Ketubot of the Sephardic Diaspora

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Thessaloniki, Greece, 1789

Bride: Simha called Samhula bat Mosheh [Shemuel?]
Groom: Ye'oshua ben Eliyahu.
Wednesday, 7 Tamuz 5549 (July 1, 1789)
On vellum

The ketubah is noteworthy because of its age and its intricate and lush decorations. It was produced when the city was called Salonika and was a major port city in the Ottoman Empire. In that period a large and thriving Sephardic community lived there. Surrounding the two columns of text are birds, flowers, fruit and biblical quotations from Proverbs and the Song of Songs. The right column contains the marriage terms and the left column contains the terms of the betrothal. Colors used are brown, coral and dark grayish blue-green. The text that forms the outer border for the entire document is from chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs. It is about the woman of valor (eshet hayil), a twenty-two verse poem in an acrostic arrangement (the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in regular order). The poem describes the qualities of a woman of valor as one who is righteous, devoted to her family, and industrious, among other qualities. It begins with the statement "A woman of valor who can find? Her value is far above pearls."

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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