June 23, 2004

Sign on the Bottom Line

In a Jewish wedding, the bride and groom sign a ketubah, or marriage contract, before the ceremony. While today's ketubot are an egalitarian promise of love, support, and affection - sort of written transcript of wedding vows - the document's roots are more financial than emotional. Traditionally, the contract became the bride's property after the wedding and listed the husband's responsibilities and obligations during marriage as well as how a woman would be compensated in the event of divorce or her husband's death. In a way, it was a precursor to the modern prenuptual agreement and I've been told that this was a "revolutionary document" since, 2500 years ago, women did not own property.

L and I have been looking at various texts for our ketubah, trying to find one that recognizes the tradition behind the document and reflects our current and future relationship while simultaneously representing our different comfort levels with religion and god.

We agreed that half of the ketubah, written in English, would reflect the modern idea of equality between a husband and wife. The other half, written in the ancient Aramaic, would reflect the history of the marriage contract. Here's a sampling of the traditional text, translated into English, which follows some simple legalities such as listing the date of the ceremony and names of those involved:

"I will work on your behalf and will honor, sustain, and support you according to the custom of Jewish husbands who faithfully cherish, honor, support, and maintain their wives. And I obligate myself to give you the marriage gift of virgins, two hundred silver zuzim, which belongs to you, and I will also provide your food, clothing, and necessities and will live with you in marital relations according to universal custom. All my property, real and personal, even the shirt from my back, shall be mortgaged to secure the payment of this marriage contract, of the dowry, and of the addition made to it, during my lifetime and after my death, from the present day and forever."

Where the hell am I gonna get two hundred silver zuzim?

Posted by The Groom at June 23, 2004 09:57 AM

I'd be more worried about finding virgins in 2004. Good luck!

Posted by: Rose at June 23, 2004 04:03 PM

Not being Jewish, the "shirt from my back" part kinda threw me. Is that traditional? And do you still get to say that if you rented your tux shirt? :)

Posted by: P at June 23, 2004 04:15 PM

>>Where the hell am I gonna get two hundred silver zuzim?<<

Do the best you can and substitute equal value where neccessary. It's well known that you can buy a kid (i.e., baby goat) for two zuzim; a grown up goat might be worth twice as much. If you'd rather substitute beef, chicken, pork bellies or whatever, the Wall Street Journal lists prices for these and many other commodities. The prices are in dollars, of course, but one you know the zuzim to goat exchange rate you can figure it out. There are futures prices, too, in case you don't want the stuff delivered until August.

Posted by: FOG at June 24, 2004 10:08 AM

OK, but pork bellies are not Kosher!! I think they should stay away from them.

Posted by: MOB at June 26, 2004 04:04 PM