THE KETUBAH IN HISTORY
The Ketubah is a document that has traditionally outlined a husband's obligation towards his wife, including clothing and conjugal rights. References to these obligations can be found in Exodus (21:10,11) although no mention is made of a document. The Apocrypha, however, contains mention of a scroll that was brought to the marriage ceremony of Tobias and Sarah, an early form of the Ketubah.
During the Babylonian Exile, 586-536 B.C.E., the need arose to protect women regarding property that was held in her husband's name. Many men migrated to Egypt and left wives and families behind. The Babylonian predeliction for written legal contracts was a firm basis for the start of the Ketubah. Papyrus records dating from around 440 B.C.E. in Aramaic (a later form of Hebrew) clearly outline the principle of securing the wife's property. Included in this document is the sum of the bridal price paid to the father of the bride, as well as the sum of the bride and bridegroom's dower contribution. In addition, the wife is named as the beneficiary of the estate should the husband die.
Nearly four hundred year later, the ketubah introduced a price that would be paid by the husband to the bride on the death or dissolution of the marriage. The Ketubah became a contract written by the groom and was presented to the bride. The earliest actual ketubah formula is set down in the Talmud and exists today in the Orthodox text.
The practice of illuminating manuscripts and of decorating ritual objects goes back many thousands of years. The concept of Hiddur Mitzvah, or the beautification of a mitzvah, has led to the creation of legacy of Jewish ritual art objects. Richly decorated Ketubot can be found in the great museums of the world from Persia, Italy, Turkey and even the United States. The design of a ketubah would often reflect the style of the times, and could include symbols of the country such as flags or crowns. Jewish symbols were also prevalent - the lions of Judah can often be seen in historical Ketubot as well as Hebrew calligraphy in stylized forms.
Modern Ketubah texts have followed social convention in creating equality between Bride and Groom in terms the exchange of vows. Some texts duplicate the wording for each spouse and others simply leave out all monetary consideration. Some rabbis allow the couple to add to the text or to devise their own texts. This practice keeps with a tradition in which a Ketubah would include family history, achievement and lineage as part of the design. In general, as all Jewish ritual has evolved to suit the times, so too has the Ketubah evolved in text and design.
The practice of commissioning custom Ketubot came into vogue in the 1960's along with a general interest in rediscovering Judaism. Many parents who had printed Ketuboth from the Rabbi would shop with sons or daughters for highly priced original works of art. Soon a vast number of prints, some in limited editions, began to appear, making the choice of a Ketubah a daunting task. Wholly original works remained expensive, and prints lacked the quality of originals that make for a beautiful Ketubah. THE KETUBAH WORKSHOP strives to maintain tradition with fine works of art that are affordable. It is our hope that a Ketubah from THE KETUBAH WORKSHOP will add a significant dimension to your wedding ceremony.