The Original Prenuptial Agreement
Did you know that it is a custom among some Jewish households to display their “prenuptial” agreements on the wall? It’s called a ketubah (marriage contract), presented by the husband to his spouse. The ketubah attests to his promise to support her–even if he dies or divorces her.
Here’s a simplified summary of what’s in the ketubah.
Date and Place: The ketubah begins with basic factual information of when and where the marriage is taking place.
Names: The names of the groom and the bride are listed along with their fathers’ names.
Proposal: The groom promises to serve, honor, provide for and support his bride if she will be his wife. He also offers her mohar, money set aside for the bride in case of the husband’s death or divorce. Remember, until the modern era, women were dependent upon their husbands for financial support.
Acceptance: It notes that the bride has consented to the marriage. It is against Jewish law for a man to marry a woman without her consent.
“Dowry” and Groom’s Gift: The “dowry” (that which is brought into the marriage by the bride) has come to be generally estimated at a value of 100 silver pieces. If a divorce follows, this money is returned to the bride. The groom adds an equal portion to the household.
Surety: The groom states that he takes upon himself the surety of the ketubah, offering a guarantee that it will be upheld even if the marriage fails.
Act of Acquisition: The legal validation of the agreement (kinyan).
The ketubah concludes with a summary of the contents, a statement that “everything is valid and established” and the signature of two witnesses.
If a woman loses her ketubah, a new one (known as a Ketubah D’Irkata) must be written.
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