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Shabbat Parashat Tazria Metzora 5772

Ask the Rabbi: Rejecting Stringencies on Ketubot

Rav Daniel Mann

[Not all questions we answer are appropriate to share with the public. In this case, we are torn. We believe that our approach is important for the public to understand, but few people would think of the logical stringency raised, and we do not want some of those to whom it applies to needlessly upset themselves. Therefore, we have left out the specifics of the question and the answer and focus on an approach to ketubot and halacha in general.]  


Question: Why shouldn’t situation XX affect the validity of one’s ketuba? I have searched and found that Rabbi YY says it is a problem. What is your opinion?


Answer: Your question is excellent from the perspective of theoretical halacha but must be totally rejected in terms of halacha l’ma’aseh (practical).

A ketuba functions in two basic areas. First and foremost, it as a legal document that must be capable of being used in beit din. Chazal insisted that every woman have a minimum level of financial security in relation to her husband, much of which is spelled out in the ketuba. Additionally, it is an important traditional part of a Jewish wedding. There are not the tremendous halachic ramifications if a detail is slightly off, as is the case regarding a get. If a couple understandably believes that their ketuba is valid and it turns out that it is not, it does not turn out that they were living in sin (see discussion in this column, from Beshalach 5772). Any discovered mistake should be dealt with seriously, but not with hysteria or concern for the sanctity and success of the marriage.

Therefore, chumrot in the realm of ketubot (i.e., something is written, not wrong, but in an inferior manner) should be viewed with the following in mind. It is extremely rare for the ‘less laudable’ version to be justification for beit din to not award the wife with the sum of money written in the ketuba, which is the most important thing. Regarding the ‘religious’ element of the ketuba, its lack of preciseness is not only less important compared to a get but even compared to a mitzva lack of preciseness may disqualify it (e.g., laining Megillat Esther). Rather, it is generally proper to do something we cherish in the most appropriate manner. In our opinion, it is no less important to follow minhag and not incorporate ideas that were not found in the ketubot of one’s parents or even one’s roshei yeshiva. This is so even if there are respected opinions that prefer the new way and even if it was once or is now the practice in some communities. A change can appear to cast aspersions on our predecessors and our peers, as if their ketubot are not (as) good.

Let us give one example. In a get, where clear, accurate identification of the couple is crucial, there are complicated halachot of how to incorporate not only the Jewish name one received after birth, but also secular names or nicknames. There are sources that recommend that a ketuba should also follow these rules, especially considering the possibility that rabbis might use the names from the ketuba when writing a get. In any case, as the Minchat Yitzchak (VII, 117) points out, this is clearly not the minhag; rather, we use the “name from the cradle.” Therefore, we strongly discourage officiating rabbis from changing the minhag and adding secular names and nicknames, and thereby creating unnecessary new complications in the writing of the ketuba. This is despite the fact that one can argue that adding these names is halachically preferable.

The case (XX) which you ask about, from one perspective is potentially more important and in other ways is less important. There are only a handful of sources that recommend it, and we found none that says that failure to do so renders a ketuba invalid. While the situation does not always arise, the fact that we have never heard of it being implemented indicates that it is clearly not the minhag. Since implementing the chumra would create significant headaches and cast unnecessary aspersions on those who do not, we feel one should not do so. [As explained above, we will omit the halachic rationale.]

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