Divorce in Jewish law has a long history and is governed by specific guidelines laid out in the Torah and expounded upon in the Oral Law. Central to the process of Jewish divorce is the “get” document (the Hebrew word for a divorce), a written instrument of the legal and spiritual separation, which is of paramount importance in terminating a Jewish marriage in accordance with Halacha (Jewish law).
The Get Document: The get document is a formal written contract of divorce, often written in Aramaic, which contains the details of the dissolution of the marriage. It includes the names of the husband and wife, the date of the divorce, the names of the witnesses who observe the writing and delivery of the get, and the husband’s declaration of divorce. The get is written with great care and precision to ensure its validity according to Halacha.
The Importance of a Halachic Divorce: A Halachic divorce, with the proper issuance of the get document, is crucial in Jewish law for several reasons:
- Torah Commandment: The Torah commands in Deuteronomy 24:1-2: “When a man takes a wife and possesses her, and it happens that she does not find favor in his eyes because he found in her an unseemly matter, and he writes for her a bill of divorce, hands it into her hand, and sends her away from his house.” The get is a fulfillment of this commandment and is considered a religious duty.
- Spiritual Status: Without a valid get, a woman remains technically married according to Jewish law, even if she obtains a civil divorce. This could have significant implications for her religious status, and she may not be able to remarry according to Halacha.
- Children’s Status: If a woman remarries without a valid get, any children born from the subsequent union might be deemed mamzerim (illegitimate) in Jewish law. A get ensures that any future marriage and children are not affected by this issue.
- Purity Laws: In certain circumstances, a married woman may become ritually impure (niddah) due to her menstrual cycle. A valid get is required to restore her to a state of purity, allowing her to remarry according to Halacha.
Halachic Mechanisms for Issuing a Get: The process of issuing a get must be conducted according to specific Halachic mechanisms, and there are several requirements that must be met:
- Free Will: The husband must give the get willingly and without any coercion or manipulation. He cannot be forced into granting the divorce.
- Two Witnesses: The get must be witnessed by two observant Jewish men who are not related to the parties involved and are considered reliable witnesses.
- Written and Delivered: The get must be a written document, hand-delivered by the husband or his agent directly into the wife’s hand. It must be given with the intention of effecting a divorce.
- Validity: The get must be written in proper form and contain the necessary information as prescribed by Halacha. Any errors or omissions may invalidate the get. This is why unlike a ketubah only one name per person is used, a get will contain nicknames,
- Authorized Scribe: The get must be written by a qualified and authorized scribe (sofer), who is well-versed in the laws pertaining to the writing of a get.
The Get Process: The get process involves several stages:
- Consultation with a Rabbi: The wife consults with a competent Orthodox rabbi to initiate the process and ensure that a get is required according to Halacha.
- Issuance of the Get: The husband or his authorized agent, together with two witnesses, goes through the formal process of writing and issuing the get document.
- Delivery of the Get: The get is delivered into the wife’s hand in the presence of the witnesses and the rabbi overseeing the process.
- Reception of the Get: The wife must physically accept the get, acknowledging that she has received it.
- Finalization: After the get is given and received, the marriage is officially dissolved according to Halacha.
Conclusion: In conclusion, divorce in Jewish law is a complex process governed by Halacha and rooted in the Torah’s commandments. The get document holds tremendous importance in facilitating a Halachic divorce, ensuring the religious status of the parties involved and safeguarding the legitimacy of any future unions and offspring. The meticulous adherence to Halachic guidelines in the issuance and acceptance of the get underscores the profound significance of marriage and divorce within the framework of Jewish law and tradition.