The Ketubah Text

The traditional Aramaic text of the ketubah (marriage contract) reflects the history of Jewish marriage.

Print this page Print this page

The Bride Accepted the Proposal

"… and this _______ maiden, consented and became his wife."

Willing Acceptance. The proposal having been made in the traditional formula, the witnesses now assert that the bride accepted with willing consent, and therefore "she became his wife." Ve'havat lih le'into is an Aramaic translation of Ruth 4:13, va-tehi lo le'ishah.

And She Brings a Dowry

"The dowry (nedunya) that she brought from her _______ house, in silver, gold, valuables, clothing, and household furnishings, all this _______ the said groom accepted in the sum of 100 silver pieces."

The Dowry. Nedunya (dowry), popularly referred to as naddan, is given the bride by her father for her use in the home she is about to build. This dowry includes the items listed plus any other valuables she may bring with her. In the Bible, Rachel and Leah are given servants Bilhah and Zilpah as dowry. It is the daughter's share of her parents' inheritance. The sons succeed their father, but the daughters leave him and therefore receive an equivalent in the form of dowry. The sages make it compulsory for a father to give his' daughter, as a start in married life, sufficient funds to buy a woman's wardrobe for one year.

The dowry is distinct from property or possessions that the bride owns and continues to own privately throughout marriage. Thus it serves as an inducement for suitors. The dowry is included in the ketubah, and is the property of the bride, technically "leased" to the groom for the duration of marriage. The bride's private property, called nikhsei melog, is given outright to the bride, the husband enjoying only the "fruit" (usufruct) during marriage. It is not part of the dowry and is not included in the ketubah.

The Groom Accepted. The ketubah originally listed all items in the dowry and tabulated the cost. In time, this was standardized under the general categories listed and estimated at a standard sum of 100 silver pieces, one half of the mohar that the groom provided the bride for use of the dowry, but which, in reality, comes today to very much more than the half mohar.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Maurice Lamm is the author of many books, including The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning. He is the president of the National Institute for Jewish Hospice, and Professor at Yeshiva University's Rabbinical Seminary in New York, where he holds the chair in Professional Rabbinics. For years he served as rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills, CA.