Ketubah, Budapest, 1946
This is a Ketubah from Budapest, Hungary in 1946. On the top of the page an elaborate border surrounds the words (in Hebrew): “With the help of God, may He be blessed and exalted.” Parts of one of the traditional Shevah Brachot (seven wedding blessings) appear in each corner of the document: “the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride.”
The document is a simple black and white document. It seems to be a standard document with minimal decoration, and the details of the bride and groom have been filled out in blue ink. The document has been signed by two witnesses (lower right). The artist’s name, Shmuel Dov, is written in the bottom left corner of the document, and he seems to have also been one of the witnesses. According to the Ketubah, the bride’s name was Bluma and the groom was Avraham Yehuda. The name of the city where the couple were married is recorded as Pest. While the two parts of the city Budapest, Buda and Pest, was unified in 1873, many people continued referring to the two parts of the city by their original names. This marriage took place in 1946, a year after the end of World War II, a time when people were trying to rebuild their lives and trace family members. This possibly explains why the Ketubah was so simple; there were more existential things to worry about than the embellishments of the Ketubah.
The purpose of the Ketubah is to outline the rights and responsibilities of the groom towards the bride. Reading the Ketubah aloud is an integral part of a traditional Jewish wedding. The text has changed very little since Ketubot were first used thousands of years ago. The marriage documents found in Aramaic papyruses from the days of Artaxerxes, the King of Persia from the fifth century BCE, are remarkably similar to modern-day Ketubot. Local customs did, however, develop in the Ketubot of various communities. In Ketubot from North Africa and Yemen, husbands were prevented from making their wives move from city to city. In Ketubot from Syria and the Land of Israel, it was written that before going on long journeys, a husband had to leave his wife with a conditional divorce in order to protect her from being left as an agunah (a chained wife).
Teachers of Jewish Studies can use the Ketubah to illustrate the theme of modernity versus tradition and to discuss personal milestone events such as weddings and the Jewish lifecycle. This Ketubah can be compared with other Ketubot from different times and places.
When studying Jewish Philosophy, the Ketubah can be used in discussions about love and marriage.
Jewish History teachers can use this as an example of Jewish continuity after World War II.
What is this document?
What language is it written in?
What colours are used?
When was this document written?
Can you figure out the names of the people who are written in the document?
Reading Between the Lines
This is a Ketubah for a couple who were married in Budapest in 1946.
What is a Ketubah?
What is its purpose?
The text is written in two different ink colours.
Why do you think this might be so?
Why is the date of this wedding particularly significant? (Hint: what happened the previous year?)
Many Ketubot are elaborately decorated.
Why do you think this Ketubah is not very ornate?
Search the NLI Ketubot Collection and find examples of other Ketubot.
Identify the similarities and differences between the different Ketubot.
Why is the Ketubah written in Aramaic?
Have you ever seen a Ketubah before?
How is a Ketubah different to a civil marriage contract?
Imagine that you have been asked to design a Ketubah. Which images and designs would you use to illustrate it?