The Ketubah and Bedeken Ceremonies {Jewish Weddings}

The first ritual usually done is the completion, signing and witnessing of the Ketubah, or marriage contract. This contract is ordained by Mishnaic law (circa 170 CE) and according to some authorities dates back to Biblical times. The Ketubah, written in Aramaic, details the husband’s obligation to his wife: food, clothing, dwelling and pleasure.

It also creates a lien on all his property to pay her a sum of money and support should he divorce her, or predecease her. The document is signed by the bride and groom and witnessed by two people – unrelated to the bride and the groom, and has the standing of a legally binding agreement, that in many countries is enforceable by secular law. The ketubah is often written as illuminated manuscript, and becomes a work of art in itself, and many couples frame it and display it in their home.

After the Ketubah is signed, the groom (or Chatan) approaches the bride (Kallah) to veil her face. This veiling is called the Bedeken. The custom of veiling recalls the predicament of Jacob, our forefather, who thought he was marrying Rachel only to discover, after the ceremony, that he had married Leah. Obviously, with the change of time, this type of confusion is no longer relevant, however, the tradition is honored.

The veiling of the Kallah makes her – literally, set apart in holiness and symbolizes what the Chatan values the most in the Kallah. The veil, which physically separates the Kallah and the Chatan, also serves to remind htem that they remain distinct individuals even as they unite in marriage. 

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