Monday, November 12, 2012

JEWISH WEDDINGS: Understanding the text of the Ketuba

As we have explained, the text of the Ketuba is divided into three parts. The first part states all the basic data which is included in any legal document: the date, place and the names of the bride and groom. 
√ Within the first part of the Ketuba there is also an indication of the status of the bride. In normal circumstances it will be written before the name of the bride: betulta, which literally means virgin, following the Biblical verse in  Exodus 22:16 where the Tora refers to the "dowry of the virgins".  If the bride is a widow or a divorceemeterakhta or armelata, Aramaic for divorcee or widow is used.  In many communities, in certain circumstances, the rabbi in charge of the ketuba will simply write kalata, i.e., "the bride".
√ Following the names of the bride and groom, the ketuba states that the bridegroom has declared to his bride: "Be my wife according to the law of Moshe and Israel".  
Two important points:
1. First, why does the ketuba state that the husband has already made his declaration? Although the ketuba is usually written, and often signed by the witness before the ḥupa begins, in other words: before the declaration (qiddushin) from the groom to the bride took place, the ketuba is sometimes signed after that declaration and it is always read out loud and given to the brideafter that declaration. 
2. The Ketuba is written as a statement that the witnesses attest. The ketuba is not written in the name of the husband or the rabbi who performs the wedding.  It is the declaration of the witnesses. They bear testimony of what the groom declared to his wife, etc.  It is the witnesses testimony and signatures what makes the ketuba a legal document.  

"Blessed are those who can give without remembering and 
take without forgetting"

                                                                     Princess Elizabeth Bibesco (1897-1945)