Back to Basics: The Ketubah Root
In the past we’ve pointed out the challenges of how to say the plural of Ketubah, but never to stop and ask ourselves: Does this have an actual meaning itself? Could it stand alone without the cultural and traditional relationship with weddings?
All Hebrew words are centered around a cluster of three letters which serve as a ‘root’ of meaning. Different surrounding letters and vowel sounds compliment the root to signify different meanings based on the same idea. To give an idea of this effect in English, consider the words for beard, stubble, goatee, and clean shaven. They all revolve around the same idea, and therefore would have the same ‘root’: facial hair.
The root of the word Ketubah—Kaf-Taf-Bet—means “writing.” For me, this rings true to one of my dad’s favorite phrases from Jewish text. “And so it written!” he would proudly declare after pretty much anything he thought deserved authority.
The idea of the Ketubah as ‘writing’ speaks to its traditional purpose: put down on paper the obligations of husband and wife before marriage became a purely civil affair. Over time, the Ketubah has changed in purpose from something solely about traditional contractual obligations to expressions of affection, love and emotional commitment among a couple dedicated to each other.
Yet even with these changes—including to express the love of interfaith couples just as much as same-sex couples—stay true to the original meaning of the Kaf-Taf-Bet root. They serve as physical writing of what individuals feel in their hearts. For this reason many progressive Ketubot include a couple’s wedding vows—the ultimate record of emotion and commitment.
This Is Not a Ketubah is all about providing awesome, colorful backdrops to whatever writings a couple may choose to include inside our beautiful frames. We strive to make our art match the beauty of whichever text our couples choose—and that matches their custom tastes!
Thanks to our friends at the Jewish Virtual Library for their Ketubah insights.