A Jewish Divorce Ritual for Our Time
Found In: Divorce
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.
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
_____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?
I give each of you these writing materials -- these pieces of paper, and these pens. (They take the materials.)
Husband and Wife Together:
Will you act as witnesses to this divorce procedure?
(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.
(After the documents have been written, the husband and the wife read their documents aloud, beginning with the wife. Then the documents are signed.)
Do you accept this document of your own free will?
(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.)
(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.)
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:
Eloheinu melekh ha-olam
B'rukhah at Yah
Blessed are you,
our infinite power,
Majesty of the Universe,
who frees those who are bound.
Do you have anything to give _______ as a token of your forgiveness and your release of him?
(She gives him the ring.)
(The above ring ritual is repeated with the man.)
she-asatni bat chorin
Eloheinu melekh ha-olam
she-asani ben chorin
Blessed are You, our Infinite Power,
Majesty of the universe,
Who has given me my freedom.
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.)