Dec 13, 2007

questions about the kesuba

Now that we are within a couple of weeks of concluding the tractate of Kesubos in daf yomi, I have some questions..

1. Why is the kesuba nowadays still written in Aramaic? It was written in Aramaic originally because that is the language they spoke. Even most Jews living in Eretz Yisrael at the time spoke in Aramaic (proof is if you watched the movie by the anti-semite Mel Gibson called Passion of Christ). So instituting it in Aramaic at the time made sense. But there is no intrinsic holiness to the kesuba nor to the Aramaic language.
So why do we continue to write the kesuba in Aramaic and not switch it to Hebrew? Some might want it in Yiddish, or English, and I see nothing wrong with that either, but at least we should switch it to Hebrew!
As it is in Aramaic, nobody understands it. We all sign on our kesubas and how many of us have actually read the document? Do you know to what you have obligated yourself? Even those of us who have read it hardly understand most of it.
So why continue writing the kesuba in Aramaic? Why not switch to a language that is used nowadays?

2. What is the role of the kesuba in today's marriage?

We had two separate divorced people (separately) speak to our shiur about the topic. Our main question posed to the two of them was during the divorce proceedings in beis din, did the issue of the kesuba come up? How ws the kesuba used in the divorce? Did the judges say let us now read the kesuba to see what you promised? Did they discuss how much value the kesuba had and how much he had to pay her because of it? etc.

The answer of each of the two divorced men who spoke to us was the kesuba had absolutely no role in the divorce. The judges never asked for it. They never looked at it. There was never a discussion as to what the value of it was.

I would guess the reason why it is irrelevant is because in today's divorce settlements the man is generally going to be paying much more that what the kesuba obligates him to pay, so there is no reason to bother getting into the kesuba itself.

But if the kesuba is so irrelevant that it is not even used or even looked at in the divorce proceedings, why then are we so insistent that the couple have a kesuba, to the point that if they lose the kesuba, they cannot live together until a replacement kesuba is written.

So what is the point of the kesuba if it is not used at all anymore in case of divorce?



  1. 1. the reason that the ketubah is still written in aramaic is because that is the language that it was originally made in and no one got up and changed it (call it tradition if you want - the same reason why some of out prayers are still in aramaic) even though there is no reason that it cannot be in a different language. (BTW, i have been at weddings that the ketubah was written (or at least read out) in Hebrew).
    rafi, you are a smart fellow (and learn the daf yomi)so it should not be difficult for you to understand what it says in your ketubah. the aramaic is not so difficult (if you can learn gemarah). if you want i can send you an english translation.
    2. a ketubah is needed today (and it is forbidden to live with your wife without one) because of the takanat chachamim which was originally instituted in order to support the wife should the husband divorce her.
    the takanah still applies and a ketubah is needed today even though it is not usually considered during a divorce.
    (note that a ketubah does not include intrest or linkage - my ketubah is 1000 shekels which was a bit of money way back then)
    the reason that today the ketubah is not used in a divorce proceedings is because of 2 takanot from rabeinu gershom meor hagolah (c. 1000) that a. a husband is not allowed to divorce his wife against her will, and b. he cannot marry a second wife.
    therefore when a husband wants to divorce his wife he has to get her permission (and pay her what she wants - or what the bet din decides she should get - rather that what it says in the ketubah.)

  2. I more or less understand the kesuba and know what is in it, and many others do as well. But the overwhelming majority of people do not.
    I have never been to a wedding that used an English or hebrew kesuba, so your experience is interesting.. I wonder if it is gaining popularity..

    2. so in other words, there is no real need for the kesuba nowadays for technical reasons, but we cannot do away with it because of the original takana, even though that has no more relevance?

  3. A ketuba is not 'needed' in a divorce situation because inyanei mammonos, financial matters, may be completely negotiated in a beit din with no attention needing to be given to previously signed documents.

    Its kinda neat actually. While shulchan aruch is genereally not negotiable, most of Choshen Mishpat is -- simply requiring mutual agreement between the parties.

    Yehuda got the rest a.o.k.


  4. Rafi, why are you linking the two issue of ketubah and divorce?

    A ketubah is required to get married and that is its own din.

    A get is required to get divorced and that is its own din.

    One can choose to enforce the ketubah or not as is his/her legal right, however due to social norms people typically choose to use a more comprehensive legal system rather than rely on the ketubah.
    The point of using a ketubah isn't just to set up a system for divorce, but it is to obligate the man and woman to each other contractually. How you choose to enforce the contract if need be is up to the parties; like any contract dispute.

  5. Even most Jews living in Eretz Yisrael at the time spoke in Aramaic (proof is if you watched the movie by the anti-semite Mel Gibson called Passion of Christ)
    That's the proof? A movie?

  6. J - that was my attempt at a bit of humor in a serious post....

    Dan - the kesuba is sort of a pre-nup. The whole idea of the kesuba is to obligate the husband in case of divorce or death.. so you would think the kesuba should be taken otu in case of death.

    You are right it is like any contractual dispute. My question was based on the assumption that in a contractual dispute, the first thing the judges would do is to look at the contract.

    The above commenters explained how it works though...

  7. I went and asked my rov - yo know who, and his was response was as expected: "I don't know why, but it's assur to change". I said, "huh - clarify please". He said, I know it's assur and we wouldn't accept it, but I cannot tell you why yet. I said, why say assur, say maybe not. he said no - assur.

    go figure.....


Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...