A Jewish Divorce Ritual for Our Time

Found In: Divorce

Tags: get

By Burt Jacobson | Complete Ceremony

This Jewish divorce procedure is based on the traditional ritual known as the get. At present, it would not be recognized its having halakhic (that is, legal, according to Jewish law) power by congregations or communities that live by halakhic norms. Rather, it is meant to dissolve the marriage bond between two people in a spiritual and psychological sense.

The ceremony is to he carried out before a beit din, a "court" made up to a rabbi and two Jewish witnesses. These witnesses should be people who will be supportive of both members of the couple undergoing divorce.

The husband and the wife should both be present for this ritual, if this is at all possible. If this is not possible, then the getshould be delivered or mailed by certified mail to the partner who was not present at the proceeding. The rabbi should take the responsibility to see that this is done.

The rabbi should ask the husband and wife for their Hebrew names and those of their parents before the day of the ritual. These can be found on the ketubah, the marriage contract.

The central part of this ritual is based on the traditional get procedure. A number of the other elements in the ritual are based on a ceremony found in Ritual in a New Day Invitation, published by Abington Press, Nashville, 1976.

Together:

Everything has its appointed hour;
There is a time for all things under heaven:
A time for birth, a time for death,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill a time for heal,
a time to break down and a time to build,
a time to cry, a time to laugh,
a time to mourn, a time to dance,
a time to scatter and a time to gather,
a time to embrace, a time to refrain,
a time to seek a time to lose,
a time to keep, a time to throw away,
a time to tear, a time to sew,
a time for silence and a time for speech,
a time for love, a time for hate,
a time for war, a time for peace.1

Rabbi:

We have gathered here to solemnize the end of one time in ____s and ____s lives and the beginning of another. W are so made that we cannot live in isolation from other people, but neither can we live too closely joined with them. We are social beings, but also individual selves, arid it is the rhythm of union and separation that enables us to live our lives in relation and solitude.

_____years ago, the time was right for_____ and_____ to be joined in marriage. Then they needed. or their growth, the bond of marriage. Now the time has come when that bond is hampering both their growth as individuals and their common life. Therefore, they have decided to sever the ties of their marriage, and have asked us to witness that affirmation of their new lives, and to uphold them in their new undertakings.

(The rabbi first addresses the husband with the following questions. Then he addresses the wife with the same questions:)

_____, do you now relinquish your status as husband/wife of _____, freeing her/him from all claims upon and responsibilities to you, except those that you willingly give to all other human beings?

Husband/Wife:

I do.

Rabbi:

Do you forgive her/him any wrongs s/he has committed against you, and do you accept her/his forgiveness, thus freeing her/him from the burdens of guilt and sterile remorse?

Husband/Wife:

I do.

Rabbi:

Do you release him/her with your love and blessing, in gratitude for the part s/he played in your life, in knowledge that his/her part in you will never be forgotten of despised, and in faith that in separation as in union, you are both creations of God.

Husband/Wife:

I do.

Rabbi:

(to husband and wife together)

I give each of you these writing materials -- these pieces of paper, and these pens. (They take the materials.)

Husband and Wife Together:

(to the two witnesses)

Will you act as witnesses to this divorce procedure?

Witnesses:

Yes, we will.

(Now, in silence, the husband and wife each write out the following document:)

"On the ______ day of the week, the ______ day of the month of ______, in the year ______ from the creation of the world, as we reckon time herein ______ (which is equivalent to the secular date of ______), I ______ son/daughter of ______ and ______ (Hebrew names), also known as ______ (English name), do willingly consent to release and to set free you, my wife/husband ______, son/daughter of ______ and ______, also known as _______, who has been my wife/husband from before.

You are now free of all ties to me, and if you so choose, you may marry whomever you wish. This is a bill of divorcement, in accordance with the traditions of Moses, Miriam, and the Jewish people."

Husband/Wife
___________________________

Witness
___________________________

Witness
___________________________

Rabbi
___________________________

(After the documents have been written, the husband and the wife read their documents aloud, beginning with the wife. Then the documents are signed.)

Rabbi:

(to the wife)

Do you accept this document of your own free will?

Wife:

Yes, I do.

Rabbi:

If there is anyone who wishes to protest against this divorce procedure, let him or her do so now.

(The rabbi folds the wife's document into a small packet. Then he tells the husband to remove all jewelry from his hands, and to hold his hands together with open palms upward to receive the get. The rabbi gives the get to the wife, who, holding it in both hands drops it into the palms of the husband.)

Woman:

This is your get and with it you are divorced from this time forth so that you are free of the past and free to live your life in the future as on see fit.

(The husband receives he get, lifts up his hands, walks with it a short distance, and returns. Then he gives the getback to the rabbi. Now the rabbi cuts the four corners of the get.)

(The exact same procedure is followed with the husband's document.)

Rabbi:

Do you appoint me as your agent to deliver this get?

Husband/wife:

Yes. l do.

The rabbi will photocopy the get and deliver the original (or mail it by certified mail) to the partner who was not present.

Man and Woman Together:

Barukh attah Adonai
Eloheinu melekh ha-olam
matir assurim

B'rukhah at Yah
Makor ha-Chayim
matira assurim

Blessed are you,
our infinite power,
Majesty of the Universe,
who frees those who are bound.

Rabbi:

(to woman)

Do you have anything to give _______ as a token of your forgiveness and your release of him?

Woman:

Yes, his wedding ring, now dedicated to his freedom.

(She gives him the ring.)

(The above ring ritual is repeated with the man.)

She:

B'rukhah at Yah
Makor ha-Chayim
she-asatni bat chorin

He:

Barukh attah Adonai
Eloheinu melekh ha-olam
she-asani ben chorin

Blessed are You, our Infinite Power,
Majesty of the universe,
Who has given me my freedom.

Rabbi:

Ribbono shel olam, almighty and loving God, who has ordered that all seasons shall change, and that human lives shall proceed by change, we ask you blessing on ______ and ______, who have now severed their commitment to each other. Send them forth in peace. When they meet, sustain them in liberty. Keep them both aware that Your love flows upon them and through them both.

Rabbi:

(gives the Y'varekh'kha blessing in Hebrew)

May the Eternal bless you and care for you. May the Eternal shine upon you. May the Eternal lift you up and grant you both peace.

(There is a final minute of silence, and the ritual is concluded. The rabbi and the witnesses may embrace the man and the woman.)

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1. Ecclesiastes 3. Moffart translation