What's in a name – Leeba


I misspelled my name all my life, writing Leebah with a hei at the end. I found out when I got married that it was supposed to be an aleph. On the kesuva, it is written with an aleph, but if I signed my name with a hei all my life – no checks, but lots of school papers – does that mean I "changed the halachic status of the spelling of my name"?

I generally sign my name in English and I use legible letters. Since Hebrew isn't an option on my American documents, I'm sure I only use English. On occasion I sign in Hebrew, and I think that when I write Leebah in Hebrew, I usually put a hei at the end out of habit from when I was younger. A few people know me as Leebah and use that name. If you tell me my kesuva is invalid I think I am going to faint…


A scribble is an acceptable signature in America. So why can't you sign in Hebrew? I have signed American checks and documents in a legible Hebrew script for over 20 years and have never had a problem. Your signature may even be more difficult to forge if it is in a foreign language.

Don't worry about your kesuva kesuvos are pasul and this should not cause anyone to faint.[i]

The primary function of the kesuva is to afford the wife a feeling of security in the marriage, knowing that her husband will not decide one day to divorce her. If she is concerned that she might be sent on her way on a whim, the Gemara (Kesuvos 54b, 56b, 57a) views relations as akin to znus and thus forbidden.

The Rema (E.H. 66:3) points out that a marriage in which Torah law forbids the husband to divorce his wife without her consent[ii] does not need a kesuva since the woman feels secure in the marriage. Similarly, argues the Rema, once Rabeinu Gershom instituted a cherem stating that a husband cannot divorce his wife without her consent; a kesuva is technically unnecessary. The Rema concludes that the custom is still to write a kesuva but any relations without a valid kesuva are not considered sinful.[iii]

By the way, the kesuva is merely a contract like any business contract. It does not affect the validity of the marriage whatsoever. It only concerns the husband's financial and personal obligations to his wife. People who attribute holiness or mystical significance to a kesuva are, in my opinion, misguided.

If your primary signature is in English, to the point where you can't even remember how you sign in Hebrew, you probably don't sign in Hebrew enough to be known to others as Leebah with a hei.

Therefore, your kesuva that has Leeba with an aleph is kosher. Since you are still known as Leeba, Leeba is your name. The correct spelling for Leeba is .lia` You are not known as liad since you usually sign in English, and even when you sign in Hebrew you are unsure as to how you sign it (with or without a hei). Thus you have not changed the halachic status of the spelling of your name.

If everyone were to call you Lisa, and the name Leeba were totally forgotten, then Lisa would be the correct name to include in documents. However, since some people do call you Leeba, you can use it for documents.[iv]

BookID: 3 Chapter: 129

[i] When I was mesader gittin in the beis din with my rebbi Rav Shlomo Fisher, we would ask to see the kesuva for a secondary verification of the names. (Witnesses did the primary verification.) Often the names in the kesuva were written incorrectly. Some rabbis who perform marriages are not expert in this field. Sometimes the inaccuracies were serious enough to invalidate the kesuva. (If rabbis were to put in the teudat zehut number or social security number, proper identification would be more easily established and that would alleviate problems.)

[ii] An example would be if she were raped and insisted that the rapist marry her. For details, see E.H. 177:3.

[iii] There are opinions that draw a distinction between the case of the rapist (in which a kesuva is unnecessary) and Ashkenazic marriages today (in which a woman cannot be divorced without her consent due to the cherem itself or to the common custom established because of the cherem). They maintain that an invalid kesuva, even post-cherem, prohibits sexual relations between the couple. The Rema's opinion, however, can be relied upon in circumstances in which a couple has been living together for years and the kesuva was deemed to have always been invalid.

[iv] There is a dispute as to whether the preferred name is always the most popularly used name at any given time or the name given at birth (shem arissa) as long as it is still somewhat in use. (See Get Pashut 129:92 and Chazon Ish Even Ha'ezer 93:39 and 93:40.) There are many variables and details to these halachos. No conclusions can be drawn from this brief presentation. Every case should be discussed with a rav who is familiar with these halachos.

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