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The Ketubah

The Ketubah

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The ketubah is the wedding contract which states the husband's various obligations to his wife. The focal point of the document is the financial compensation due to the wife in the event of the marriage's dissolution through divorce or widowhood. The ketubah even includes provisions which place liens on the husband's different assets. The document is signed by kosher witnesses, but not necessarily the same witnesses who observe the betrothal beneath the chupah.

According to most halachic authorities, the ketubah is a rabbinic ordinance. The sages were troubled by the relative ease whereby a man could divorce his wife. They therefore instituted that no man may be married to a woman unless he obligates himself to pay a substantial imbursement in the event that he divorces her.

The sages were troubled by the relative ease whereby a man could divorce his wifeWhen a Jewish man marries a Jewish woman he automatically obligates himself to his wife in ten areas; some are Torah mandated and others by rabbinic decree. A number of these obligations are mentioned specifically in the ketubah and others are implied:

He must 1) feed his wife; 2) clothe her; and 3) provide her conjugal needs. His estate is obligated to 4) pay her a lump sum in the event that he divorces her or dies before she does. He must 5) pay her medical bills if she falls ill; and 6) ransom her if she is taken hostage. If the wife passes away before the husband, he must 7) pay her burial expenses, and 8) after he dies, her children inherit their mother's ketubah money before the rest of the estate is divided amongst all the heirs. In the event that the husband dies before the wife, 9) she is entitled to live in his home and live off his estate until she dies or remarries, and 10) her daughters, too, are supported by his estate until they marry.

Today, the standard ketubah is a printed form which has blanks for the date and the names of the bride, groom, and witnesses. Before the wedding, the officiating rabbi fills in these blanks and supervises the signing of the document by the witnesses. Also available today are customized ketubahs which are genuine works of art.

It is forbidden for a couple to live together, even temporarily, without a ketubah. In the event that the document is lost or destroyed, or if a serious error is found in its text, the couple must immediately obtain a replacement ketubah from a rabbi. This rule applies for the duration of the marriage. Hence it is wise to store the ketubah in a safe location.

Click here for the actual text of the Ketubah document.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
Artwork courtesy of Zeesi.com.
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malki Brooklyn February 16, 2014

to signatures yes there must be signatures on the Ketubah, are you sure it doesn't have? cause that is strange specially if a chabad Rabbi officiated Reply

Ben 11559 October 3, 2012

RE Shelter not included Hi,
From what I understand, the kesuba does not include info on shelter because it is a given when they live together and when they divorce, the woman goes back to her parents. If that is no longer an option, then the money is supposed to be enough for food, housing, etc.

Question: Is it weird to hang this around the house? I've never been sure if it is permissible or not but it seems funny. Reply

Anonymous Ny, Ny July 2, 2012

Question Why does the ketubah not obligate a husband to also provide shelter (housing) for his wife? I've always wondered this? Why is there no obligation? Reply

Allyson Block xx, NJ September 22, 2011

Ketubah Artist Hi.. I came across this blog and really enjoyed the questions and answers about the Ketubah. Reply

Anonymous springfield, nj July 30, 2011

hanging up a Ketubah Is there a specific place to hang a Ketubah?
One's bedroom or a living room? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org April 10, 2011

Re: a letter left out If this is an actual real life question that one should consult with their local orthodox Rabbi.

If the question was about the custom of leaving the word 'vkninah' out of a pre-written Ketubah. The reason for this is that the word means that the groom made a 'kinyan' (an acquisition) obligating himself in all that is written in the Ketubah. Therefore, many pre-written Ketubah's come with a blank to fill in that word at the time of the actual 'kinyan' which is when the witnesses sign. Reply

Anonymous Charleston, SC April 8, 2011

a letter left out What would be the meaning of leaving one letter of 'vkninah' out of the ketubah text? Reply

Shoshana charlestone, WV March 28, 2011

kosher ketubot How do we know which ketubah is kosher? are there any limitations to the designs?

Thank you Reply

Naftali Silberberg (author) January 30, 2011

To Anonymous from New York The officiating rabbi does not sign the ketubah--he merely ensures that it is written and filled out correctly. There should, however, be two signatures on the document--of the two signatory witnesses. If these are missing, please consult with your rabbi ASAP as to how to proceed. Reply

Anonymous New York January 27, 2011

Signatures Hi? Our Ketubah was filled by the Rabbi (Chabad), but there are no "signatures" on it. Is this typical? Do Rabbis need to sign the Ketubah? Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY June 25, 2010

RE: Ketubah Thank you for your help. Reply

Naftali Silberberg (Author) June 23, 2010

To Anonymous from Brooklyn, NY Any ketubah is fine, no matter who wrote (or printed) it, provided that:

1) The text is the standard rabbinically-sanctioned text.

2) The blanks (for the names and other important information) are left blank for the officiating rabbi to fill in. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY June 22, 2010

RE: Ketubah Hello,

Since most Ketubahs are printed, does it matter who the original Sofer, man or woman, of the Ketubah text was? Reply

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