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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 9.22:
What is the Qetzatzah Ceremony?


The "qetzatzah ceremony" is described in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi Kiddushin Chap. 1 and Midrash Ruth Rabba), and also appears in the Babylonian Talmud (the Talmud referred to when no adjective is used) at Kesuvos 28b. In general, it is a means of effecting a deal. For example, the Malbim (a 19th cent commentator) mentions it when writing on the book of Ruth. Ruth 4:8 says "that [handing someone your shoe] was the contract in Israel." Malbim notes that between the time of the story and the time of its writing, the standard means was changed to ketzatzah. Both are still valid today, the comment was about a shift in popularity, not validity.

Ketzatzah involes breaking a barrel of fruit in the middle of the street and then making a formal announcement. An example of its use is a ceremony used to publicize a family's disapproval of the lineage or sexual history of someone marrying to one of their offspring. The family would revoke the child's right to inherit. To formalize this transfer, ketzatzah was performed announcing (translation from the Talmud): Hear our brothers Israel! Our brother so-and-so married a woman of improper lineage. We are afraid that our seed will be mixed with his. Come take some fruit as a rememberance, so our seeds will not get mixed.

According to the Malbim, the point of ketzatzah is to do something that would make an impression not only on the adult witnesses, but on the children as well. Ketzatzah was used to keep the memory of something alive as long as possible.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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