Ponder this:

Friday, April 3, 2009


Weekend Wordsmith's prompt this week is Contract.
Beginnings Ketubah by Artist Howard Fox

Jewish marriages include a Ketubah, a Marriage Contract, the purpose of which is:

To separate the betrothal blessings from the marriage blessings (Sheva Berachot), the "Ketubah" (marriage contract) is read aloud. The "Ketubah" is a binding document of confidence and trust which details the husband's obligations to his wife. Therein, the Chatan (groom) pledges to "work for you, honor, provide for and support you, in accordance with the practices of Jewish husbands who work for their wives' honor, provide and support them in truth."
The signing of the Ketubah shows that the bride and groom do not see marriage as only a physical and emotional union, but also as a legal and moral commitment which delineates the human and financial obligations of the husband to his wife according to Jewish law and customs.
Its basic aim is to strengthen and affirm the wife's dignified status, as well as to confer a number of special privileges on her. The Ketubah also contains stipulations of financial settlement in case of, G-d forbid, divorce. Following the reading of this contract, the Ketubah is handed over to the Kallah (bride). Should this document be lost, the couple may not live together until a new contract is drawn up.

(I doubt that last line is often invoked.)

When my friend Ellen enlightened WASP me about the Ketubah I was, despite my having been a wife for sixteen years, still in my Devoted To My Marriage Above All mindset, and I was dismayed to think that Romantic Love would not be the sole and overriding reason for a wedding, and marriage's continuation. How childlike I was. I think now that it is very wise of Judaism to acknowledge that a marriage is a deal, an agreement of exchange.

When I was in college, posters of The Gestalt Prayer were all over dorm rooms.
I guess the last line "If not, it can't be helped" would have ruined the mood, so all the posters omitted it. I believed the "It's beautiful" part and completely overlooked the "I am I and you are you" part. It would have eliminated some turmoil and black spaces in our twenty-nine years together had we known that we had entered into a contract . . . and had I been equipped to be an I before I became part of a we.

It's been a long time since our marriage's sticky new bud of admiring each other's eyebrows. I like my husband. I respect him. I enjoy knowing he is there . . . someplace. On days when I know he'll be away overnight, I look forward to my Alone Time. As the subsequent evening draws out long, I wonder what I was so anticipating; I do the same things in my evenings whether or not he is present.

I sometimes contemplate Life Without Husband. I look at nest-like little houses perfect for single old women; I think about not having to turn sleeves right-side-out before I do laundry. And then I think about: his unrequested delivery of medication when I was sick in bed; his starting my car on cold winter mornings; my setting up the coffeemaker because it makes him happy to simply push a button in the morning; our telling each other our dreams when we wake up in the morning.

I used to think that without Husband I would die.
I know now that I could live without him, and I choose not to.
It makes the whole thing a little more valuable.


Carolynn Anctil said...

So much wisdom here. Sadly, I didn't learn a lot of these lessons until after my marriage had ended. On the other hand, I may never have learned them, had it continued...

linda said...

Very true. A most thoughtful post.

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