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Ketubahs - A Jewish Marriage Contract

As many of you know an added element to a Jewish wedding is that both parties sign a marriage contract called a Ketubah. What you may not know is what on earth does all those funny looking words in another language mean. Ketubahs are actually written in Aramaic so many brides and grooms have no idea what they are signing either.

Below is a very rough translation of what this document says. When I was in school the ketubah class actually taught about 2 goats also being part of the divorce settlement. I didn't see that in the text that was translated. Which is a shame because I have always loved the idea of my husband being forced to give me a goat.

The blank lines are usually filled by hand by the Rabbi and the groom during the wedding, including the names of the couple, the date and location of the wedding, and the signatures of the witnesses. It's important to note that a non-virgin would be promised half the amount mentioned. Someone from a distinguished (such as the daughter of a king, a priest, or the tribe of Levi) family would be offered more.

Translation of the Orthodox Ketubah text

On the ______day of the week, the _________day of the month ______ in the year five thousand seven hundred and ______ since the creation of the world, the era according to which we reckon here in the city of _________________ that ________ son of _________ said to this (virgin) _________daughter of _____.

"Be my wife according to the practice of Moses and Israel, and I will cherish, honor, support and maintain you in accordance with the custom of Jewish husbands who cherish, honor, support and maintain their wives faithfully. And I here present you with the marriage gift of (virgins), (two hundred) silver zuzim, which belongs to you, according the the law of Moses and Israel; and I will also give you your food, clothing and necessities, and live with you as husband and wife according to universal custom." And Miss_____, this (virgin) consented and became his wife. The trousseau that she brought to him from her (father's) house in silver, gold, valuables, clothing, furniture and bedclothes, all this ________, the said bridegroom accepted in the sum of (one hundred ) silver pieces, and ______ the bridegroom, consented to increase this amount from his own property with the sum of (one hundred) silver pieces, making in all (two hundred) silver pieces. And thus said __________, the bridegroom: "The responsibility of this marriage contract, of this trousseau, and of this additional sum, I take upon myself and my heirs after me, so that they shall be paid from the best part of my property and possession that I have beneath the whole heaven, that which I now possess or may hereafter acquire. All my property, real and personal, even the shirt from my back, shall be mortgaged to secure the payment of this marriage contract, of the trousseau, and of the addition made to it, during my lifetime and after my death, from the present day and forever." _______, the bridegroom, has taken upon himself the responsibility of this marriage contract, of the trousseau and the addition made to it, according to the restrictive usages of all marriage contracts and the additions to them made for the daughters of Israel, according to the institution of our sages of blessed memory. It is not to be regarded as a mere forfeiture without consideration or as a mere formula of a document. We have followed the legal formality of symbolic delivery (kinyan) between ______the son of _______, the bridegroom and _______ the daughter of _______ this (virgin), and we have used a garment legally fit for the purpose, to strengthen all that is stated above, and everything is valid and confirmed.

Attested to________________________ Witness
Attested to________________________ Witness

Conservatives and Reforms often choose to include something called the Lieberman Clause. (in Jewish law a divorce can only be granted if the husband agrees; so this is a VERY important clause that gets around that problem.

The Conservative and reform Text uses the same text as the Orthodox (as shown above), but adds at the end a paragraph. This additional clause translates as:

And both together agreed that if this marriage shall ever be dissolved under civil law, then either husband or wife may invoke the authority of the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America or its duly authorized representatives, to decide what action by either spouse is then appropriate under Jewish matrimonial law; and if either spouse shall fail to honor the demand of the other or to carry out the decision of the Beth Din or its representative, then the other spouse may invoke any and all remedies available in civil law and equity to enforce compliance with the Beth Din's decision and this solemn obligation.