Monday, November 19, 2012

Understanding the Ketuba: Jewish Marriage Law.

Last week we explained that the ketuba states the obligations of the husband towards his wife. The groom declares to his bride that he is taking her legally as his wife (i.e., according to the law of Moses and Israel) implying among other things, that he accepts all the responsibilities of a Jewish husband. 

The ketuba then describes some of those duties and responsibilities.

The husband says: "I will work... feed and support you" . 

The first responsibility of the husband mentioned in the ketuba is the husband's obligation to work  in order to maintain his wife and his family.  By means of his work he will "feed and support her". This is the first duty stated in the Tora  (Exodus 21:10) which in Hebrew is known as she-era and in the language of the rabbismezonot (food or basic sustenance) . 

A few illustrations of this law from Maimonides (MT, ishut, 12). 

√  (12:10-11) The husband is obligated to supply food for his wife and children according to his material means. A person who is poor should provide two meals a day and a wealthy person should make provisions, if necessary, for several nutritious meals (meat, fish, or whatever is the local custom) every day. 

√ (12:16-17) If a husband leaves for a business trip overseas (in ancient days people would travel overseas for months or years with virtually no possibility of communication) and the wife is left with no means to obtain food, the rabbinical court will confiscate and sell the husband's properties or goods to provide food for his wife and children. This is the case, provided that three months or more have passed since the  husband left. It was assumed that decent traveling husbands would procure sustenance for their families for at least 90 days. 

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