Monday, October 22, 2012

JEWISH WEDDINGS: Understanding the Ketuba

In ancient times, a man was able to divorce his wife even against her will and with no consequences, financial or otherwise.  A divorced woman would  suffer not only the emotional abandonment but also the financial burden of being with no resources. In Judaism there is a Ketubah. A Ketubah is first of all, a type of a prenup. Or a “Marriage Insurance”. The Ketuba makes the process of divorce to be more complicated and more costly. In this way, the decision to divorce will not happen abruptly at a moment of anger  but as a last resource after everything else was proven ineffective.  That would give the couple and their families the time and motivation to save a marriage, in case it could be saved.  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan explains that "in a sense the Ketuba is very much like alimony, except that instead of being paid over a period of time, it is given to the wife in a lump sum. The amount was enough for a woman to invest and derive a steady income from it".  

The Ketuba is a legal document (in modern terms: a marriage insurance) and, technically speaking, it is not a holy document (kitbe qodesh, etc.) which has to be written by hand as a Mezuza.  It could be written by a man, a woman, by hand or by a printer. In most contemporary marriages the Ketuba consists of a printed form, with the date and other pertinent details (place, names, etc.) to be filled in.  In many Jewish circles, however, it is still a tradition to have the Ketuba hand-written, illustrated and or executed in parchment, etc.  Because the Ketuba is a legal secular document it is accepted to have different versions of its text. In other words, similar to a civil contract (rent, employment, insurance) the main ideas must remain the same, but the details differ.  Thus, although the basics of the Ketuba are identical, many communities have some words or paragraphs which are particular to their custom. 

Watch THIS surprising video:    "March of the living", by descendants of Nazi and SS officials.