||On the responsibility of a Jewish man to give his wife a ketubbah and related subjects by R. Hayyim ben Joseph Samuel Gelerenter (Gelehrnter, 1857-1921), rabbi of Kitev (Kuty). He begins that as with a shofer I raise my voice and call with a thunderous voice to every Jew who has a spark of the fiery law (Torah) to not allow it to be extinguished in his heart. It is a serious obligation upon every Jewish man to give his wife a Ketubbah. Not only this, but it is an awesome prohibition for him to dwell with her without one. Tehre are many reasons for this, both revealed and esoteric. If he has already given his wife a ketubbah and she has lost it he may also not live with her until he has given her a second ketubbah. This detailed work explores the subject of the Ketubbah, the text Ha-Katuv le-Hayyim at the top of the page and below Or Ki Tov, detailed glosses to the basic text. R. Gelerenter was also the author of Oneg Hayim la-Shabat (Munkacs, 1908) and Be-Ezer Elokim Hayyim (Vienna, 1924).
The Ketubbah is a document recording the financial obligations which the husband undertakes toward his wife in respect of, and consequent to, their marriage, obligations which in principle are imposed on him by law. Just as the bridegroom is forbidden to cohabit with his bride after marriage unless he has written and delivered the ketubbah to her, so the husband is forbidden to live with his wife for even one hour if she has no main ketubbah deed. Therefore, in the case of loss or destruction of the deed, the husband is obliged to write a new one, and, since the loss of the original deed does not relieve the husband of his obligations under it, the new deed must ensure the rights that the wife was entitled to under the original one (Sh. Ar., EH 66:3; Ḥelkat Meḥokek 66, no. 14; for an example of such a deed (כתבה דאירכסא) see Tur, EH after 66). For the same reason, the wife's waiver of her ketubbah is of no effect in respect to the main ketubbah, and in such an event the husband is also obliged to write a new deed for her, but here only in respect of the main ketubbah (Sh. Ar., loc. cit.; for an example of such a ketubbah, see Tur , loc. cit.).
In some, albeit not many, cases, a ketubbah has practical legal relevance, and the rabbinical courts, and even the civil courts, do obligate the husband to pay the ketubbah. Alternatively, they may impose a different obligation, while relying on the sum recorded in the ketubbah. It should be noted that Israeli law recognizes the ketubbah as a binding document (Section 17 of the Monetary Relations (Spouses) Law 1973; as well as in various sections of the Succession Law, 1965). For this reason, in recent years prominent halakhic authorities have exhorted the public not to ridicule the sum recorded in the ketubbah, not to fix exaggerated sums for the ketubbah and the increment, and not to treat it as a purely ceremonial document (Resp. Iggerot Moshe, EH 4:92). This is the legal situation in the State of Israel.
By contrast, in civil courts in the United States, the ketubbah is related to as a purely ceremonial document, with no legal force attaching to it. The commitment of civil courts in Israel to the ketubbah and its laws is similarly limited. Inter alia, this matter finds expression with respect to imposing a lien on the property to secure the ketubbah. In a recent case, a husband transferred title on his apartment to his father's name before his own death. The rabbinical court ruled that, as there was no other property from which to collect on the ketubbah, the wife was entitled to collect from the apartment that had been transferred to her father-in-law's name. Yet the Supreme Court annulled this ruling, since the rabbinical courts lacked the authority to adjudicate the case between the wife and her late husband's father, who did not consent to the rabbinical court's adjudication of the case (HC 2621, Levi v. Rabbinical Court, 54 (3) PD 809). Recently, a number of halakhic authorities have related to the ketubbah as a document designed to provide a woman with minimum sustenance during the initial period following divorce. The background to this is as follows: the Sages fixed the sum of the ketubbah as an amount that in their times was considered sufficient to support a person for a year, even if this was not the main purpose underlying its institution. Therefore, today, in wake of our above comments, we should view this as its primary purpose. Accordingly, rabbinical courts occasionally rule that the debt owed by force of the ketubbah be treated as a debt for the non-payment of alimony, i.e., mezonot after the get. In terms of Israeli law, the significance of this distinction is that, in execution proceedings, a debt for mezonot has priority over all other debt, and in contradistinction to a regular debt, the debtor can even be imprisoned for failure to pay a mezonot debt. In this manner the ketubbah can be utilized for collecting payments from a husband who attempts to evade payment.