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The joyous wedding day finally arrived!

Yehuda sat at the chassan’s tish. He was flanked by his father, father-in-law to be, and the mesader kiddushin, Rabbi Kadosh, who was filling out the kesubah.


“So, your name is Yehuda,” Rabbi Kadosh said. “And what is your kallah’s name?”

“Nava,” replied Yehuda.

“We wish the two of you a long, happy and healthy life together!” exclaimed Rabbi Kadosh. “You are aware, though, that in the eventuality that it turns out otherwise, you making a financial commitment in the kesubah.

“Yes, I am aware,” replied Yehuda. “We’re learning Tractate Kesubos in yeshiva this year.”

“Then I assume you also know the amount of the kesubah,” Rabbi Kadosh said. “Two hundred zuz for a woman who was not previously married. And the Ashkenzic practice is to add 200 zekukim to this.”

“What are zekukim?” asked Yehuda. “I don’t recall coming across that in the Gemara.”

“The zakuk was a coin or piece of silver used in Europe, Poland and Russia in the times of the Rishonim and Acharonim,” replied Rabbi Kadosh.

“How much is that worth in today’s dollars?” asked Yehuda. “I like to know what financial commitments I’m undertaking.”

“To be honest,” acknowledged Rabbi Kadosh, “I am not sure how much the kesubah is worth in dollars. I see Rabbi Dayan over there, though. Maybe he knows.”

Yehuda asked one of his friends to invite Rabbi Dayan to the table.

Mazal Tov, Yehuda!” Rabbi Dayan wished him heartily. “It’s a great zechus to be here and share in your simcha!”

“Thank you,” said Yehuda. “We had a question, though. How much is a kesubah of 200 zuz plus 200 zekukim worth in dollars?”

Rabbi Dayan replied, “There is general agreement, based on the Rambam (Hil. Shekalim 1:3), that the zuz coin weighed approximately 4.8 grams. Ashkenazic ruling is to require a zuz of pure silver (Rema, E.H. 66:7). Thus, 200 zuz is about 960g (31 troy ounces) of silver.

“The purchasing power of silver coins relative to other commodities was much greater, though, in the times of Chazal. Two hundred zuz was considered a person’s basic sustenance of food and clothing for a year. My own estimate (based on examples in the Gemara) is that the zuz corresponded then to about $40-50 today, so that 200 zuz represented between eight and ten thousand dollars. Nevertheless, the halachic value of the zuz for kesubah and other mitzvos remains linked to the value of silver. At current prices, this is only about $750 ($3.75 per zuz), barely a tenth of the value in Chazal’s time.

“Perhaps for this reason the practice developed to add to the kesubah. Ashkenazic communities added 200 zekukim, but their weight and value are not clear and they varied from place to place and from time to time.

“Chazon Ish (E.H. 66:21), based on the Gra, evaluated 200 zekukim as 57.6 kg of silver, currently worth about $45,000. At the other extreme, Nachalas Shiva (12:49), citing the Bach and Drisha, writes that 200 zekukim is a few times the base value of the kesubah, which would be only several thousand dollars.

“In many cases of divorce, the couple reach an overall monetary settlement, so that the specific value of the kesubah becomes irrelevant. However, there are cases, especially in Israel, in which the kesubah is awarded, and beis din must rule how much to pay.

“Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt”l, ruled that the husband can be held liable only for the lesser amount of the Nachalas Shiva (Piskei Din Rabbaniim (Pd”R), vol. XI, pp. 362-366). Tzitz Eliezer (22:81), based on Shiurei Torah of Rav Chaim Naeh, similarly rules 3.896 kg silver (~$3,000).

Igros Moshe (E.H. 4:91-92) rules that it is 50 lbs. of silver (~$17,500) so that the amount will be substantial. Others maintain 40 kg, currently about $30,000 (Bikkurei Goshen, #19).

“For this reason,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “many people in Israel write a specific amount in dollar or NIS sums.”

Verdict: The value of a 200-zekukim kesubah ranges (at current silver prices) from several thousand to $45,000.


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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail