Halacha for Sunday 10 Sivan 5784 June 16 2024

The Ketubah

Question: What is the meaning behind the Ketubah customarily filled out at a wedding ceremony?

Answer: The Ketubah is a contract that is filled out before a man marries a woman which consists of various obligations the husband incurs upon himself to fulfill for the wife. One may not marry a woman without first writing her a Ketubah.

In the Ketubah, the husband obligates himself to feed and sustain as wife as well as provide her with adequate clothing for both the summer and winter months (relative to his and her socio-economic level). According to the Sephardic custom, the husband likewise takes an oath not to marry any other woman while still married to his wife.

The husband likewise obligates himself by means of the Ketubah that if he divorces his wife, he will pay her a respectable sum of money listed in the Ketubah to the wife so that the husband will not treat the idea of divorcing his wife lightly. Were there to be no Ketubah contract between the husband and wife, immediately after marriage, as soon as the husband begins experiencing even slight hardships in the relationship and for every small fight or point of contention, the husband would rush to the local Bet Din in order to divorce his wife as opposed to trying to find solutions peacefully thereby restoring the Shechina’s presence in their home. The husband is therefore obligated to guarantee payment of the amount of money listed in the Ketubah to his wife in the event of divorce.

Nowadays, many people add an additional sum of money in the Ketubah on top of the standard, compulsory sum imposed upon them by the Sages. The husband must likewise pay this additional sum as well in the event of divorce. Many times when a couple arrives at a Bet Din in order to pursue a divorce and the husband’s claims against the wife do not satisfy the judges, the Bet Din first obligates the husband to pay the entire sum of the Ketubah and only then will they continue with the Get and divorce proceedings.

Based on the above, claims by certain organizations that Judaism views married women as slaves to their husbands and they support this preposterous claim by saying that the Ketubah indicates that the woman is “property of the husband”, these and all other similar comments are utter nonsense, for on the contrary, the Ketubah delineates only the obligations of the husband to the wife whereas the obligations of the wife to her husband are not mentioned at all. Certainly, according to Torah law, the husband does not own the wife like a slave at all. The Torah was written by the Almighty Hashem, the Creator of both man and woman who likewise created the respective natures of men and women and guides us with regards to the proper relationship and attitude of a man to his wife and vice versa through his prophets and sages throughout the generations. When the Jewish nation follows this path, they are guaranteed joy and fulfillment in this world as well as the Next.

Unfortunately, nowadays, there are certain organizations which have drafted “new” Ketubot delineating mutual responsibilities between husband and wife. However, the public must be aware that most of these Ketubot are completely halachically invalid and serve to completely uproot the meaning behind the original Ketubah instituted by our Sages which was meant to a contract describing only the obligations of the husbands to the wife. Because of their desire for money and their hatred of the genuine beauty of the laws and tenets of authentic Judaism, these people and organizations destroy all that is holy and precious to us by convincing many naïve and ignorant couples to wed in a way not compatible with authentic Torah law. The public should thus be aware and be careful of such imposters.

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