aramaic) and others feel strongly that their ketubah be acceptable within the boundaries of halakhah (Jewish law). Lastly, despite advances, we do not live in an egalitarian world. Women are still in need of greater protection, particularly in the realm of Jewish divorce where a recalcitrant husband can refuse to give his wife a A writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. (divorce), leaving her unable to remarry.
- New Ketubot, New Language – Many new ketubot dispense with the traditional language altogether. Written in Hebrew or English, they focus on the hopes and aspirations of the couple. Some couples write these documents themselves; today, many versions are widely available for purchase. This solution has the advantage of being personal and of moving away from the legal and financial aspects of the traditional ketubah, which some couples see as inappropriate on the day of their wedding. Others feel that the wisdom of the ancient rabbis remains good counsel—marriage is, after all, a legal and financial arrangement, among other things, and at such a heady, dream-like moment in one’s life, a grounding in reality can be useful. Also, rabbinic officiants’ views can be a factor—e.g. traditional Conservative and Orthodox rabbis will not use an alternative ketubah. Check with your rabbi first.
- Egalitarian Ketubot – Some people have chosen to maintain the traditional language of the ketubah, but rewrite it to reflect the egalitarian nature of the marriage. There are precedents for such language in ancient ketubot from Palestine (the text traditionally used was authored in Babylon). Some couples make the traditional language of the ketubah egalitarian; others enumerate more specific obligations, such as a shared commitment to living in Lit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel. or shared responsibility for future children.
- Lovers’ Covenant – Lavan's younger daughter and Jacob's beloved wife second wife (after he is initially tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah). Rachel grieves throughout her life that she is barren while Leah is so fertile. Ultimately, Rachel gives birth to Joseph and dies in childbirth with Benjamin. Rachel is remembered as compassionate (she is said to still weep for her children), and infertile women often invoke Rachel as a kind of intercessor and visit her tomb on the road to Bethlehem. Adler, a Jewish feminist theologian, makes a powerful argument against the traditional Jewish wedding, specifically The first part of the traditional wedding service in which the groom acquires the bride by giving her a small token, usually a ring, and declaring that she is betrothed to him according to Mosaic law. Today, most non-Orthodox couples have made this ceremony egalitarian, exchanging rings and empowering the bride to speak too. Some, disliking the property aspects of the ceremony, have dispensed with it altogether, substituting a brit shutafut – a partnership covenant., in her book Engendering Judaism. Doing away with the traditional acquisition of the bride by the groom (Lit. Acquisition In a traditional wedding, the bride is "acquired" by the groom. The kinyan is effected by the giving of a small object, usually a ring. Under traditional Jewish law, a bride cannot acquire a groom -- therefore, this act cannot be made mutual. Liberal Jews have found various ways to work around this dilemma although the Orthodox community, for the most part, does not accept these solutions.), she offers in its place a model of partnership based on ancient partnership agreements and on the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people. She calls her ritual B’rit Ahuvim; rather than a traditional ketubah, there is a A Jewish legal contract, such as a get or ketubah. or contract that specifies the obligations of this new partnership.
- Divorce – Although many couples would prefer not to deal with the possibility of divorce at the time of their wedding, in fact, the traditional ketubah does just that. Given the egregious situation of the Traditionally, only a Jewish man can initiate divorce proceedings. Hence an agunah is a woman whose husband has refused her a divorce. She is unable to remarry, though he is permitted to, and any future children she has would be considered mamzerim (a legal category of persons who may not marry except among themselves). (“chained” woman who cannot remarry because her husband refuses a divorce), Orthodox couples often sign a pre-nuptial agreement in which the parties agree to submit to the authority of a Rabbinic court consisting of three rabbis or learned members of the Jewish community. (religious court) in the event of a divorce. Conservative couples either include this language within the ketubah itself (Lieberman clause) or use a Conservative pre-nuptial agreement.
- A Beautiful Ketubah – In the 1940’s and 50’s, the ketubah, if there was one, was usually an unembellished, typed form, signed and stored away with other legal documents. In the last thirty years, the ancient art of illumination has returned to the ketubah. Some couples commission a calligrapher to create a unique ketubah for them, often incorporating ideas or symbols special to them in the design of the ketubah. Many beautiful lithographs are also available for a fraction of the cost; a calligrapher can be paid a nominal fee to write in the relevant information (date, place, names) to conform with the rest of the text.