Jewish wedding Rings: An old tradition, or a must have?

 Jewish wedding ring on Ketubah

 Jewish wedding ring on Ketubah

Jewish Wedding Rings

The bestowal of the Jewish wedding ring is a prominent and emotionally-charged moment in the Jewish wedding ceremony.

According to tradition, the Jewish wedding ring is a gift given to the bride by the groom during kidushim in the Jewish Wedding ceremony. It seals the deal, so to speak. The Jewish wedding ring ceremony begins when the ring is examined by the Rabbi who checks its wholeness, makes sure it’s worth is more than a pruta (a coin of small value) and that it is indeed the property of the groom to give away. The groom, then, places the ring on his bride's right index finger. At the end of the ceremony, the bride moves it to the "ring finger" of her left hand.

In fact, the Jewish wedding ring serves a dual purpose: it is a symbol of the bride and groom's commitment to each other-- like the ring that represents an unbroken circle. Moreover, the Jewish wedding ring, in its simple, minimalistic and perfect shape is said to be a portent for a smooth equable life together for the couple.

Traditionally, Jewish wedding rings should be totally unadorned and without gems or stones. The Jewish wedding ring was to be one continuous circle, whose metal should not be cut through or pierced. Nowadays, rings are usually gold, are often engraved on the inside, or alternatively, have a continuous design or a Hebrew saying engraved or in raised letters They may be made of any type of metal, as well. The two-ring ceremony has also been adopted in accordance to the wishes of the couple.

Currently, the Jewish wedding ring custom, and a lot of these traditions are being rediscovered and "renewed and revived" by couples seeking to blend tradition with a modern outlook on marriage.

One of the most significant of modern Jewish wedding traditions is the art kettubah. The kettubah is a Jewish wedding contract, a type of a prenuptial agreement, that serves to protect a wife’s right to financial support.

The new kettubahs are made in a wide range of designs with more modern content; which matches the tastes and style of couples who desire to continue this meaningful Jewish wedding tradition.

Prominent among the many artists who offer beautifully-designed kettubot is Danny Azoulay, an Israeli kettubah artist who specializes in paper cut kettubot. These paper cut kettubot are the fruit of an inspired and creative sense of design that can also be personalized upon request.

What is a Ketubah? 6 Things Worth Knowing

Modern Jewish wedding Ketubah

Modern Jewish wedding Ketubah

What is a ketubah and what is the meaning of the word?
 

The word, ketubah, literally means “what is written” and is a Jewish wedding contract. The oldest existing ketubah dates back to the 4th century BC and was found in Cairo, Egypt.

What is a ketubah, traditionally?

The ketubah was a legal wedding document that delineated the obligations of the groom to his bride. What a ketubah included, as well, was the actual settlement that would be awarded to her in the case of divorce or the death of her husband. Ketubahs from a variety of regions and even from different eras were pretty much similar in content and form.

What is a ketubah’s content today?

Today, a ketubah can be quite diverse depending on the sort of Jewish ceremony you are having. The Orthodox ketubah still conforms with the traditional ketubahs of the past, while Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative ketubahs are marriage contracts with the addition of the couple’s wedding vows: a mutual proclamation of the couple’s vision of their commitment and their shared aspirations.

When does the signing of the ketubah take place?

Traditionally, the ketubah is signed by two witnesses (male, orthodox and unrelated to the couple) -- just prior to the nuptials.  Today, the non-orthodox couples will sign the ketubah, as will the rabbi/officiant and witnesses of the couple’s choosing.

Later, under the chuppah, the rabbi/officiant will often read the ketubah aloud- in front of all the celebrants.

What is a ketubah’s language?

Once again, what is a ketubah’s language is entirely dependent on what kind of ceremony is performed. The traditional ketubahs are still today written in Aramaic (as they were in the Talmudic period), while Hebrew and/or English, French, Italian and Spanish are frequently utilized.

What is an art ketubah?

Examples of painted and illuminated ketubahs have been found dating from as early as the Middle Ages. It became particularly popular with the Sephardic Jews. What is a ketubah-- in the past and in the present- is most definitely a binding legal document; But what makes this legal document so unique is the fact that it was, and still is, lavished with careful artistry, symbolism and ornamental details that represent the couple’s taste. Many artists, today--including Danny Azoulay, a well-known paper cut ketubah artist-- continue to create beautiful art ketubahs that continue to express the sanctity and beauty of the Jewish wedding and the couple’s union.

5 Jewish Wedding Traditions Worthwhile Knowing

So, you're getting married. The invitations, the guests, the band, the flowers and everything else are ready.
And now for the Jewish wedding traditions...

A traditional Jewish wedding is chock full of rituals. These Jewish wedding traditions are meaningful and celebrate the most momentous day in the lives of the new couple and the building of a Jewish home. A lot of these rituals date back to ancient times. Here are some tips how to combine Jewish wedding traditions with more modernity.

Modern Paper cut Ketubah 

Modern Paper cut Ketubah 

The Ketubah

The ketubah is a Jewish wedding contract, which served as type of prenuptial agreement, protecting a wife’s rights: physical, conjugal and financial support.

Today—ketubot--following, but differing somewhat from the Jewish wedding tradition-- have a wide range of texts to suit the couple’s particular beliefs, taste and lifestyle. Beautifully illuminated and paper cut art ketubahs are available. Among the many ketubah artists is Danny Azoulay a well-known Israeli-based artist, who specializes in finely-detailed paper cut ketubot.

The ketubah is signed before/by witnesses before the ceremony begins and is often read under the chuppah.

Jewish Wedding

Jewish Wedding

Bedeken

The Jewish wedding tradition, Bedeken, literally means “covering” in Yiddish. It entails the groom covering the bride with her veil, immediately leading up to the nuptials. This Jewish wedding tradition originates in the biblical story of Jacob who married Leah instead of his intended, Rachel. It is usually a very emotionally charged moment since it is very often the first time the couple gets a glimpse of one another on their wedding day.

Chuppah

According to Jewish wedding tradition, the ceremony takes place under a wedding canopy: an intimate, sanctified space. The construction of a chuppah must be a temporary structure made by human hands and symbolizes the bride and groom building a new Jewish home.

Nowadays, a lot of young couples continue this Jewish wedding tradition by designing their own chuppah. It can be created with batik, silk, wool, foliage and other materials. The chuppah is often handheld, by friends or family of the couple’s choosing.

The Seven Blessings

The Seven Blessings embody a significant part of the Jewish wedding tradition, emphasizing the prayers for peace in Jerusalem and good wishes and blessings for the couple.

Today, non-Orthodox couples choose to honor their special guests by asking them to read, sing or recite some of their personal blessings, wishes, poetry or song.

Breaking of the Glass

One of the most known and loved Jewish wedding tradition is the breaking of the glass.
As the chuppah ceremony comes to an end, the groom stomps on a glass shattering it.
One of the explanations for this is that the glass represents the destruction of the Temple and even in times of great joy-- such as a wedding--we should remember the losses withstood by the Jewish people 

These days, couples most often share the honor, shattering one or two wrapped glasses together to the happy cries of “Mazel Tov”.

Breaking the Glass at Jewish Weddings

Breaking the glass at jewish weddings

Breaking the glass at jewish weddings

One of the most well-known and iconic rituals is breaking the glass at the end of the Jewish ceremony under the chupah.
Traditionally, the groom did the stomping, but nowadays the couple often share this maneuver together by smashing one or two glasses in unison.

What is the explanation for breaking the glass at Jewish weddings?

As very often is the case in Judaism, there is no one answer for this. A variety of explanations are given, depending on who you ask.

One of the oldest explanations for breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding dates from the days of the Talmud: the story of a rabbi (Mar) who hosts the wedding of his son. During the wedding, he sees that the attending rabbis are very joyous.  He takes an expensive cup and breaks it in their presence, which has an immediate sobering effect on the celebrants.  It is said that the reasoning behind the breaking of the glass was to make sure the rabbis wouldn’t become too carried away in their merriment and end up sinning.

According to another explanation, breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding was a way to keep demons away. The assumption here is, that the loud noise caused by breaking the glass would frighten the demons away or confuse them into thinking it was an event of mourning, not of celebration and leave the bride and groom to rejoice undisturbed.

Other interpretations are that breaking the glass - “the betrothal wine glass”- after the ceremony affirms that the marriage is now valid.  Alternatively, a more modern interpretation is that breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding is a reminder of the fragile nature of human relations and to cherish them.

The explanation most often given today for breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding is a reference to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem: a reminder that even at times of great joy, we recall the pain and losses suffered by the Jewish people. Frequently, before the breaking of the glass, the words from Psalms “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, may my right-hand fail...” are recited.

A trend that has recently become more popular is that the newly married couple gather the bits and pieces of glass and create a keepsake with the shards to commemorate this incredible moment in their lives.

Whatever the interpretation be, breaking the glass is one of the most important traditions in any Jewish wedding, marking the beginning of the bride and groom’s new life together.

Ketubah Texts: Choosing an Appropriate Text

Personalize your wedding day with a ketubah text for Jewish, interfaith, or secular ceremonies

 Round text on Paper cut Ketubah

 Round text on Paper cut Ketubah

The traditional Aramaic Ketubah text reflects a long history of Jewish values and culture. Historically, the ketubah is a legal Jewish wedding document that outlines a groom’s obligations to his wife, including financial terms which are clearly delineated.

Today, as well as the Orthodox Aramaic text, alternative ketubah texts are available for young couples. When planning a wedding, couples can choose a ketubah text that truly expresses their own personal values and is appropriate to their vision of marriage.

Ketubah texts have rapidly evolved over recent years. Some texts emphasize a veneration of tradition and the continuity of the Jewish family, while modern ketubah texts often put an emphasis on a more egalitarian view of marriage--one based on love and a shared vision and more suited to the individual couple’s needs.

So, how do we know what kind of ketubah text we need?
Before choosing a Ketubah text (especially in the case of Orthodox or Conservative ceremonies) it is important to consult with the Rabbi about the official requirements. The Ketubah text is determined by the couple’s wedding preference: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, interfaith, as well as other options.
Nowadays, couples can choose from a variety of texts which fit their specific requirements. The well-known ketubah artist, Danny Azoulay, offers beautiful paper cut ketubahs, in a variety of texts and languages:

Orthodox text – Aramaic

The traditional Aramaic Orthodox text is derived from the original ketubah text that outlines the groom’s financial obligations to his bride and has been preserved by Jewish tradition for hundreds of years. This Ketubah text is accepted by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)

Orthodox text with English - Aramaic with English

The traditional Orthodox ketubah text (RCA) which includes an English codicil to the Aramaic text that describes a marriage based on faith, love and commitment.

Reform text - Hebrew with English

Written in modern Hebrew and in English, this ketubah text focuses on the couple’s mutual Jewish faith and their commitment to cherish and support each other in their marriage.

Conservative text -with Lieberman clause - Aramaic with English

A traditional Aramaic text with the addition of the Lieberman Clause (in Aramaic), which affirms the groom’s promise to give his wife a Jewish divorce (Get) if she requests one.

Interfaith text -Hebrew with English

These texts are designed to suit interfaith couples building a home together and are respectful of both backgrounds and faiths.

Custom text

This option is intended for those couples who wish to write their own text;

These texts can be gender-oriented and therefore suitable for same-sex marriages or commitment ceremonies.

Danny Azoulay Modern Ketubahs specializes in creating beautifully-designed, contemporary art ketubahs for all couples whether they be Jewish, interfaith, same-sex, or multi-cultural.

Ketubot, what is there to know?

 Paper cut Ketubah By Danny Azoulay

 Paper cut Ketubah By Danny Azoulay

Nowadays, many young couples are incorporating the ketubah, a document with old origins and a rich artistic history, into their weddings.

Ketubot are Jewish marriage contracts; basically, a pre-nuptial agreement, which traditionally served to protect a bride’s right to financial support, and outlined the responsibilities and obligations of the groom.

Kettubot, as legal documents, includes the essential information pertaining to the wedding: the wedding date and location, names of the bride and groom, and enumerates the groom’s obligations to his bride, as well as, a monetary compensation in the case of abandonment, divorce or death. The Kettubot texts are written with specific provisions for each marriage. They are signed by two male witnesses according to the traditional practice.

Today, there are different types of kettubot texts to choose from: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and interfaith- or even a more personalized, custom/write-your-own vows.

With the popularity of interfaith marriages and different kind of weddings, couples can find a variety of kettubot that fit their lifestyle. Many of them include multiple languages, adding to the kettubah's personal touch and the couple's cultural and aesthetic distinctions. At times, couples will choose to write their own text, which may include the vows they are making to one another or even a special text they particularly love.

Kettubot are made in a wide range of designs in keeping with the taste and style of the couples who wish to perpetuate this Jewish tradition; maintaining the writing and signing of ketubot as an central part of their Jewish wedding ceremony.

Today, many artists offer all kinds of art Kettubot. Among them is Danny Azoulay, a well-known judaica artist who specializes in paper cut ketubbot. These paper cut ketubot are the fruit of an creative and inspired sense of design that can fit the customer’s request and include a text chosen by the couple, according to their needs and preferences. The ketubot artwork are beautifully crafted for future display as a centerpiece in the couple’s home. It will always bring back the dearest memories of a perfect day.

To commemorate this auspicious day, check the vast and rich collection of art-designed paper cut ketubbot. His collection is wide and comprehensive, attentive to tradition, while looking to the future-- to generations of Jewish families to come.

Ketubah Art and Symbolic Motifs

 Ketubah Art By Danny Azoulay

 Ketubah Art By Danny Azoulay

Today, picking a ketubah can prove a daunting task with the abundance of beautiful artwork available. Artists very often look to the past for inspiration. They look at traditional ketubah art from times past but with an eye to the contemporary trends and design—paying homage to the Jewish art traditions while reviving and imbuing them with a fresh spirit and a modern interpretation.

Architectural elements such as two pillars were common in traditional ketubah art -- a metaphor for the two individuals-- the bride and groom and their union which results in the building of a new Jewish home.  Today, the tree is a popular motif. Not only does it reference the tree of life but is a poetic visualization for the bride and groom who are together planting roots, that through the years will expand and intertwine.  As the tree grows, it will bear blossoms and fruit for the generations to come.

Organic motifs are prevalent in modern ketubah art. Myrtle leaves (indigenous to Jerusalem), were long ago used in making the bride groom’s wreath and now refers to the chupah (bridal canopy).  Pomegranates--a symbol of fertility and plenty-- are a prominent element in ketubah art.  And of course, grapes and their reference to wine and the life cycle, is so central to the Jewish wedding ceremony and is a prominent image in ketubah art.

Animal motifs are widely depicted in ketubah art. The deer, lion, peacock and doves, all prevalent in traditional ketubah art, continue to be frequently depicted in modern ketubah art. Deer are a symbol for beauty and grace: the lion for Jerusalem and strength: the peacock for abundance and doves for the bride and God’s love for the Jewish people.

The crown and the menorah motifs are very often eminently and centrally placed in ketubah art design of both the past and present and represent God and the light of the Torah and its wisdom.

Danny Azoulay, the well- known artist is a master at blending modern sensibilities and techniques with traditional elements from Jewish art. Meaningful ketubah art is a beautiful way to acknowledge one’s religion and heritage while breathing new life into long-standing Jewish rituals.

Modern Ketubah: a meaningful and creative work of art

Modern Ketubah

Modern ketubah By Danny Azoulay

Modern ketubah By Danny Azoulay

Ketubahs were once a standard and official document of a husband’s monetary obligation to his wife-to-be. They were to be handed over to the mother of the bride following the marriage ceremony for safekeeping. But today, artists like Danny Azoulay create modern Ketubahs that may express the couple’s shared emotional commitment, their style, and even their vision of the family they hope to create. A modern Ketubah often includes Hebrew or English texts or a combination of both; couples may incorporate wording that represents the faith, culture and values of both husband and wife.

Modern ketubahs bond and unite the family

According to tradition, the ketubah is a binding document that holds the family together. Wise rabbis have emphasized the importance of cherishing the ketubah. One, notably remarked that the couples should periodically reread their ketubah in order to refresh the meaning of their shared vows. Whether it is written on a plain piece of paper, as was done in the dark days of Soviet Russia, or it is a beautifully crafted piece of art like the Danny Azoulay paper cut ketubahs, the modern ketubah clearly expresses the couple’s vision of their union. This powerful document is very often displayed in a prominent place in their home.

A well-designed manifest of love and commitment is a product of time, thought and outstanding workmanship

One of the most respected ketubah artists in Israel is Danny Azoulay, whose work was shown in the White House and in a number of museums around the world.  His beautiful paper and cut modern ketubahs are available for purchase online.

Interfaith Ketubah - How Mixed-Faith Couples are Choosing to Marry.

Interfaith Ketubah
 

Historically, the traditional ketubah was a religious Jewish document, written in ancient Aramaic, and supplied by the rabbi of the wedding. The ketubah was a legal document delineating the terms of marriage between young Jewish couples.

Today, the modern ketubah has transformed into a document expressing the commitment and love that the newly wedded couple vow to one another.

In recent years, with the rise in interfaith marriages, there has risen a real need for a ketubah that addresses the particular needs of the interfaith couple.

More and more young couples ask themselves the same question: Can we adapt the Jewish Ketubah as a symbol of commitment to both the bride and the groom’s tradition and faith?

Interfaith ketubahs give the new couple the opportunity to create a modern, individualized ketubah that reflects their faith, aspirations and values; the coming together as one, with a deep regard and respect for each other’s beliefs.

Interfaith ketubah texts emphasize the Interfaith couple’s unwavering commitment to cherish and honor each other with their own personalized vision.

The new and designed interfaith ketubahs can be produced with or without religious symbols: in Hebrew or English or a combination of both languages.

Interfaith Ketubah text

Interfaith Ketubah text

Danny's Paper cut Interfaith ketubahs are the fruit of inspired study, creativity and a keen sense of design.  The art that results from the joining of two different people and cultures reflects both tradition and the universality of the Jewish spirit.

A synthesis of the timeless beauty of tradition and the excitement of innovation is the primary consideration in Danny's creative process.

Contact us and we will provide you with information about our Art ketubahs with Interfaith ketubah texts made especially for your matrimonial partnership.

One of Danny Azoulay Paper cut Ketubah.

One of Danny Azoulay Paper cut Ketubah.

Paper cut Ketubah

The historical role of the Ketubah

Circles-of-lives-ketubba.jpg

Historically, the ketubbah was a document that specified the obligations of the groom, and, even more importantly, served as a safeguard for the wife, by listing provisional recompense in the case that she be abandoned, divorced or widowed.

The first reference to a legal deed associated with the Jewish marriage ceremony is found in the apocryphal book of Tobit 7:14 from the third or fourth century BCE, “And he called Edna his wife, and took paper and wrote an instrument of covenants and sealed it”.

the tradition of illuminating Ketubahs

The first illuminated ketubbahs date from as early as the tenth to twelfth century and originated from Israel and Egypt. However, the earliest example of a paper cut ketubah dates from 19th century Italy.

The designs used to adorn the ketubahs are as wide and varied as the regions from which they originated: Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and throughout the Ottoman Empire. The motifs, in turn, are influenced by the cultures of their origins. One prevalent motif is the endless knot, symbolizing the eternal love of the bride and groom. Others refer to biblical themes, such as “the gates of Jerusalem,” the “menorah,” and a variety of flora and fauna mentioned in the scriptures. There are also nods to the ancient classical cultures: zodiac signs, urns and ornaments and arches and other architectural features.

The careful attention and elaborate ornamentation given to this legal document, attest to the significance Judaism places on the marriage covenant --central to the life cycle sequence. It is a manifestation of the concept of hiddur mitzvot, beautifying and enhancing the ritual and deeds.

The Paper cut Ketubah

While the decorative ketubah has had a longstanding place in Judaica, the paper cut ketubah is historically more rare and special.

In the past two decades the paper cut, as a form of Judaica, has seen a renaissance. This is partially credited to the laser process, which has enabled artists to develop more intricate and sophisticated designs that are accessible to to a wider public. Today, paper cut ketubbot have found a place in many Jewish homes as cherished family heirlooms. 

The History and Traditions Behind Ketubot

The History and Traditions Behind Ketubot

A historical Ketubah from Venice

A historical Ketubah from Venice

Traditionally, a ketubah, (literally meaning "the written one") is a Jewish wedding contract which specifies the groom's obligations to provide his wife with food, clothing, shelter and physical needs. Although originally there were no standard texts, Aramaic (dating from the Talmudic era) was the standard language in which they were written.

Prior to the wedding ceremony, the ketubah is signed by the groom in the presence of two witnesses, read aloud under the chupah, before all of the celebrants, and then given into the custody of the bride.

The art of ketubah illumination came as a later development in the history of ketubah making. It was a more prevalent practice among the Sephardic Jewish communities than the Ashkenaz. Beautifully decorated ketubahs from diverse eras and regions are found in major museums and private collections worldwide.

A revival of ketubah art has occurred of late.  In addition to the traditional rich variety of styles and techniques, a newcomer, paper cutting has now entered the scene.  Although paper cuts are richly grounded in Jewish art, it was not a technique generally used to embellish ketubahs

Modern ketubah by Danny Azoulay

Modern ketubah by Danny Azoulay

Source: http://ketubahstudioazoulay.com/about

My Parents' Ketubah

Family Heritage

Finding My Parents'  Ketubah

As we were clearing out my parents’ apartment following my mother’s first Yahrtzeit, my parents’ ketubah was discovered amongst some old documents.  None of my seven brothers and sisters had ever seen it before. In fact, it was not immediately apparent to us that this was indeed their ketubah. 

The folded yellowed document, almost 90 years old, was written in half culmus : bearing a similarity to Hebrew and “Rashi” (the typeface used in the Rashi commentary). The half culmus font had been used by the Sepahardic Jews particularly in Spain during the Tor Hazahav (the Golden Era of Spanish Jewry).  Later, after fleeing to North Africa, the Jews living in Morocco continued to write various religious documents in this font.

The wedding contract—handwritten--elaborated on the families of both my mother and father, with special attention to my mother’s father ( “ a man of great knowledge of the Torah and acts of chesed--good deeds”) as he had been a highly-respected member of the local Jewish community.

Although the ketubah is unadorned, two passport-sized pictures of my parents were attached according to official requirements. This was very surprising for us, and at the same time also delightful. My parents were 19 and 16 at the time of their marriage. I had never seen photos of them looking so young.

Another unusual detail on the wedding contract caught my eye. There was a kind of abstract line drawing on the ketubah that we could not figure out the rhyme or reason for it being there. Only later were we able to get the answer to this curious squiggle. When we brought the ketubah to the local rabbi, we were told that this was the signature of the rabbi who officiated at the ceremony and that his signature, itself, was a chain of signatures incorporating all signatures of his predecessors -- including the current rabbi’s own addition.  Today a fine- print made of the original ketubah is framed and hanging in each of our family’s homes. 

Added to the joy of being an artist and having my work be part of the wedding ceremony for many young Jewish couples around the world, my own experience of finding my parent's ketubah, gave me a new perspective of the ketubah’s significance--for not only the couple on the wedding day, but for their offspring and the generation to follow

 

My parents, Perla and Elijah Azoulay