Ketubah text

My commentary in italics. If the contents offend your sensibilities, I’m sorry. This is the traditional text; if you want to create a non-traditional text which is more pleasing to you, I will be happy to discuss it.

1On the x day of the week, y day of the month, in the year z since the creation of the world, according to our manner of counting, here in settlement p, country q, how the groom Ploni son of Ploni II {name of mother and surname optional}, said to this feminine noun {virgin is usual, or substitute woman, bride, divorcee, widow, convert, or other, as appropriate} Plonit daughter of Ploni III {name of mother and surname optional}: “Be to me a wife according to the law of Moses and Israel, and I will cherish, honour, support and sustain you according to the practice of Jewish men, who cherish, honour, support and sustain their wives faithfully…”

What this actually means is discussed in the halakhic literature – in the early chapters of Ketubot, particularly – essentially defining what we can reasonably expect in a marriage. This includes her obligations to him – to let him use her goods and farm her land, for example.

2…And I establish to you the price of feminine noun, plural {as before}, two hundred silver zuz {or other amount}, as is proper {insert “according to the law” if appropriate}…

Which the rabbis decreed for everyone, as being enough cash to get by for a year. Frank’s talmudic dictionary says one silver zuz is 4.25 grams of pure silver. Sephardim used to have the practice of putting in the equivalent of a year’s salary at the current value, to make the settlement realistic.

3…And I will sustain you, clothe you, and equip you, and cohabit with you according to the common practice.

Again, see Ketubot. His level of obligation varies to some degree with his income and her background; a rich man has to give his wife more than a poor man has to give his wife. Likewise, her rights to sexual encounters vary with his profession; an idle man has more responsibility than a man who works away from home for lengthy periods.

4And Plonit, this feminine noun consented and became his wife. And the property which she brought with her from her father’s house {some omit ‘from her father’s house’} – including all silver, gold, valuables, apparel, furnishings, and linen – the groom accepted this at the value of one hundred silver zekukim {or as appropriate},…

Which is to say, when she leaves the marriage, she is entitled to take this property back with her. This formulation states that she takes back the value of the property, rather than the property itself, which is to her advantage if the property depreciates in value. They may also decide that she will take back the goods themselves, and accept any depreciation. Some ketubot have inventories appended, to avoid disagreement. If she dies, this property passes to her heirs, rather than to her husband’s heirs (for example, her own children from a previous marriage).

5…and added to this from his own assets the sum of one hundred silver zekukim {or as appropriate}, making two hundred silver zekukim in total.

The gemara implies that this is a gift because he likes her (or, according to one opinion, because he is anticipating enjoying having sex with her). Whereas she is entitled to the two hundred zuz, above, this gift is technically optional. Again, one is at liberty to increase the amount.

6…And thus said Ploni the groom: “I accept upon myself and upon my heirs after me the responsibility to pay this your price, this the value of your goods, and this my additional gift, such that they will be paid from the best of my estate and acquisitions, all I have under the heavens, that which I own now and that which I will come to own in the future. All my property, land and chattels, even the shirt from my shoulders, shall be held mortgaged to pay this price, this value of goods, and this additional gift, during my life and after my life, from this day and forever.”

That is, any property which he owns at the moment of signing or acquires afterwards can be claimed by the wife when she leaves. If he sold his property and was unable to pay her, she may claim it from the purchasers.

7…Ploni the groom has accepted upon himself the responsibility to pay this price, value of goods, and additional gift, according to all the strictures of marriage contracts and gifts therein which are customary for Jewish women, as enacted by our Sages of blessed memory. It should not be regarded as a matter unworthy of consideration, or as merely a formality.

Since this would invalidate it. He is acquiring obligations, and, as such, has to take them seriously.

8…And we have performed ritual acquisition from Ploni son of Ploni II {as above}, the groom, on behalf of Plonit daughter of Ploni III {as above}, and we have performed it in a ritually appropriate manner, to validate the above; and all is valid and secured.

Being how one acquires a legal obligation of this kind. There are various methods of effecting this; the usual method is kinyan sudar, in which the groom gives an object of some kind to the witnesses, and in so doing, accepts upon himself the obligations he has specified.

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