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Lewis-Gibson : Legal document: engagement deed


<p style='text-align: justify;'>Legal document for the engagement of Ṭoviyya b. Tiqva and Sitt al-Kull bat Peraḥya, witnessed by Abraham b. Šemaʿya he-Ḥaver, Isaac b. Samuel ha-Sefardi and Ḥalfon b. Manasseh. Dated Kislev 1431 of the Seleucid Era (= 1119 CE). It 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, betrothal 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.</p>

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