1,000-Year-Old Marriage Contract Goes on Display in Jerusalem

June 2, 2015

2 min read

The National Library of Israel is launching an exhibition on the ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, featuring a rare, 11th-century document from Safed, reports Israel Hayom. The Safed ketubah testifies to a vibrant Jewish presence in the city 1,000 years ago.

“This is one of the first and only existing artifacts that testifies to the Jewish community in Safed during that period,” Dr. Yoel Finkelman, the National Library’s Judaica curator, told the paper.

The ketubah is essential a traditional prenuptial agreement, in which the groom’s responsibilities to the bride, both during the marriage and after, whether terminated by death or divorce, are outlined. It is an essential part of the Jewish wedding ceremony to this day.

The document is typically written in Aramaic, and contains a standard text, which identifies the couple, location and date of the marriage. However, it can be personalized. “For example, a well-off family may offer to provide more financially in order to marry a woman from a well-respected family, or a family of Torah scholars,”said Finkelman.

It would also outline what the bride is bringing into the marriage, and what would happen to that property should the marriage dissolve. “For instance, if the woman has expensive jewelry, or her parents give gifts in honor of the wedding, and then the couple divorce, those items are returned to her,” Finkelman said.

The scribe who formulated the Safed document is listed as Yosef Hacohen, son of Yaakov, and the couple is named as Natan Hacohen, son of Shlomo, and Rachel, from Safed. It was drawn up in the city known as Tzur, and is dated Nov. 28, 1023.

The Safed ketubah includes a list of the bride’s jewelry, household items and clothing, including the weight and monetary value of each item. It also details what to do with said items in different scenarios which might affect the marriage, such as if the wife becomes mentally unstable.


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