The Deed that Binds, between bride and groom
Our earliest sages ruled that before a man takes a woman for his wife, he should
write her a ketubah. The ruling was intended to strengthen the bond of marriage,
to protect the rights of the woman while she is married, and to guarantee her
future afterwards. In the ketubah a husband promises to feed and provide for his
wife, as well as to respect her. He also takes on the obligation to surrender a
fixed sum in the event of disbanding the marriage. The minimum sum that a man
promises for a new wife is 200 zuz, roughly the value of one year's salary. For
a widow or divorcee, the sum is 100 zuz.
The basic structure of a ketubah was
fixed over 2000 years ago, during the time that Alexandar Yanai ruled with Queen
Shlomtzion, by her brother, Shimon ben Shatach, who at the time was the ruling
President of the Sanhedrin After Israel was flung into the Diaspora, different
versions of the ketubah developed in different countries, based on additional
obligations that became customary in each community.
Decorated Ketubahs- ancient Jewish tradition
As long ago as 300 years
after the Temple Jewish artists began to illustrate and decorate hand-written
documents. Originally geometric and micrographic decorations were popular.
Later, objects were used, such as the Temple and its utensils, books from the
Tanach, depictions of Biblical stories and midrash. Decorating the work of
scribes was in all of the diasporas. The main centers for Jewish creativity in
this field were Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. In
the 17th and 18th centuries decoration as an art field began to flourish. The
main documents at the time were books of the Tanach, siddurim and machzorim,
Pesach Hagadas, megillas (Book of Ester), and ketubahs.
The oldest illustrated ketubah that we has survived is an Australian
ketubah which was written in 5151 (1391). The illustration is of the groom
placing a ring on the bride's finger. The bride is wearing a crown. This trend
of illustrating ketubahs increased greatly grown in Italy in the 17th century and
beyond, and from there it has spread to many other countries.
Friedman. Machanaim 10/
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