The ketubah is no love letter. It is an ancient agreement meant to protect the woman’s financial status in case she and her husband don’t end up together. Read here if you want to know what it’s all about…
Well, it is no love letter, although it’s read at the most romantic and exciting moment of your life. The old wise men took into consideration what we tend to forget in our moments of great happiness – that love alone is not enough. For this reason they composed the first Jewish prenuptial agreement, the ketubah.
The original document was a financial promissory note, signed at the time of marriage. Its purpose was to assure the woman’s livelihood in case she became a widow or she and her husband separate. It was also meant to serve as a barrier against hasty divorces.
Besides marking the commitments in case of separation, it also symbolizes the husband’s commitment to his wife during matrimony. I’m referring to the duty to cherish, respect, provide and have marital relations with your loved one. It is even said, a husband may not leave the country without his wife’s permission.
The ketuba first became common in earlier times when women stayed home and the responsibility of providing for the family was attributed to the man. Even the assets that the the brides contributed to the relationship, the dowry, was handled by the man. Without this document, the woman was in danger of being disinherited on the lose of her husband.
Originally the text was written in Aramaic, the popular language at that time. It was valued in silver coins and related to ancient material customs. Nowadays, the ketuba is seldom implemented due to new regulations meant to improve the women’s position (for example the prohibition of bigamy), and also due to the ability of splitting the couples assets according to civil statutes. Today it is common to find different versions of tex and style, based on the different Jewish streams, there are even some couples who choose to write their own text (instead or in addition to the basic text).
It is becoming more common for couples to write and decorate their own ketuba and then hang it in their home once they are married. These specially designed items can also be purchased from craftsmen.