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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 8.20:
Weddings: What is a Ketubah?


The ketubah is a marrage contract between the husband and wife. It may be printed; more often, it is hand written in beautiful calligraphy and illuminated by a sofer, or scribe. Much of the traditional Aramaic text is over 2,000 years old, and the present form was fixed in the eighth or ninth century. The ketubah formalizes the groom's commitment to protect and care for the bride. The ketubah has two signatures from close friends or respected teachers as formal witnesses to his commitment.

Traditionally, a ketubah is a legal lien on the husband's property which he gives his wife-to-be in the case of his death or their divorce, to ensure her maintenance and well-being. There are some options that a woman can negotiate. In traditional Judaism, the ketubah is signed by the man, read under the chupah, and given immediately to the woman. The ketubah belongs to the woman.

In the liberal movements, the text of the Ketubah has been modified to be more egalitarian, and provide equal protection for both husband and wife. Some Ketubahs also include language to address the issue of husbands that refuse to provide a get, or bill of divorce, when requested by the wife.

There is another way to view the Ketubah: think of it as the first prenuptial contract!

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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