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Judaism Beliefs: Divorce

By Yona Williams    11/21/09

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It is not uncommon for followers of the Judaic faith to view divorce as one of the greatest tragedies to befall one of themselves or their loved ones. However, it has always been known that allowances when it comes to divorce have always been a part of Jewish law. In this article, you will learn how a broken marriage is viewed in Judaic circles, including the role of the rabbinical court.

According to the Talmud (known as the central text of mainstream Judaism), "When a man puts aside the wife of his youth, even the very altar weeps." However, times have changed and the leniency of divorce has been affected when compared to historical times. In the past, only the husband had the privilege to engage in divorce proceedings. In the Talmud, a range of circumstances allowed a husband to seek divorce.

They included:

A childless marriage after ten years was grounds for a divorce.
Divorce could be sought after if a husband refused to have sex with his wife.
If the husband beat his wife – divorce was the best solution.
If the husband became a victim of a "loathsome" disease – divorce was not frowned upon.

Interestingly, under rabbinical law, a wife could not be divorced without her consent – a practice that was adhered to around 1000 CE. Traditional viewpoints have shifted greatly, as Jewish divorce is granted by a rabbinical court (also known as the "house of judgment") – in accompaniment to the civil court. This voluntary act is accepted everywhere – except in Israel. It is in Israel that the rabbinate still has control over the issues involving marriage and divorce. The 'house of judgment' is comprised of three rabbis who are highly knowledgeable in the laws that concern married couples. During an assessment of a divorce request, a scribe and two disinterested witnesses should be part of the process.

The rabbis will interview the husband and wife who are seeking divorce to make sure that both parties are in agreement to the dissolution of their marriage. This is also the time where financial matters and other issues are discussed. Granted divorces receive drawn up papers called 'get' (the divorce decree), which comes in the form of hand-lettered Hebrew. The wife cannot enter another marriage for the period of 90 days. The reason? It is believed that if she quickly remarries and gets pregnant soon after, no issues concerning the paternity of the child will arise if she waits the 90 days.

When following Orthodox traditions, a divorce individual must obtain a get by an Orthodox 'house of judgment'. Any child born from a remarried woman is considered illegitimate if traditions were not followed during her divorce proceedings. Without an Orthodox seal of approval, the divorce is considered non-valid. The same consequences do not apply to an Orthodox man that remarries after a "non-valid" divorce. Why? Technically, under Jewish law – a man is allowed to have more than one wife. Followers of Reform Judaism view all civil divorces as a valid act.  

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