Legal document: L-G Misc. 42Legal document L-G Misc. 42
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Engagement deed. In the hand of Ḥalfon b. Menashshe. Groom: Ṭoviyya b. Tiqva. Bride: Sitt al-Kull bt. Peraḥya, a virgin. Her paternal uncle received on her behalf 3 rings of fine gold, a ring of amber, and two silver "unbūbas." Witnessed by Avraham b. Shemaʿya he-Ḥaver; Yiṣḥaq b. Shemuel ha-Sefardi; and Ḥalfon b. Menashshe. Dated: Kislev 1431 Seleucid, which is 1119 CE. This is in fact the earliest known example of such a deed, since formalising a couple’s engagement with a legal document appears to have been an innovation of the 12th century. Jewish marriage is a three-stage process: engagement (shiddukhin), betrothal (erusin/qiddushin), and marriage. Betrothal, at which the couple are declared married but do not move in together, and marriage, when the woman leaves her father’s house and lives with her husband, are both formal events requiring a written document. Engagement, however, was an oral agreement of a more informal nature. In 12th-century Fustat, Egypt, however, the Jewish community began to formalise engagements through a written deed, in order to better protect the rights of women in the partnership. The deeds mostly consist of prenuptial conditions to be imposed on the husband: where the couple would live (and who has the right to choose), the right of the woman to ask for a divorce, various restrictions on the husband’s movements, etc, and testify to the relative power that Jewish women had in the marriage agreement. (Information mainly from CUDL and some from Goitein's index card.)
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