Ketubah when translated from Hebrew can be variously spelled as katuba, kattuba, ketuba,
kettuba, or more often now with an “h” as in katubah, kattubah, ketubah, or kettubah.
The Ketubah is a significant part of a Jewish wedding ceremony. It serves as the official marriage contract and must be signed by both the bride and the groom. Ketubah is the necessary document that will give the woman her legal rights and privileges in matters involving property. The contract is enforced the moment the husband is no longer present for reasons such as death, abandonment, or divorce. Ketubah is the only Jewish marriage contract that is recognized as lawful in the State of Israel in cases of Jewish divorce. If either partner fails to meet the terms and conditions stated in the contract they can be taken to a civil court and are held fully responsible to meet their obligations.
A Brief History of Ketubah
In ancient times rabbis insisted on two people marrying, to enter into ketubah, a special marriage agreement, as a form of protection to the wife. The ketubah was to be used as a replacement to the biblical dower or bride price, which is payable at the time of marriage by the groom to the bride or her parents. The ketubah indicates that the amount, which is supposedly due to the bride during the wedding, becomes payable in the event of the death of her husband or if they should divorce. Rabbis have discerned that the biblical bride’s dowry could create a major financial problem to young men seeking marriage. Many would be unable to marry because they have no means to raise the biblical bride price as ordered by the law. And so to facilitate the marriage of these young men, the rabbis delayed the time when the amount was to be payable. They adjusted it to a time when a man is more likely to have such a sum. This concept has been made a part of the ketubah. The only difference between the two systems (dowry vs. ketubah) is the time when the amount is to be paid. Ketubah is the predecessor to the wife’s present-day entitlement to protection in the event of the breakup of her marriage. The amount stated in the Ketubah can also serve as a deterent to husbands to keep them from divorcing their wife because, if the husband does seek a divorce, he would have to pay the amount contracted in the ketubah to his wife.
Translation of the Traditional Aramaic Orthodox Text
On the __________ day of the week, the __________
day of the month of __________, in the year five thousand seven hundred
__________, as we reckon time here in ________________, the groom ____________
son of _____________ said to the bride_______________ daughter of _____________, "Be my wife according to the statutes of Moses and Israel. And I will work for, esteem, feed and support you as is the custom of Jewish men who work for, esteem, feed and support their wives faithfully. And I will give you ________________ and I will provide you food and clothing and necessities and your conjugal rights according to accepted custom." And the bride ________________ agreed to become his wife. And this dowry that she brought from her _____________ house, whether in silver, gold, jewelry, clothing, furnishings or bedding, the groom ______________ accepted responsibility for all in the sum of _____________ zuzim, and agreed to add to this amount from his own assets the sum of ______________ zuzim, for a total of _______________ zuzim. The groom ____________ said: "The obligation of this ketubah, this dowry and this additional sum, I accept upon myself and my heirs after me, to be paid from all the best part of all my property that I now possess or may hereafter acquire, real and personal. From this day forward, all my property, even the shirt on my back, shall be mortgaged and liened for the payment of this ketubah, dowry and additional sum, whether during my lifetime or thereafter." The obligation of this ketubah, this dowry and this additional sum, was accepted by ______________ the groom with the strictness established for ketubot and additional sums customary for the daughters of Israel, in accordance with the decrees by our sages, of blessed memory. This ketubah is not to be regarded as a formality or as a perfunctory legal form. We have established the acceptance on the part of ______________ son of ______________ the groom to _______________ daughter of _______________ the bride, of this contract, all of which is stated and specified above, with an article fit for that purpose. And all shall be valid and binding.
The Conservative ketubah text is identical to the Traditional Aramaic text, with the addition of the Lieberman Clause.
The Lieberman clause1 is a clause included in a ketubah, a Jewish wedding document, created by and named after Talmudic scholar and Jewish Theological Seminary of America2 professor Saul Lieberman3, that stipulates that divorce4 will be adjudicated by a modern Bet Din5 (rabbinic court) in order to prevent the problem of the agunah6, a woman not allowed to remarry because she had never been granted a religious divorce. It was first introduced in the 1950s by rabbis in Judaism’s Conservative movement.
The following is a translation of the Lieberman Clause from the original Aramaic:
“And both together agreed that if this marriage shall ever be dissolved under civil law, then either husband or wife may invoke the authority of the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America or its duly authorized representatives, to decide what action by either spouse is then appropriate under Jewish matrimonial law; and if either spouse shall fail to honor the demand of the other or to carry out the decision of the Beth Din or its representative, then the other spouse may invoke any and all remedies available in civil law and equity to enforce compliance with the Beth Din’s decision and this solemn obligation.”
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