“Ketubah”, “Kesubah”, “Kesuvah”, and the difference is…?

There are so many ways to pronounce this marriage contract, “Ketubah”, “Kesubah”, “Kesuvah “and also the way you can spell these. Which is the correct way?

As a Rabbi, I’m constantly getting new and intriguing questions. I figured I’d share this one as many of you may find the following interesting.

Question;

Dear Rabbi,

It seems like I’ve been hearing a new way of saying the term “Ketubah”, and I wanted some insight as to which is the correct pronunciation.

Let me explain to what I am referring;

Last week, after much waiting and anticipation, the wedding day of one of my family members had finally arrived. You see, I grew up with more of a traditional Jewish lifestyle, while my relative had become more of an orthodox Jew. Now, this was going to be a learning experience.

The wedding began with a small ceremony of rituals where the Ketubah was signed. The bride and groom were then led the to the “Chuppah” where the wedding ceremony took place. I don’t remember all that happened, but I do know that there was the bride circling the groom, the reading of the Ketubah texts, a cup of wine raised and the sheva brachot recited, the breaking of the glass in memoriam to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the shouting of “Mazel Tov!”, wow! What an experience.

I just want some insight on one thing. Before attending this wedding, the pronunciation of the word was simply, “Ketubah”, yet while there, so many pronunciations became knownst to me.

My Grandmother called it a “Kesubah”, the Rabbi called it a “Kesuvah” and then there was my brother whom called it “the marriage contract” 🙂 but what is the true wording for these Jewish marriage contracts?

Thank you in advance,

-Alex

Answer:

Dear Alex,

Thank you for reaching out to me!  It’s always a pleasure to receive letters as yours.

I must start off by acknowledging your keen interest and detail to all that happens at a Jewish wedding ceremony. And of course, a Mazel Tov to the newly married couple!

To properly address your query, we should ideally begin with some background knowledge.

The Jews mainly stem from two backgrounds. The Sephardic tradition, which is of middle eastern descent, and the Ashkenazic tradition, which is of German root.

Respectively, they have different customs in many areas. With one of those being the pronunciation of the words and letters in the hebrew alphabet.

The typical modern Hebrew language, for the most part, has taken on the pronunciation of the sephardic root.

The Sephardic background, has always followed the pronunciation such as tav being pronounced tav, while their ashkenazic brethren at times mention it in more of a soft tone, sov. You see, both of these pronunciations, and ways of speech are 100% acceptable. More so, one should specifically follow their accepted way of prayer and pronunciation – yet this does not diminish from the other..

There is another letter that has different pronunciations, and that is the letter bet.  At times the letter is “bet”, or can be pronounced in multiple facets. The last syllable of the letter, the “T” we addressed in the previous paragraph, but there is also the pronunciation of the “B” part of the letter.

Because we have numerous ways of pronouncing the syllable “B” , either being a “B” or a “V” sound, we can and often do, pronounce the letter in different ways such as “Vet”, “Beis” or “Veis”.

These different pronunciations directly apply to your question. You see, the only thing that changed from all the words you heard, was the way they were said. They all hold true to the same meaning. Whether pronounced by an ashkenazi or sephardi Jew, will be the main difference. And by the way, a Ketubah is in essence a marriage contract.

So, to end off on a good note, you, your grandmother, your brother and the Rabbi were all correct.

I hope this has properly addressed your question.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi M.