About the Ketubah

What is a Ketubah

   Chances are you have many questions about the Jewish Marriage Contract called a Ketubah (spelled in a variety of ways including: Kettubah, Ketuba, Ktuba, Kituba, katubah, kattubah, katuba, and in the plural ketubot, katubot, kitubot and ketubahs).

   The modern version of the kettubah document has its roots in the Babylonian exile when the elders felt it was necessary to guarantee women legal rights of property and provision in the event that the husband was no longer present for reasons including divorce, desertion or death. The elders had foresight when they enumerated in the ketubah the groom's obligations to the bride since the financial consequences of divorce resulted in Jewish families remaining intact. With slight revisions that have occurred throughout the centuries, this kettubah contract remains in use today and is referred to as the Traditional Aramaic. The Orthodox community uses this text exclusively and many other rabbis and couples choose it, as well, as this Aramaic text has stood the test of time. It is also the only Jewish marriage contract text that is recognized as legal in the state of Israel.

   In modern times the divorce rate has unfortunately risen so high, that the Conservative movement felt compelled to add another paragraph, referred to as the Lieberman Clause, to the Traditional Aramaic text. This states that, in the event of a divorce, the couple agrees to go before the Rabbinic Assembly and abide by their decision regarding the Jewish divorce. If either partner does not comply, they can be taken to a civil court for enforcement of the decree. In essence, the intention was to give the wife a civil remedy if the husband refused to give her a 'get' which is a Jewish divorce, an action that would prevent her from entering into another Jewish marriage in the future.

   The Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanist and unaffiliated members of the Jewish community often prefer to choose the wording for their marriage vows that they relate to personally. Many beautiful and poetic ketuba texts have been written to express what the couple's hopes and expectations are as partners in marriage. Interfaith and Anniversary ketubot are also readily available as well as alternative texts for same gender unions.

   The history of illuminated katubot from the many cities and cultures that Jews have abided in spans centuries. Though this art form waned when the Jews were persecuted so viciously in Europe, there has been an amazing revival over the last decades. Now, many Judaica artists are inspired to create designs to enhance the katubah text. Ketubah artwork ranges from very traditional borders to abstract paintings with the katubah text superimposed over the art. It's great that couples like you today can choose a beautiful kettubah that suits both partners' tastes and the wedding budget. Your ketubah may be the first work of art that you, as a couple, will select. Though not necessarily a simple task, when you have searched and finally chosen the marriage document that reflects a meeting of the minds, you can be happy and confident in your ability as a couple to accomplish your future goals. So, open your minds to each other's observations and enjoy the journey that will bring you even closer at the end.

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