Ketubah Definition: Has it Changed Over the Years?

You may be getting ready to have a Jewish wedding and don’t quite understand what is a ketubah and why you would want one, anyway. Merriam Webster’s ketubah definition is as such:

Ketubah, noun

ke·​tu·​bah

variants: or kethubah \ ˌkeˌt(h)üˈvä, kəˈsüvə \

plural ketuboth or ketubot\ -​ˌt(h)üˈvōt(h), -​ˈsüˌv-​, -​ōs \ or ketubahs or kethuboth or kethubot or kethubahs

ketubah definition:  a formal Jewish marriage contract that provides for a money settlement payable to the wife in the event of divorce or at the husband’s death

We might very well consider it as the original prenup, construed to give financial protection to a wife in case of an untimely end to her marriage.

The word ketubah’s definition in Hebrew actually is “is written” and is often translated as “document”.

There is no ketubah definition, nor mention in the Bible. And the first ketubah that we know of dates from 5th century BCE. The Rabbis enacted the ketubah as part of the Jewish marriage later on, and we must assume that there was a need for the written marriage contract.In fact, the sages of the Talmud forbade a woman to live “for even one night” with her husband without being in possession of her ketubah.

And though the definition of the ketubah was, and still is,that of a legal Jewish marriage contract, the ketubah evolved into something quite special and unique, elevated by the great care, artistry and beauty imbued in their embellishment.

Today, the world has changed vastly and the ketubah definition has, in modern Jewish communities, undergone a complete transformation.  Women are no longer in a position of financial dependence and no longer require a ketubah to guard over their monetary interests.

Today’s ketubah definition would be of a document (and still it “is written”) which immortalizes the deep love and commitment of the couple and is an expression of their values, faith and hopes for the future of the life they build together.

The art of the ketubah is flourishing, as well. Beautiful ketubahs utilizing traditional and modern techniques are in wide abundance, today. Check out Danny Azoulay with his amazing paper cut ketubahs, who is a prominent name amongst contemporary ketubah artists. His ketubahs embody the spirit and beauty of Jewish ritual and ceremony.

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