THe Honor Of Signing The Ketubah

Signing The Ketubah          Signing the Ketubah is an important part of the Jewish marriage ceremony. I have always felt that my signature as the officiating rabbi and those of the bride, groom, and their witnesses should be  clear and legible. It should require an especially reliable writing instrument. And so my deluxe Cross Pen, the top of the line, became my constant wedding companion.

          Rani and David had planned two wedding ceremonies. On Saturday there would be a two-hour Hindu wedding complete with a reading from the Vedas, the spiritual scriptures that are the heart of India’s culture , the Saptapadi (or seven steps) , and the vows taken in Sanskrit. On Sunday I would lead a twenty-five minute Jewish Wedding service in a country garden setting under a Chuppah with wine, a glass to break and a beautiful art decorated  Ketubah featuring both Jewish and Hindu motifs.

          At the conclusion, David smashed the glass and the bride and groom went on to  lead the recessional. Rani’s parents and grandmother approached me with joy on their faces and words of gratitude for my service which to them was wonderfully short compared with the Hindu ritual they had endured the day before. But their attention seemed to focus on Rani’s Ketubah which featured a Hindu bride clothed in a multi colored Sari. It was truly one of a kind. I presented it to them for safe keeping and their gratitude was overflowing.

          Then came the bombshell. “Rabbi, we must also have the pen which you used for the signing. Both the scroll and pen are  now sacred objects for our family and must be kept together for safe keeping.

          After gasping for a moment I explained to Rani’s family that my Cross pen was a special one which I only used to sign religious documents, naming  certificates and such. I probably indicated that it cost me a considerable amount of money. Rani’s father was cordial yet firm as to his responsibilities in this matter. His demand  for both Ketubah and pen were not to be denied.

          In that hour I truly learned what it meant to be torn between my Yetzer HaRa (evil intention) and my Yetzer Tov (good intention). And then a moment of blinding clarity came over me. For who was I to deny my Cross Deluxe Pen the opportunity to achieve the status of becoming a sacred object and to assume its rightful place in Rani and David’s home as a treasured memento of their wedding day ? I do remember as my pen passed into their hands that I really felt very good about my gesture and for the sacrifice made that sunny afternoon.

          Time had passed quickly, names and faces may be sometimes forgotten but a few years later I was called to lead a baby naming for a little girl.  As I walked up their front lawn a smiling middle-aged couple came out to greet me waving a pen. “Rabbi, here is your pen from Rani and David’s wedding. Now you can sign our granddaughter’s baby certificate. Your pen has brought us much good luck “.

– Rabbi Nat Benjamin

A Special Thank You For Turning Back

Wedding RabbiPerforming a Jewish wedding ceremony on a cruise boat in the East River is no easy task. Carrying a portable Chuppah on my shoulders while juggling a heavy bag filled with my Kiddush cup, a bottle of kosher wine, my Tallit, and a large Ketubah rolled in a long tube I inched my way up the gangplank which was swaying in the late summer breeze.

I reminded the crewmen that I was there only to perform a wedding ceremony and would have to disembark before the boat was to leave the dock. Our wedding cruiser which was near Manhattan’s fashionable east 60s, was packed with family and friends of the bride and groom. After receiving their warm greeting it appeared to me that they hadn’t decided where to have me perform their ceremony, much less providing and setting up a table on which to place other items I had brought on board.

After filling out and obtaining the witness’s signatures for their marriage license and instructing the photographer not to crowd the bride and groom, we lined up for the ceremony. As the boat rocked in the late afternoon breeze, the wine cup spilled, the canopy slipped off the poles holding the Chuppah and the Ketubah blew off the table. As the groom’s foot smashed the glass amidst shouts of Mazel Tov, I scrambled to collect my equipment and make a hasty exit onto dry land and back to New Jersey for a memorial service I had to officiate. When I tried to find the gangplank all I could see was the Triboro Bridge (a.k.a RFK Bridge) towering overhead as we veered up the East River toward the Long Island Sound .

 

” Help ” I shrieked. ” I have to get off. I have another service to perform in an hour. We have to go back right now. ” ocean
The newlyweds graciously invited me to continue on with them for their dinner cruise and even suggested that I lead them in the “Motze” over the Challah , and perhaps offer a toast later on. After all, hadn’t I prepared the bride for her Bat Mitzvah 12 years earlier ? I was now one of the family.

Alas my duties called and I insisted that they return to port and to my car which was parked nearby.

I have shared many more joyous occasions with this family and we always recount the story of their wedding day and of how the boat set sail with me on it.

Rabbi Nat Benjamin

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