Question: Should the last names of the chasan, kallah, and witnesses be written on the kesubah?
Short Answer: Although Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l all thought it preferable to include the last names on the kesubah, the prevalent custom is not to include last names.
I. The Igros Moshe
The Rama (Even HaEzer 129:16) rules that although we normally write all nicknames on a get, a nickname of the last name (i.e., family name) should not be written on a get.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:178 & Orach Chayim 4:40:20), in discussing whether last names should be written on a kesubah, limits the ruling of the above Rama to a case where it is written “Ploni ben Ploni who is called Almoni” (where “Almoni” is the last name). Thus, while a get should not include last names for other fears (e.g., maybe it will be spelled incorrectly), Rav Moshe rules that it is preferable for a kesubah to include the last names of the chasan, kallah, and witnesses. Indeed, this would be helpful in a large city where many people have similar first names. However, Rav Moshe notes that it should be written like this: “Ploni ben Ploni from the family of Almoni,” so that a reader of the kesubah is clear that Almoni is the last name and not that the husband is sometimes called “Almoni.” Rav Moshe also concludes that it is not necessary to write the last name, and thus if a kesubah does not include the last name, it is still kosher.
II. Alternative Reason to Include
Rav Levi Rabinovich zt”l (Beis Hillel, Tamuz 5769), in a letter to Rav Elyashiv zt”l, suggested another reason why a kesubah should include the last names of the chasan, kallah, and witnesses. Because the Ezer Mekudash requires that a kesubah be a binding legal document according to dina d’malchusa dina (the rules of the country), the kesubah must include last names.
However, while agreeing that a kesubah should include the last names, Rav Elyashiv disagreed with Rav Rabinovich’s reason, and instead adopted the reasoning of Rav Moshe: that last names were preferable – but not necessary – because of the large cities where many people have similar first names. Indeed, the sefer Nesivos Adam (2:1) cites a story that Rav Elyashiv once told a witness who already wrote his first name and the word “witness” to include his last name after the word “witness.”
III. Inherent Danger in Including Last Names
Despite the reasoning of Rav Moshe and Rav Elyashiv, the sefer V’Darashta V’Chakarta (4:84:6) posits that perhaps it is better not to write last names on a kesubah, because often the kesubah is used to glean the names for the get. And a get should not include the last names (see above).
IV. Practically Speaking
In practice, many contemporary poskim do not follow the opinion of Rav Moshe and Rav Elyashiv and do not include the last names. Indeed, the author of the sefer Yismach Lev lists the following poskim who did not include last names: Rav Chaim P. Scheinberg, Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Ephraim Greenblatt, Rav Boruch Povarsky, Rav Elya Wachtfogel, Rav Malkiel Kotler, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky. See HaMaor Journal (Vol. 63:1, p. 81). The sefer Divrei Pinchas (siman 64) notes in the name of the Chupah K’Hilchasah that this is the majority opinion.
Nevertheless, the Yismach Lev (ibid) notes that the Badei HaShulchan and Rav Dovid Cohen (Chevron) do add in the last name. Moreover, Rav Chaim Jachter shlita (Beis Yitzchak, Vol. 40) quotes the opinion of Rav Soloveitchik that the last name should be included because the kesubah is a shtar raayah – serves as a contract that proves the existence of the marriage and monetary obligations it entails.
Finally, some poskim have a compromise opinion: Include the last names in parentheses. See Chupah V’Kiddushin (Rav Sendor, p. 11) in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (4:287).
Next Week’s Topic: May the Sheva Brachos under the chupah be recited through a microphone?