Chatan with Non-Jewish Father and Other Descriptors in the Ketubah

QUESTION

New York

I have a few questions regarding how to fill in the ketubah in an unusual situation.

1. The couple in question is already married with children. The bride is converting, so her name will be written in the ketubah as “Hadassah (her chosen name) bat Avraham V’Sara“. The groom is the son of a Jewish woman and non-Jewish man, in which case the RCA madrich advises to just use his mother’s name “Yaakov ben Temima. Should the groom’s name be written as “Yaakov ben Avraham Avinu v’Temima” because it might look weird for the bride to have both mother and father listed but not the groom?

2. Considering this couple is currently married with children, should the ketubah not include the phrase “betulah” as a result?

3. If this kallah, or any given kallah is uncomfortable with her particular descriptor being used (whether it’s “בתולתא” or something else), can the descriptor be dropped entirely le’chatchila upon her request?

ANSWER

Regarding your question about how to write the names in the ketubah:
You should not use Avraham Avinu for the man, as he is not a convert. You can use his biological father’s name with “Fred, who raised him—meaning, not halakhically his father, but the man who raised him (and, in this case, his biological father)—and Temimah.”

The answer to (1) is—it doesn’t erase the chatan’s father from their wedding document. It is true that some people might feel—it’s a Jewish document, so it makes sense only Jewish parents, but a lot of people are really pained at the prospect of having to leave out their father’s name (especially when the omission is highlighted by the presence of the kallah’s father’s name). It has been my experience over many years that this is deeply appreciated.

The answer to (2) is that a ketubah is a “dinei mamonot” document—it is not a get. The role of the names is to be clear identifiers (a SSN would be fine, for example) and, as a matter of strict halakha, first names are enough when the context makes clear to whom it is referring. (See generally Shulchan Arukh, CM 49). So, when the mother’s name is present—which suffices, as you note (see Dagul Mervava EH 129:9)—and the biological father’s name is added, this just increases the identification. Because המגדלו is added, the suggestion that the biological father is the halakhic father is avoided. Or put it this way—if you can use an adoptive father’s name, even though he is not the halakhic father, then you should be able to use the biological father’s name, even though he is not the halakhic father (see Rema SA CM 42:15, Shevet HaLevi 4:174).

Regarding your second question about including the word “בתולתא” in this ketuba:

You should not write בתולתא in this case. You can instead use the term גיורתא or just כלתא or have no descriptor at all—for example “אמר לה להדא כלתא הדסה / אמר לה להדסה“.

Regarding your third question about dropping a descriptor for a kallah:
If any given kallah is uncomfortable with her particular descriptor being used, it certainly can be dropped le’chatchila.

The only real purpose of those descriptors nowadays is to signal a future rabbi, etc., about something that could be a relevant status down the road (for example, a convert or divorcée for a kohen) (
Mishneh Torah, Yibum and Halitza 4:34). The absence of any descriptors is sufficient to achieve this signalling. Any future Rabbi worth his or her salt will see that something is different and know to ask questions.

This position is based on the Tashbetz (Teshuvot Tashbetz 3:301) who writes:

ואם אינה בתולה כותבי’ כלתא דא וכתב הרמב”ם ז”ל בנסח הכתוב’ שאם היא אלמנה כותבים אלמנה ואם היא גרושה כותבי’ גרוש’ ואם היא שבויי’ כותבי’ שבוייה כדי שלא יכשל כהן ובקצת כתובו’ ראיתי כן בגרוש’ שכהני’ הדיוטו’ מצוים אבל באלמנה לא נהגו כן ונראה לפי שאין כ”ג האסור באלמנ’ מצוי בגולה ואף בגרושה חשש רחוק הוא שהכהן הנושא אותה אחר זה שנשאה אלמנה או גרושה אם יבדוק בכתובתה ויראה שאין לה אלא מנה (יבדוק בכתובתה ויראה שאין לה אלא מנה) יבדוק אם נשאת לשני אלמנ’ או גרוש’ ואם היא אלמנה ותתאלמן מזה השני הרי הוא קטלנית ואסור’ לכל העם ככהן וחשש רחוק הוא זה ואם גרושה מן הארוסין או חללה שיש לה מאתים הי’ קרוב לחוש לזה.

The Tashbetz states that the practice in his area was to never write any descriptor if she is not a

So in our case, I would normally advise using the 100 amount. If there is sensitivity around that then I would be ok using the 200 amount (the chatan knows the facts, so he can accept the obligation—see for example Igrot Moshe OH 4:118). Then we are back to the Tashbetz case and the fact that he says that Rambam’s position might be something to worry about. To which I would respond that in terms of normal intake with the Rabbi before a wedding and the rarity of the Rabbi ever asking for the ketuba—the concern here is extremely distant, and given the kavod ha’briyot (human dignity) issues that are so often at stake—it seems to me good grounds to come down on the side that absence of a descriptor is a good enough heker.

You should inform couples that if they hang their ketubah up, some people might read it and ask questions. That could go both ways—”Oh, I see your ketubah says מתרכתא, I didn’t know that this is a second marriage for you” (or “I didn’t know that you were a convert”), and on the other hand—”I see you ketubah doesn’t say betula—why is that?”. Hopefully nobody will say any of this out loud, but some people might think it. So—the couple should make an informed decision.

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