This week more on the Ketubah from Modern Jewish Wedding Sponsor, Gallery Judaica!
I Need a Ketubah! Where do I Start?
According to tradition and ancient Judaic law, a bride and groom must agree to a contract in order for their Jewish marriage to be binding. This wedding contract is called a “ketubah.” Gallery Judaica specializes in offering beautiful “ketubot” (plural of ketubah) to couples across the country and beyond. If you’re gearing up for your wedding, many of your ketubah questions are answered here.
The first step: choosing which ketubah text you need.
Traditional Aramaic (Orthodox) Text:
The Traditional Aramaic ketubah text is the only text accepted by the Traditional Orthodox Ashkenazic Jewish community. The text was conceived approximately 2,000 years ago, with the primary purpose of protecting the finances of a Jewish wife. This marriage contract is written in Aramaic, and was originally drafted by Jewish sages – most likely in response to social practices which are considered unjust according to Jewish thought. This is an excellent example of the Jewish concept of “tzedek,” or justice. Click to read the Traditional Aramaic text.
The document is to be filled in with the bride and groom’s names, parents’ names, date and location of the wedding. As you can see from the translation of the Aramaic ketubah text, the contract does not require signatures of the bride or groom. Rather, it is the two witnesses who must attest to the fact that the groom made this promise to the bride. (In Sephardic tradition, it is sometimes requested that the groom sign as well.)
It’s only in modern times that both bride and groom as well as the wedding officiant sign the ketubah, in addition to the witnesses. You will often see these signature lines in the English section of a “Traditional Aramaic with English” ketubah (see below), and on most Egalitarian ketubot.
Click to see a selection of Sephardic text ketubah
Traditional Aramaic with English:
Traditional Aramaic with English refers to a text with the ancient Aramaic legal agreement, as well as a modern English section. The English portion is generally not a translation of the Aramiac – it contains modern sentiments which are at the discretion of the ketubah artist, so the English portion on these ketubot will vary by artist.
The Conservative ketubah text is the document most often used in Conservative Jewish wedding ceremonies. The text is identical to the Traditional text, with the addition of a paragraph called the “Lieberman Clause.” This clause, drafted by Rabbi Saul Lieberman in the 1950s, states that either the husband or wife may invoke the authority of the “Beit Din,” or Jewish court, in the event of a civil dissolution of the marriage. The added clause provides for equal legal recourse for husband and wife. Click to read the Lieberman Clause.
Egalitarian / Reform / Modern Hebrew and English Text:
The Egalitarian text is the most frequently used ketubah in more liberal Jewish communities, such as the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. An Egalitarian text (also known as a Reform or Modern Hebrew and English text) includes a modern Hebrew and modern English section, which feature contemporary sentiments and promises that the bride and groom make to each other. There is no Aramaic on the document. In most cases, the English is a direct translation of the Hebrew. The Hebrew and English texts are at the discretion of the ketubah artist, so the texts vary from artist to artist.
Alternative Egalitarian / Commitment Vows / Non-Denominational / English Only / Gender Neutral:
These texts are variations of the Egalitarian Text, written to accommodate a variety of commitment ceremonies. (We’ll expand on these in future posts!) As with the Egalitarian text, these texts also vary from artist to artist.
Once you have determined which ketubah text is right for your needs (sometimes with the help of your Rabbi), you can select from Gallery Judaica’s extensive collection of beautiful ketubot. From finely detailed papercuts, to colorful works of art, to Judaic nature themes, online Judaica stores make it easy to navigate through a wondrous array of ketubah artists and themes.
The third step: personalization.
Once you choose the ketubah that is right for you, you can move on to personalizing the contract-turned-work-of-art. The blanks have to be filled in with names and the date and location of your wedding. This can be done either by your rabbi, if he or she is willing, or by us! Some ketubot are filled in with hand-calligraphy and some with computer print – it depends on which artist you choose. If you choose to have us do the personalization, we have a worksheet for you to fill in and send back to us.
The fourth step: signing.
A ketubah is generally signed at a ceremony before the wedding. A small gathering of close family and friends comes together and the wedding officiant often coordinates the event. As we mentioned, it may be just the two witnesses who sign, or the bride, groom and officiant as well.
How do you choose your witnesses? Traditionally, the two witnesses must be adult, male, observant Jews, and unrelated to the bride or groom. In more liberal environments like Reform and Reconstructionist communities, women can often serve as witnesses as well. In all cases, it’s important that you discuss your choice of witnesses with your rabbi.
To learn more and browse through ketubahs, chuppahs, Kiddush cups, tallit and more, stop by our store in Los Angeles or visit us online at www.galleryjudaica.com!