40 years ago, at their wedding, an Israeli couple decided that the amount the husband would pay his beloved at their divorce (tfu, tfu) would be 6 million Israeli pounds (liras), which at the time was double the going rate for Ketubahs. Four decades later, according to a Channel 12 News report this week, love between the two has subsided considerably, the marriage deteriorated and it was time to divide the assets and go their separate ways. All they still needed to do was evaluate how much was the husband supposed to pay for the Ketubah. How much is 6 million 1979 lira in 2019 shekels?
Wait, some necessary background information.
The rabbinical text in a Jewish Ketubah, the prenuptial contract between husband and wife, obligates the husband to pay “200 zuz” should the two be divorced. This amount apparently was large enough to enable a divorced woman survive in an agrarian society after having to either strike it out on her own or return to her father’s home. But how much is that amount in today’s money, and once you’ve solved that, how much would be the value of a decades-old Ketubah, set in Israeli Pounds?
One way to approach the subject was suggested by an anonymous Aish HaTorah rabbi online, who cited the price of a goat’s kid in the Hagada’s Chad Gadia song to be 2 zuzim: a Ketubah should equal the price of 100 baby goats. The top rate of a baby goat at US pet stores is $300 – making the Ketubah be worth $30,000. It’s not great as prenups go enough for a very humble subsistence for about a year, if the wife were to sell her car.
Another approach, even less generous, cites rabbinic sources as to the ancient value of 200 zuz, which was 701.565 grams of pure silver, or 24.7466 ounces of pure silver, which, at $30 per ounce in today’s value nets the ex-wife approximately $750, or enough for three days in a low cost hotel.
The rabbinical judges at the regional court ruled the ex-husband must pay the ex-wife 150,000 shekels ($42,634.83) – a completely random amount, not related to either grams of silver or a hundred goats.
The ex-wife’s attorney argued that the index-linked worth of 6 million 1979 lira would be exorbitant, which is why the ex-wife is not asking for it, demanding instead only 360,000 shekel – half the value of their house.
The court responded that without the index-link, the same 6 million lira was worth about 600 shekel ($170.54).
The rabbinic judges finally came up with an intriguing, possibly ingenious solution: since the husband’s intent back in 1979 was to give his wife double the common sum in a Ketubah, let him pay her double the current common sum in a Ketubah, which came to more than 300,000 shekel, or about $85,270.