The Ketubah - Another Jewish Invention, Guys
It was a typical day in the life of a Jewish husband. My lovely wife handed me the grocery list, many pages of small writing and as heavily annotated as the Mishna. (“Don’t buy the store brand pineapple chunks - buy Del Monte. and I mean CHUNKS not RINGS, dummy.”)
I ran to the car. She wanted me back in time to cook my famous El Diablo en Pineapple Chicken. She likes an early supper. “And drop by my sister’s on the way home and clean out her stopped up toilet!” she shouted. I hoped the neighbors didn’t hear.
She had announced earlier that supper was mine. In a clear ringing voice she declared, “You do supper”. But I’ve learned from our ex-president that the meaning of words is crucial. So, what did she mean by ‘do’?
Could I pay somebody to make us supper? Pick up “take out”?
Could I thaw out one of our Antarctic chicken dinners from the back of the freezer where the polar bears lived?
Could I go eat a Corned Beef Platter with slaw at the deli while she had a cracker and a glass of water at home?
“What IS the meaning of ‘do’,” I repeated. Our ex-president would have been proud of me, I thought. But my thought was interrupted by, “It means that you stand over the stove and cook that awful, mushy but filling Pineapple Chicken”. What could I do except salute and proceed to the grocery?
Soon as I got home, naturally, I put on my pineapple chicken. Rings or chunks, who knows the difference in the yellow brown mush I pile on the platter? And I saved 15 cents on the store brand. She’ll never know. Yellow mush is yellow mush.
While it bubbled I ran upstairs to examine our marriage contract, our ketubah, to see what it said about pineapple chicken and my sister-in-law’s toilet.
The ketubah - a pre-nup instrument that dates back a millennium or so; another exclusive Jewish invention, but well behind monotheism, capitalism, and rolled cabbage with raisin sauce.
Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Moslems - they’re all the same when it is time to link up matrimonially. They just mumble some words. Nobody signs anything. And words, well words are like the buttercups of Spring. They come and they go. Can you see a Hindu couple arguing about the grocery duties?
She: “You swore you’d go to the store.”
He: “No, my peacock, my rainbow, my lovely forest foxen, I said we’d eat with your parents next door.”
A Jewish lady would pull out her ketubah and call a lawyer. We may have invented them too. Lawyers - I mean: because I just carefully scrutinized my ketubah. It was clearly drawn up by my bride’s lawyer.
Listen to the groom’s declaration: “I faithfully promise. . . honor and cherish thee, protect and support thee and provide all that is necessary for thy due sustenance. . . and further obligations to thy maintenance. . . as are prescribed by our religious statute.”
That last sentence about maintenance covers a world of requirements clearly including pineapple chunks and sister-in-law’s plumbing. It is a formal “declaration” - full of promises - by the groom to the bride.
The bride makes no formal declaration. Zero, zip. The contract that she signs says something frilly and feminine (and legally undefinable) about “plighting her troth”. What does that mean? Making up the grocery list?
She does sign up to “all the duties incumbent upon a Jewish wife”. No details. The Supreme Court would rule that short, weak-willed statement unenforceable in a lower court.
Furthermore, in a Jewish marriage - the ketubah, duly signed and witnessed, is handed to the bride for safekeeping. So guess who’s gonna win every argument.