Monday, December 17, 2012

THE KETUBA: The husband's financial obligations

The Ketuba is the document that records the obligations of the Jewish husband toward his wife. In previous weeks we explained the general duties that the Tora stipulates for the husband (see here) while married.  Today we will begin to examine the financial obligations that the husband undertakes towards his wife. Particularly the monetary compensation that the wife would eventually receive in case, God forbid, of dissolution of the marriage.  

The value of this compensation is calculated according to three elements.

1. Iqar Ketuba or the "main" sum of the Ketuba

2. Nedunya, or dowry

3. Tosefet/tosafot, or addition/s.

1. The "main" Ketuba specifies the amount of money determined by Jewish law as the minimum compensation that the wife is entitled to receive from her husband or his estate in case of  dissolution of the marriage.  There is a discussion among the rabbis if this compensation is a Biblical (Rashi) or a Rabbinical (Maimonides) duty. This amount, also called mohar, consists of two hundred zuzim.  Although the present monetary value of these two hundred zuzim is a matter of discussion among scholars, in the times of the  Talmud  two hundred zuzim was the amount a person needed to maintain himself during a year (food, clothing), i.e., a minimum year's salary.    

1a. In many communities, the husband also adds to this minimum amount an extra sum ("tosefet ketuba") , which is an increment to the mandatory basic financial obligation. The amount of this increment is set at will or following the local customs. This is done as a gesture of love and appreciation from the husband to the wife. 

Again, the sum of money mentioned in the Ketuba is not related to any transaction or any money the husband actually pays to the wife or her family. It is a marriage insurance. The wife eventually collects the Ketuba if the marriage is dissolved by divorce or by death of the husband.  The man therefore, states that he accepts these financial obligations upon himself- in case of divorce- and upon his heirs - if he dies.

(To be continued...)

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons, 
from Aish