Ketubot of the Sephardic Diaspora

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Bible. Song of Songs, 1794

Scribe: Baruch ben Shemaryah, Brest-Litovsk, Lithuania, 1794)
On vellum

The Song of Songs, a biblical book about the joy and the pain of love, has provided the lyrics for countless songs on the subject throughout the ages. It has also been given an allegorical interpretation in both Judaism and Christianity. The rabbis interpret the book as an expression of God's love for the People of Israel. Christian theologians understand it as a song about God's love of the Church. In its plain meaning, however, the Song of Songs is about spring, youth and yearning. It is chanted in the synagogue on the Sabbath of Passover, the festival of spring. Passages from the book often appear in the decorations that adorn Jewish marriage contracts. It is thus appropriate, that the scribe, Baruch ben Shemaryah, created a version of the Song of Songs that is itself an adornment.

The entire biblical book of the Song of Songs is worked into an ornamental design using large Hebrew block letters and the minute letters called micrography. The word shir (song) is in the center. Though not a ketubah, this magnificently executed document may well have been written in honor of a marriage. The text framing the three flowers with the outer central circle states: "I, the humble scribe, Baruch ben Shemaryah. of Brest-Litovsk, Lithuania, for Abraham Kaiser, 1794."

A full size, readable image of this Ketubah is available by following this link to the Beinecke's Digital Image Collection

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