Introduction to Kesuba
If this section is relevant to you, Mazal Tov! As the special day approaches, it is worthwhile to understand the Ketubah, an extremely crucial part of the chuppah ceremony. Please take the time to read about it below, learn about its Halachot and to understand what the Chatan is signing for in marrying his wife.
Three parts to the Kesubah
- The First part of the Kesubah is known as the Ikar Kesubah and is a T'nai Bais Din. It is 200 Zuz for a Besulah and 100 for an Gerusha/Almanah.
- The Second part is added on by the husband of his own free will, it's known as the Tosefes Kesubah. The Minhag today is to add on 100 Zekukin Cesef, from the times of the Maharil.(This Hischaivus from the husband is effected through a Kinyan Sudar, were the wife gives him for example a handkerchief, or the Mesadeir Kidushin or Eidim could also based off Zachin [Tosfos says that even though the handkerchief doesn't belong to her it is okay because it works through the din of Eved K'naani
- The Third part of the Kesubah is known as the Nedunya. To explain this we first need a little background. When a woman gets married there are two types of property he can bring into the marriage, Nichsei Melug and Nicsei Tzon Barzel. Nichsei Melug is when she owns the property and the husband has the right to eat the Peiros. Nichsei Tzon Barzel is property that when she got married the value of it was written into her Kesubah. She may collect this even many years after the wedding (the value might have depreciated).
Is Kesubah Deoraisa or Derabanan
- Sephardim have the text of the ketubah “כסף זוזי מאתן דחזי ליכי” whereas Ashkenazim have “דחזי ליכי מדאורייתא”. This is based on a major dispute in the rishonim and if a Sephardi uses an Ashkenazic ketubah it might be pasul.
The Value of the Ketubah
- As mentioned above, the principal value of a ketuba is 200 zuz for a Besulah and 100 for a Gerusha/Almana. The Tosefes kesuba is usually an additional 50% of the principal value.
- If the kallah is a convert, if the woman converted before the age of three years and one day, her principal kesubah is 200 zuz. If she converted after that point, it is worth 100 zuz.
- Ashkenazim commonly include in the ketubah a total of 200 zekukin of silver for the Tosefet Ketubah and the Nidonya. There is a dispute as to the amount of 200 zakukim. Some say that it is 45.5 kilograms of silver and some say that it is 57 kilograms of silver.
- Some poskim recommend to fill in the blanks of a ketubah with the same script as the rest of the ketubah was written, however, the minhag isn't careful about this.
Filling Out the Ketubah
Predating the Ketubah
- Many have the practice to sign the Ketubah before the kiddushin at the Chatan's tisch. However, some sign it underneath the chuppah.
- It is proper to have the ketubah dated the same date as the chuppah occurs, however, after the fact if it was predated and there was a kinyan at the time of the signing on the earlier day, some allow such a ketubah, while others reject such a ketubah. To avoid such an issue, some advise to postdate the ketubah so that the date on the ketubah matches that of the chuppah if the chatan's tisch occurs before sunset of the day of the wedding.
- If the ketubah was predated, that is, it was dated for a day prior to the actual wedding and prior to the actual kinyan for the ketubah, the ketubah is invalid.
- Initially it isn't proper to date a Ketubah for the night if it is signed during the day, though if one did so, it is kosher.
- If the city in which the wedding is occurring is an established location for Get proceedings , the name of the city is spelled in Hebrew the same way it would be normally spelled in a Get.(with exception to Chicago, IL and the Bronx, NY)
- Those who are unsure how to spell the names of cities should either contact the Rabbanim in those cities to obtain the correct spelling, or speak to a local Dayan to obtain the standard transliteration for the city's name.
- There is a question as to whether or not the state in which the wedding is taking place has to be included. Some of the opinion that it does not need to be included unless it is well known that multiple cities of the same name exist in different states. Others state that it should be included for mid-size cities that are not well-known. If a state does need to be included, it should be written in the formulation of "___ (name of city in Hebrew) B'Medinat __ (state name in Hebrew)".
- One should be extremely careful to correctly write the Hebrew names of the Chatan, Kallah and their last names (for those who require it ) exactly as they are usually spelled. Misspelling even one of the names to the point where it either colloquially becomes a different name (even if there is just a one letter discrepancy (e.g. Gershom/Gershon)) or that it becomes a name that is non-sensical renders the entire Ketubah invalid.
- The general custom is to use the official Hebrew names of the Chatan and Kallah and not specify any commonly used nicknames. This is true even if the Hebrew names are not commonly used. If the person does not know or his/her Hebrew name, the English name may be written in Hebrew per transliteration conventions.
- If the person's first name consists of two parts (e.g. Reuven Yaakov), both parts of the name should appear on the same line each time it is written.
- If the person's name is the same as a that of protagonist in Tanach, if the name is consistently spelled the same exact way throughout Tanach, that spelling should be used as the person's name, even if the person is used to spelling it differently.
- In the first and last relevant places in the ketubah, the names of the Chatan and Kallah should be written as "__(Chatan/Kallah's hebrew name) ben/bat ___(father's hebrew name) L'mishpachat ___ (person's last name)" (e.g. Reuven Yaakov ben Shimon L'Mishpachat Goldberg)
- In all other places in the middle of the ketubah where either of their names is required, only the Chatan/Kallah's full first name is used (e.g. Reuven Yaakov).
- If the Chatan is a Kohen or a Levi, at the first and last mentioning of his name, the title should be added after writing in his father's name (e.g. Reuven Yaakov ben Shimon HaKohen). In the other locations, it should be mentioned after his first name (e.g. Reuven Yaakov HaKohen) 
Uncertain or Unknown Lineage
- When the father's identify is completely unknown, some are of the opinion that the father's name should be entirely left out, such that it reads, "___(child's name) L'mishpachat ___(last name)". Others suggest using the mother's name be written instead.
- There is a question as to how to phrase the clause pertaining to the identify of the Chatan/Kallah's father when the child is adopted. If the father's identity is unknown, some recommend to leave out any mention a father in the Ketuba. Some recommend using the formulation of "___(child's name) haNikra ben/bat ___ (adopted father's name) HaMe'gadlo/HaMe'gadla (who raised him/her)". (e.g. Reuven Yaakov haNikra ben Moshe Aharon HaMe'gadlo L'Mishpachat Goldberg).
- If the mother of the Chatan/Kallah is Jewish, but the father is known to not be Jewish, the mother's name can be written instead. In more sensitive situations, there are some who suggest writing the name of the maternal grandfather instead.
- If the Chatan/Kallah is a Ger/Giyoret, "ben/bat Avraham Avinu" is used instead of a father's name. (e.g. Reuven Yaakov ben Avraham Avinu)
Previous Marriages and Other Notable Statuses
- If the kallah was previously married, her status should be noted as Matrachta instead of besulta so people should not be mistaken in thinking she is allowed to marry a Kohen. For a widow, the world Almanata
- If the Kallah is not a virgin, there are a variety of opinions as to how to notate this status instead of the word besulta. Options include beu'lah, arusa, or as is the common practice, isisa (איתתא).
- If the kallah is a giyoret, the language giyurta or isisa is used instead of betulta.
- If there is space left of any blank in the kesuba, a line should be drawn through the middle of the empty space so that no one can write anything in the space and falsify the kesuba.
Making the Kinyan
Eidei Kesubah (Witnesses)
- The Eidim should read the kesuba themselves before they sign it.
- Some are of the opinion that while the chatan and kallah include their last names in the kesuba, the eidim do not need to do so.
What happens if the Kesuba is Misplaced?
- If a couple happens to misplace their Kesuba (and has no idea where it could be) , it is prohibited for them to live together until another one (a Kesuba D'irkasa) is completed and signed.
- Dinei Ishut (vol. 1, vol. 2) by Rabbi Ezra Batzri, Former Dayan in the Beit Din HaRabbani HaGadol and Av Beit Din in Yerushalayim.
- The Chief Rabbi of Bat Yam, HaRav Eliyahu Bar Shalom, has an encyclopedic, eight volume masterpiece entitled Mishpat HaKetubah, in which he addresses every aspect of Hilchot Ketubot.
- Shiurim of Rabbi Michoel Zylberman, Gittin and Geirut Coordinator of the Beth Din of America and Geirut Coordinator for the Rabbinical Council of America.
- The sefer Get Mesudar is a commonly used as a reference to transliterate names (though not used in all cases) per minhag Ashkenaz.
- Many of the halachot noted in this article are based on a Shiur Given By R' Hershel Schachter http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/783803/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Shiur_
- Replace with desired reference
- *Rabbenu Tam (Tosfot Ketubot 10a) holds that Ketubah is deoritta. The possibility that a Kesubah would be Deoraisa is based on the fact that the Torah describes the concept of a gift for marrying a betulah. (Ketubot 10a, Ketubot 110b)
- But the Rambam (Ishut 10:7), Rif (Ketubot 65b), and Shulchan Aruch (EH 66:6) hold it is only derabbanan.
- The Rosh (Ketubot 1:19) explains that even if ketubah is derabbanan the text of the ketubah simply means that the chatan indebts himself to an obligation of 200 coins of which the Torah speaks about in regards to ones and mefateh. However, in reality the obligation of ketubah is rabbinic but the amount paid is according to the Tzurei coins, which is the type of coin used to pay for biblical obligations. The Rama 66:6 writes that the Ashkenazic minhag is to write “דחזי ליכי מדאורייתא” and the Chelkat Mechokek 66:26 explains the he is following the Rosh.
- Yabia Omer EH 3:12 quotes tens of rishonim and achronim who hold that for Sephardim the text should not say דאורייתא. Nonetheless, if a Sephardic couple has an Ashkenazic ketubah with those words it is valid and the Bet Yosef holds that she is nonetheless only entitled to Medina coins, which are the currency usually used to pay rabbinic obligations.
- Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer Siman 67
- http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/KETUBAH.pdf citing Rav Moshe (Igrot Moshe 4:91-92) and Chazon Ish (EH 66:21)
- Rav Hershel Schachter in a shiur on yutorah.org "Overview of Ketubah" (min 23-25) says that there's no issue with the ketubah not being written lishma but there's a concern that since the names are filled in with script and the rest is in block print that the two parts of the shtar aren't connected.
- Nitai Gavriel (Nesuin vol. 1, p. 172, 21:5)
- Rav Ovadia Yosef (Sova Semachot 1:5:12)
- Nefesh HaRav (p. 260) records Rav Soloveitchik's practice later in life to allow a predated ketubah if they did a kinyan at the time of the signing. Ketubah K'hilchata (p. 21, 4:12) allows writing the daytime date if they also do the kinyan at that time. Rav Asher Weiss (Shu"t Minchat Asher 2:87) defends the practice to predate the ketubah since the witnesses that sign the ketubah are only attesting to the fact that the husband has created a financial lien for his wife, not to the fact that they are getting married per se.
- Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe EH 4:100, EH 4:105, OC 5:9) was opposed to predating ketubot since, through the ketubah, the chatan creates a lien on his possessions to pay his kallah if (G-d forbid) they need to divorce. This lien applies on the property chatan owns as of the day when ketubah is signed. With this said, the other obligations of a husband towards his wife only begin the day they marry. If the ketubah is predated before the wedding, should the chatan acquire or divest property in the days in between, the kallah will get more or less than what she should be receiving should the couple divorce later. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in a teshuva writes that it is signing a lie to sign a ketubah that was predated even if they did the kinyan since they didn't actually get married then and the ketubah states that they got married. Ketubah K'hilchata 4:10 cites both opinions and sides with stringent opinion. Those who allow a predated ketuba maintain that if a husband wants to obligate himself in more possessions, that is his prerogative. As to Rav Shlomo Zalman's concern about signing a lie, the ketuba never references the kiddushin/chupah (Ketuba K'hilchata). (Shiur by R' Michoel Zylberman, RCA/Beis Din of America)
- As a ketuba/shtar m'euchar (later document) is kosher, provided the date on it matches the date of the chupah and it avoids the issues posed by Rav Moshe Feinstein (see earlier footnote). With this said, some who knew Rav Moshe Feinstein personally recount that he himself was not personally stringent and allowed for a ketuba to be predated.
- Rosh Hashana 2a, Ketubah K'hilchata (p. 20, 4:10)
- Ketubah K'hilchata 4:13
- A list of these cities can be found in the pamphlet "הארץ לעריה" in the back of Shu"t Atzei B'samim by Rabbi Mendel Senderovic.
- Rav Mordechai Willig, as quoted by Rabbi Michoel Zylberman
- Rav Hershel Schachter, as quoted by Rabbi Michoel Zylberman, ibid.
- Rav Hershel Schachter is of the opinion that one should include the last names of the Chatan, Kallah, and the witnesses who sign the ketubah to ensure the parties are identifiable, even if there are multiple people a city with the same first name and father's name (Reuven Yaakov ben Shimon). Rav Mordechai Willig is of the opinion that last names do not need to be included, especially if people do not know how to spell them correctly in Hebrew. (Shiur by Rabbi Michoel Zylberman)
- Mishpat HaKetubah 2:14:28 Exceptions may include if it is a name that is often known to have two versions (e.g. Yeshaya vs Yeshayahu), if the name written is a well known nickname of the person's real name (e.g. Avi for Avraham, Benny for Binyamin, Tzipi for Tziporah) or if the error does not result in an appreciable change in pronunciation of the person's name (e.g. an extra yud after the pey in Pinchas, an extra vav in the name Ziva). All of these rules also apply with spelling errors in last names or in placing nikudot underneath the letters of any names.
- Mishpat HaKetubah 2:14:5 This stands in contrast to a Get where both spouses' official and nicknames are specified. This is largely because unlike Gittin, last names are written in Ketubot, making it possible to easily identify the various parties without using nicknames. Nonetheless, if it there is a doubt as to which name to put on the Ketubah (the original or nickname), some suggest mentioning the nickname either in parenthesis (as is the opinion of Rav Elyashiv), or within in the text in the following format (Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 4:102): "יוסף דמתקרי ג'ו בן יהודה"
- Rav Moshe Feinstein (Even HaEzer 1:4) was of the opinion that one should not assign a Hebrew name to the Chatan/Kallah right before the wedding if he/she does not have one, as that is not a name that is well established with to identify the person. Using a name on a ketubah that does not adequately identify the party it is being used for renders the entire ketubah invalid. Therefore, in such a scenario, it is preferable to transliterate the person's English name into Hebrew using standard conventions.
- If there is variation (maleh or chaser) in Tanach, the person may spell his/her name the way to which he/she is accustomed if it is one of these spellings.
- It is better to use this formulation instead of "Ploni ben Ploni Goldberg", as it implies that "Goldberg" is also part of the person's first name.
- Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer 3:26) discussed a question where the father of a Kallah claimed at the time of the wedding that he was a Levi, but upon further research, discovered that his Levi status was actually more questionable that initially thought. Rav Moshe ruled that if it turns out that the father was indeed not a Levi, the Ketubah is still kosher M'ikkar HaDin, but it is recommended that a new ketubah be written and signed.
- If the Chatan is a Chalal (the son of a Kohen who married a woman that was halachically prohibited for him to marry (e.g. a divorcee)), some of have the practice to write Reuven Shimon HaChalal ben Shimon HaKohen, or, as is recommended, to just leave out the Kohen title entirely (e.g. "Reuven Yaakov" with no title at all.
- Shu"t Minchat Asher 2:87, Mishpat HaKetubah 2:15:28
- See Dagul M'reravah on Hilchot Gittin
- Rav Gedalya Schwartz, Av Beis Din of Beth Din of America, as quoted by R' Zylberman
- The formulation of the ketuba in such a case would be, for example, Reuven Yaakov ben avi imo Yosef.
- Rama, Even HaEzer 66:11
- In such a case, the value of the kesubah can be still raised to 200 zuz, as the husband can obligate himself to as high of a value as he wants provided it is above the halachic standard, which in this case would be 100 zuz. (Shu"t Chasam Sofer Even HaEzer 133)
- Sefer Kesuba K'hilchasa recommends the language isisa and this is the common practice.
- Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 45:2, Shach Siman Katan 2
- The Ketubah K'hilchata (8:33) cites this as the common practice and that of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Rav Hershel Schachter is of the opinion that even the eidim should include their last names as well.
- Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Wosner pasken that if the couple knows it is in the house, but unsure where in the house it is located, it is not considered halachically lost.
- https://www.yutorah.org/sidebar/lecture.cfm/880893/rabbi-michoel-zylberman/ishus-5777-5-filling-out-a-kesubah/ https://www.yutorah.org/sidebar/lecture.cfm/881059/rabbi-michoel-zylberman/ishus-5777-6-filling-out-a-kesubah-2/