The other night, I gave our children our framed ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) and told them to “make it more beautiful.” Without hesitation, they took the paints and brushes from my hands and eagerly went to work transforming the legal document into a Jackson Pollock-ish masterpiece. I was amused to see the three of them working together so well, but the finished product left me speechless and overcome by a sense of peace. I had finally solved the problem of what to do with the voided contract.
Before we were married I spent considerable time searching for the perfect ketubah that not only matched our taste artistically, but also reflected our beliefs. I finally found it in an art gallery that specializes in Judaica. I then spent equally as much time seeking an attractive frame that would complement this marriage certificate. When the wedding day came, my ex and I both asked our closest friends to be witnesses and to sign the document in Hebrew and English. And of course, once we returned from our honeymoon we immediately hung it over our headboard in our bedroom
A few years and three children later we got divorced.
Last summer I moved the ketubah from the closet in our old home to the closet in my new apartment. I simply did not know what else to do with it. Seeing the framed document each morning as I rummaged through my closet for work clothes always stung a little.
The wedding dress was a non-issue. I knew I did not want to destroy it as I had seen so many other women do online after their divorce. My dress was simple and elegant and I briefly considered using the material for our boys’ tallit (prayer shawls). Ultimately I decided that I would rather see the dress go to a bride in need, so I gave it away to a stranger online with a prayer that it would bring her joy and the lasting union I had hoped for my family.
As for the wedding album, it sits on a shelf in our living room and is easily accessible for the children to peruse at their desire. I am happy to answer their questions and share the happier memories. We did have some good times, after all.
The ketubah haunted me however. I certainly could not destroy the sacred writing and burying it seemed a little impractical. I was not about to seek out a beit din (rabbinical court) for guidance either. Repurposing the contract was the only solution. So on a whim, I grabbed our art supplies, put the ketubah on the kitchen floor and watched our three boys splatter brightly colored paint all over the glass. They were delighted with the finished product and we hung it on our living room wall once it dried.
And as I study their work now, I find solace in knowing that the ancient Aramaic words are hidden under the paint, possibly to be unearthed someday. But for now, it is a reminder that nothing stays the same and that something beautiful came from our broken union.
Three something beautifuls, actually.