A marriage certificat for Shavuot - Israel Majara

In many Sephardic congregations, prior to the Torah reading on the first day of Shavuot, a ketubbah le-Shavuot (marriage certificate for Shavuot) is read, as a symbolic betrothal of God and His people Israel. The terminology of this piyyut (medieval poem), in its various versions, strongly recalls that of the traditional prenuptial document (specifying the conditions agreed upon between the two parties; known as tena'im) or the marriage certificate given by the bridegroom to the bride at the wedding ceremony, known as ketubbah).

The hymns which compose this ketubbah le-Shavuot are based on the verses: "I will betroth you unto Me forever; I will betroth you unto Me in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in compassion. And I will betroth you unto Me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord" (Hosea 2:21-22); and "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel" (Jeremiah 31:31).

I will betroth thee forever...Some texts describe the marriage as being solemnized symbolically between the Torah (the bride) and the people of Israel (the bridegroom). God, as the bride's father, gives as dowry the 613 commandments, the Bible, Talmud, and other sacred writings. Moses presents as dowry to his son (the people of Israel) the prayer shawl and phylacteries, the Sabbath and festivals. The contracts are witnessed by God and His servant Moses.

In other versions the "Prince of princes and the Ruler of rulers" presents the Torah to the bride as dowry and in His love He gives her the Oral Law as an added portion. The bride responds affectionately,"We shall do and we shall hearken." The contract is dated the sixth day of the month of Sivan, in the year 2448 from the creation — according to tradition the day on which the torah was given. The Mishnah* comments that the wedding day of King Solomon (Song of Songs 3:11) refers to the day of the giving of the Torah. The heavens and the earth witness the marriage certificate.

The most widely used text of a ketubbah le-Shavuot is that of the prolific Safed mystic and poet Israel Majara (c.1550-c.1625). Many of his piyyutim are founded in the liturgy of oriental Jews. This hymn is included in the Sephardic prayerbook for Shavuot. Enjoy a partial translation.



* Taanit 4:8 [back]

excerpted Barnes & Noble linkFrom: The Shavuot Anthology, ed. Philip Goodman (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1974, 1992).Translated by Solomon Feffer.

SIVAN Table of Contents



Subscribe to the JHOM mailing list for updates.

Contact us

Tell a friend