Ketuba, Jerusalem, 1926
This ketuba (marriage contract) was written in Jerusalem in 1926. The groom was Ephraim ben Nachman Sonnenschein and the bride Rebecca Bat-Zion, daughter of Chaim Aryeh Zuta. In the centre, above the text, there is a watercolour of a young couple embracing at the entrance to a tent overlooking Jerusalem. Many verses from the Torah appear around both the drawing and the entire document.
At the top of the document inside two shield-shaped objects there are two verses from the Torah relating to Ephraim, the name of the bridegroom. The verse on the left is from the book of Genesis (Bereshit) and is part of the traditional Blessing of the Children: “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” The verse on the right is from Jeremiah 31:19:
Is Ephraim a darling son to Me? Is he a child that is dandled? For as often as I speak of him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him, I will surely have compassion upon him.
Of particular interest are the two verses at the very top of the document directly above the image of the tent:
Say to the daughter of Zion: “Behold, your salvation is coming” (Isaiah 62: 11)
Cry aloud and shout, inhabitant of Zion (Isaiah 12: 6)
The choice of these two verses is significant, since both refer to the final salvation of the Jewish People, which can give an insight to the Zionist beliefs of the young couple.
At the bottom of the ketubah is a verse from the Song of Songs that is very appropriate for marriage contracts: “Many waters cannot quench the love, nor can rivers flood it” (Song of Songs 8:7)
Unlike many old ketubot in the National Library’s collections, the people featured in this document are known figures. The bride’s father, Chaim Aryeh Zuta, was involved in education in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century and immigrated to Israel under the influence of one of the leaders of the Zionist movement, Menachem Ussishkin. Once in Israel, Zuta ran a school and was elected head of the Teachers Association in Eretz Israel, where he worked closely with the renowned educator David Yellin, co-authoring several books for children and teenagers. Both Menachem Ussishkin and David Yellin signed this ketubah as witnesses.
This resource can be used in Jewish Studies lessons when teaching about the Jewish marriage ceremony and, in particular, ketubot.
Tanach teachers can use this ketubah when teaching the verses from Jeremiah and Isaiah that appear here in order to understand the connection of the text to the Zionist aspirations of the beginning of the twentieth century.
Jewish History teachers can use this resource, focusing specifically on the people mentioned in the document and also on the illustration at the top, to discuss life in Israel during the British Mandate.
Art teacher could use this ketubah to discuss the role of art in religion.
What is this document?
When is this document necessary?
Describe the image at the centre of the document.
Which verses appear on the document?
Reading Between the Lines
What is the purpose of this document?
Who receives it during the marriage ceremony?
What is written in the text?
The two verses on the side of the illustration show verses from the Blessing of the Children and Jeremiah 31: 19.
Why do you think these verses were included? What is their connection to the married couple?
The illustration at the top shows a couple embracing outside a tent overlooking the city of Jerusalem.
What message does this convey about the couple’s background and values?
At the top of the ketubah are two verses from Isaiah 62: 11 and Isaiah 12: 6.
Why do you think the couple included them in the design?
How is the verse from Song of Songs (8:6) at the bottom connected to a ketubah?
Have you ever attended a Jewish wedding?
What was the most memorable part of the marriage ceremony?
How do other religions celebrate weddings?
Are there any similarities to Jewish ceremonies?
Design a ketubah that reflects your values, the place where you live, and the times that you live in.
What have you chosen to include in the ketubah and why?