How much money is the Kesuba worth?

How much money is the Kesuba worth?

Introduction:

A Kesuba is similar to a loan document or check, which obligates the husband, or his estate, to pay a certain sum of money to his wife. The Kesuba can only be actualized in the event of death of the husband or in case of a divorce. If a husband outlives his wife, the Kesuba document cannot be actualized. According to many Poskim[1], The Torah did not mandate the sum of money which the Chasan has to obligate towards his wife in the Kesuba, and the Kesuba document is not at all a Biblical obligation. Rather, it was the Sages who instituted for a certain sum of money to be obligated in the Kesuba, as will be explained. The evaluation of the monetary value of a Kesuba is complex due to several reasons: 1) Was the Kallah a Besula or Beula? 2) There are several areas of dispute involved in how to calculate the value and currency recorded in the Kesuba. 3) It fluctuates based on the value of silver. 4) It is possible for a Chasan to obligate himself to more money than the bare minimum required in a Kesuba. The value of a Kesuba therefore varies from Kesuba to Kesuba and fluctuates from year to year, based on the value of silver.

The ramifications:

The obvious ramification involved in knowing the value of the Kesuba, is knowing the sum that a husband must pay his wife in the event of divorce, or the amount that his estate must pay in the event of death. Nonetheless, in today’s times, it is most common for a Beis Din to ignore the Kesuba value, as the monetary divorce agreements, splitting of assets, and alimony, set up between the couple, usually payout much more than the Kesuba is worth.[2] Nonetheless, in some instances, its value is taken into account.[3] Another ramification involved is regarding the Chasan having proper knowledge of the amount of money that he is obligating himself to.[4]

The monetary obligations in the Kesuba:

A Kesuba contains two calculations of value. One is a standard required sum of obligation from the husband to the wife, and the second is a voluntary additional sum of obligation, which is given to the discretion of the Chasan, at the time that the Kesuba is written. The former is known as the Ikkur Kesuba while the latter is known as the Tosefes Kesuba. While the Ikkur Kesuba is a relatively a miniscule amount, the Tosefes Kesuba accounts for the big price tags usually seen on Kesuba’s today. Thus, the total value of a Kesuba is made up of the value of the Ikkur Kesuba, and the value of the Tosefes Kesuba. The following is the calculation of the Ikkur and Tosefes Kesuba:

The Ikkur Kesuba:[5]

Besula versus Beula:[6] The required sum of obligation, known as the Ikkur Kesuba, varies between a Besula and Beula. If one is marrying a Besula, then he must obligate to the sum of 200 Zuz. If he is marrying a Beula, he must obligate to the sum of 100 Zuz.

A Biblical versus Rabbinical Zuz: It is disputed amongst Poskim[7] as to whether this Zuz currency refers to the Biblical coin [Kesef Tzuri] or the Rabbinical coin [Kesef Medina]. The Biblical currency of the Zuz is worth 8 times more than the Rabbinical coin, as the Biblcial coin was pure silver while the Rabbinical coin was 1/8 silver and 7/8 copper. Practically, the Sefaradim follow the latter approach, as rules the Michaber, that the Zuz refers to the Rabbinical currency, while the Ashkenazim follow the former approach, as rules the Rama, that the Zuz refers the Biblical currency. Thus, the Ikkur Kesuba of an Ashekanzi is worth 8 times more than that of a Sefaradi.[8]

The practical calculation for Ashkenazim: The value of a single Zuz for Ashkenazim is equivalent to 4.8 grams of silver. Accordingly, 200 Zuz is equivalent to 961.5 grams of silver.[9] Accordingly, the value of the Ikkur Kesuba fluctuates based on the current price of silver at the time of the Kesuba’s actualization.[10] Based on the price of silver as of September 2017 [$0.57196 per gram], the worth of a single Zuz is $2.75. Accordingly, the 200 Zuz of the Kesuba of a Besula, which is equivalent to 961.5 grams of silver, is worth $550. The 100 Zuz of the Kesuba of a Beula, which is equivalent to 481 grams of silver, is worth $275.

The practical calculation for Sefaradim: The value of a single Zuz for Sefaradim is equivalent to .6 grams of silver. Accordingly, 200 Zuz is equivalent to 120 grams of silver.[11] Based on the price of silver as of September 2017 [$0.57196 per gram], the worth of a single Zuz is $.34. Accordingly, the 200 Zuz of the Kesuba of a Besula, which is equivalent to 120 grams of silver, is worth $69. The 100 Zuz of the Kesuba of a Beula, which is equivalent to 60 grams of silver, is worth $34.

Other opinions: Some of today’s Poskim[12] suggest that in truth the value of the 200 Zuz of the Kesuba is not to be taken literally, and rather is a general value equivalent to one years’ worth of living, and that the Kesuba is to be evaluated accordingly. Likewise, see Q&A regarding if we measure the stock exchange value of silver, or the current purchase value of silver in one’s country.

The Tosefes Kesuba:[13]

Every Chasan has the option of adding to the minimal sum which he must obligate himself to, that is found in the Ikkur Kesuba established by the Sages. While, this is not obligatory, the custom is for the Chasan to do so. By Ashkenazim, there is a set customary amount that is added, while by Sefaradim, every Chasan has the option of choosing his amount. The following is the details of the Ashkenazi and Sefaradi customs: 

Ashkenazim: The Ashkenazi custom is write a total sum of 200 Zekukim Kesef for the Tosefes Kesuba of a Besula and 100 Zekukim Kesef for the Tosefes Kesuba of as Beula.[14] This is known as the Kesuba of the Nachalas Shiva. The value of a Zakuk of silver is four times that of a Zuz.[15] Accordingly, the value of a single Zekukim Kesef is equivalent to 19.3 grams of silver, and 200 Zekukim Kesef is equivalent to 3846 grams of silver. Based on the price of silver as of September 2017 [$0.57196 per gram], the worth of a single Zikukim Kesef is $10.96. Accordingly, the 200 Zikukim Kesef of the Kesuba, which is equivalent to 3846 grams of silver, is worth $2,200.

Other opinions: Some Poskim[16] argue on the above and rule the 200 Zekukim Kesef is worth 57.6 Kilo [57,600 grams] of silver. Based on the price of silver as of September 2017 [$0.57196 per gram], the worth of the 200 Zikukim Kesef of the Kesuba according to this opinion, is $32,832. Other Poskim[17] rule the 200 Zekukim Kesef is worth 42 Kilo [42,000 grams] of silver. Based on the price of silver as of September 2017 [$0.57196 per gram], the worth of the 200 Zikukim Kesef of the Kesuba according to this opinion, is worth $24,000. [Practically, due to the rule of Hamotzi Michaveiro Alav Harayah, which places the burden of proof on the wife, the husband can claim that he holds of the previous mentioned lenient opinion, and therefore the Beis Din cannot obligate him to pay the larger amounts written by these other opinions.[18]]

Sefaradim-Tosefes Kesuba: The Sefaradim customarily do not record a set amount in the Tosefes Kesuba, and rather obligate themselves to whatever amount the Chasan agrees upon at the day of the wedding. [It is important to emphasize to the Chasan that the amount written by the Chasan, even if it is an exorbitant amount which he clearly cannot afford, may be accepted by the Beis Din as a true obligation, and therefore a Chasan should not quote a high sum simply for the sake of honor and show of love for his Kallah. Nonetheless, there are cases in which the Beis Din decides to abolish an exorbitant amount due to the claim of Asmachta.[19]]

 

Summary:

The worth of a Kesuba varies based on the following facters:

1.       If a Kesuba of a Besula or Beula was written.

2.       If one is an Ashkenazi or Sefaradi.

3.       The worth of the 200 Zekukim Kesef in grams of silver, which is debated amongst Poskim.

4.       The current price of silver.

5.       Whether we follow the market value of silver or its purchase value, which is udner debate in Poskim. [see Q&A]

6.       Any additional sum that the Chasan chose to obligate himself for in the section of Tosefes Kesuba [usually only found in Sefaradi Kesubos, as opposed to Kesubos of Ashkenazim or Nachalas Shiva].

Practically: As of the price of silver in September 2017, the possible minimal total value of an Ashkenazi Kesuba for a Besula is approximately $2,750 while the possible maximum total value is approximately $33,382. If any other additional sums were obligated by the Chasan, as is common in Sefaradi Kesubos, then that amount is also taken into account.

Q&A

Is the value of silver calculated based on world stock exchange rate [theoretical price] or based on its practical sale price in one’s country?

The price for purchasing silver depends not only on the current market exchange rate, but also on the individual country that one is in. The reason for this is as follows: There is a general sales tax which is placed on the final purchase price in every country. If the silver must be shipped, one must also take into account various other costs involved, including tariffs levied by the importing country. Hence the final price of silver as bout by a consumer is higher than the value shown on the exchange market. Practically, it is disputed amongst the Poskim as to what value of silver we follow regarding evaluating the Kesuba; the market price, or the current sale price in one’s country. Some Poskim[20] rule we follow the stock market value. Other Poskim[21] rule we follow the current purchase price in one’s area.

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[1] See Kesubos 11a; 56b; 110b; Some rule the Kesuba is Rabbinical. [Chachaimim in Kesubos ibid; Shita Mekubetzes Kesubos 10a; Ramban; Ritva; Rabbeinu Yona; Rambam; Geonim] Other Poskim rule it is Biblical. [Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel in Kesubos ibid; Rabbeinu Tam and Riy in Tosafus Kesubos 10a] Others rule that while the concept is Biblical, the amount is Rabbinical. [Mordechai Kesubos 312] 

[2] Most countries contain laws regarding distribution of the estate and assets. In the USA there are nine Community Property States which consider both spouses as equal owners of all marital property (a 50-50 split is the rule). These are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. This is likewise the law in Israel. The remaining 41 states in the USA are Equitable Distribution states. Settlements in Equitable Distribution States do not need to be equal, but they should be fair and equitable. In Equitable Distribution, several factors are taken into account, including the financial situation of each spouse when dividing assets. If a couple cannot come to a financial agreement on their own, then the courts give a verdict on the distribution.

The Kashrus of a divorce settlement: Being that due to the Takana of Rabbeinu Gershom it is forbidden to divorce one’s wife unwillingly, it therefore has become Halachically incumbent upon the husband to appease his wife financially in order for her to be willing to accept the Get. Accordingly, a divorce settlement outside of the Kesuba, while not mandates by Torah law, is at times a practical necessity even according to Torah. It is for this reason that in many cases today the collection of the Kesuba has become irrelevant, as the wife exits with a much lartger amount due to the divorce settlement. [See Mishpat Hakesuba 8/60]

[3] Such as in determining the proper division of property, or if the couple owned no property and assets, or if the Kesuba was an exorbitant amount, and cases of the like.

[4] See Piskei Dinim 13/308 of Rav Dechovsky; Article of Rav Eliyahu Bar Shalom, author of Mishpat Hakesuba; Hilchos Hagr”a Uminhagav 181 of Rav Shturnbuch

[5] See Mishpat Hakesuba 3/20

[6] Michaber 66/6; Mishneh Kesubos 51a

[7] Some Poskim rule it follows the Rabbinical coin, Kesef Medina. [Michaber E.H. 66/6; Rambam Ishus 10/8; Majority of Geonim and many Rishonim] Other Poskim rule it follows the Biblical coin. [Rama E.H. 66/6; Rabbeinu Tam Kesubos 11a; Rosh]

[8] Rama ibid

[9] Shiureiy Torah 3/44

[10] Shiureiy Torah 3/44

[11] Shiureiy Torah 3/44

[12] See Oraisa 18 for an article of Rav Eliyahu Bra Shalom based on the opinion of the Igros Moshe E.H. 4/92

[13] Michaber and Rama E.H. 66/7; See Mishpat Hakesuba 3/24; Seder Kiddushin Venissuin [Frakash] 2/8-10

[14] Kesubas Nachalas Shiva; Maharam Mintz 109; See Seder Kesuba Kehilchasa 1 footnote 13

The calculation: This amount is made up of 100 Zekukim for the Tosefes Kesuba, and 100 Zekukim in exchange for the Nedunya, for a total of 200 Zekukim. By a Beula the amount is 50 Zekukim for each matter.

[15] Nachalas Shiva 12/49 in name of Bach and Derisha; Shiurei Torah 3/44

[16] Chazon Ish Y.D. 182/19; E.H. 66/22; C.M.  16/30

[17] Igros Moshe E.H.  4.91-92

[18] Conclusion of Rav Eliyahu Bar Shalom in Mishpat Hakesuba; and so ruled Rav Ovadia Yosef in the Beis Din Rabani [See Piskei Dinim 11/383]; Conclusion of Beit Din Rabani Haifa; Conclusion of Rav Sholomo Dichovsky in Kovetz Kenes Hadayanim 5767; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu held of the stringent opinion

[19] See Techumin 18-19; Ruling of Rav Dechovski; Ruling of Beit Din Ezuri Haifa

[20] Nachalas Shiva ; Gr”a; Lechem Habikkurim; Chazon Ish

[21] Tumim; Smeh ; Chasam Sofer; Chidushei Harim; Igros Moshe; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu was of the position that we follow the current sale price, which would include all tariffs and taxes.

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