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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jewish Marriage, Isn't The Ketubah a "Prenup?"

I was just reading an article in The Forward about a "Jewish prenuptial agreement" being upheld in the American courts.
For the first time, a state court has affirmed the constitutionality of a Modern Orthodox-sponsored prenuptial agreement meant to protect agunot — Jewish women “chained” by husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce. Read more


J. Levine Co
Maybe I'm wrong, but I have always considered the Ketubah, Jewish Marriage "contract" to be a prenup of sorts.  Actually, it's not a contract; it's more of a signed pledge by the husband to give financial compensation to the wife if the marriage must end.
The main purpose of the ketubah is to prevent a husband divorcing his wife against her will, which, in talmudic times, he had the right to do. The knowledge that he had to pay his wife her ketubah would serve as a check against hasty divorce.


The wife promises nothing in return.  The Chabad site adds more information:
The ketubah is a binding document which details the husband's obligations to his wife, showing that marriage is more than a physical-spiritual union; it is a legal and moral commitment. The ketubah states the principal obligations of the groom to provide his wife with food, clothing and affection along with other contractual obligations.


If the Ketubah would be taken seriously, as an enforceable legal document then there would be fewer agunot, "chained" women awaiting Jewish divorce from their husbands.  And maybe some men would think a lot more before threatening their wives with divorce.

What's interesting is that the Ketubah actually gives the wife the upper hand in marriage.  It lists what the husband must do and basically takes for granted that the wife will do whatever is expected.  She doesn't sign the document. 

It's too bad that the Ketubah isn't taken more seriously in courts, both in Israel and abroad.

7 comments:

Shy Guy said...

The problem with the Ketubah is that Chazal never envisioned that Jews would sink so low as you hear in the too many cases which exist in this age.

The Ketubah is insufficiently ironclad for recent generations.

Batya said...

Shy, so should/could it be halachikly re-written?

Risa Tzohar said...

Times have changed and the ketuba hasn't. In today's world it's not really worth the paper it's written on in the beit din.
Of course if it's an artstic original it might have resale value. But in terms of promises... promises... promises...

Batya said...

Risa, so many good intentions just a waste. I wonder how effective the modern prenups really are.

Shy Guy said...

Risa, being cynical isn't the same as being correct.

The vast majority of Ketubot are followed through according to the letter, even in cases of irreconcilable animosity. That's because most people still retain a semblance of minimal honesty and common decency.

Your overall smear against Batei Din is simply repugnant.

That being said, because times have changed and the Ketuba has not, something should be added to fill the gap.

I've seen different prenups by different Rabbanim. I've also heard different halachic opinions as to whether prenups are halachically good, bad or even outright forbidden.

We need a Sanhedrin.

Alan said...

>> We need a Sanhedrin

Israel already has a hierarchy of Rabbinical courts which hold jurisdiction over marriages & divorces.

What you're REALLY saying is: "we need some fairy dust to make people believe that the Rabbinical courts are trustworthy and respectworthy".

So far, Cypriot Airlines tickets have better loyalty than your rabbinical courts do. Wait... maybe you can blame ANYBODY BUT the Beit-Din personalities!!!

A Court of First Instance in NY decided to cite the ketubah? Interesting, but you see, in the real world, whether that gets over-ruled or not really depends mainly upon which side runs out of lawyer-money first.

Shy Guy said...

No, that's not what I said, Alan.

Apparently you are unfamiliar with what a Sanhedrin can accomplish.

Go and learn.