Spiritual Divorce Ceremony

Found In: Divorce

By Rabbi Jonathan Perlman | Complete Ceremony

For every important moment in the lifetime of a Jew there is a ritual or blessing. We invoke blessings for new clothes, new fruits, seeing the ocean, seeing a rainbow, being in the presence of a scholar, on hearing good news or even bad news. God is present at every moment. It is for us to acknowledge God's presence, by reciting blessings and making rituals for marking significant events which contain power, transformation, and renewal. If there are occasions for which blessings and rituals do not yet exist in our tradition, then it is our responsibility to create them. The act of creating ritual elevates us spiritalIy, both as individuals and as a collective, and it brings the sacred into our lives.

A spiritual divorce is one in which we use our divorce to improve our lives and in which our experience of divorce becomes one of gain as well as loss. A spiritual divorce brings us back into the presence of our highest self and heals the split between our ego and our soul. In the presence of our highest self, we can reclaim our power, our joy, and the freedom to create a new life.

The breakdown of a relationship can be for a greater purpose. Instead of framing the marriage 'as failure,' a spiritual approach challenges us to see the contrary, that marriage 'is a success,' each and every time, because in its time, for as long as it lasted, it was what needed to occur. When we accept this truth and learn the lessons from the experience, we gain wisdom, strength, knowledge and compassion for ourselves and others.

Hadlakat Nerot

Jonathan:

This is the fire that burned inside me during the years of my marriage.

Participant:

Divorce is an earthquake in the night. It is a solar eclipse. An endless night.

Jonathan:

The light from this fire can transform death into rebirth, and despair into hope.

Participant:

The light in this flame will provide you with warmth, balance and comfort wherever you are. May this light replace the darkness of the past, and lead you to new understandings, mysteries and awe about life and the universe.

Jonathan:

The Talmud says that when a man divorces his wife, even the altar cries. Divorce is an end, but also a beginning.

Participant:

May the light of this candle illuminate your sight and insight. May this light always lead you to truth, inner peace, to love with respect and reciprocity, to love with affection, tenderness and laughter.

4 Questions

Why is this divorce ceremony different from the traditional divorce ceremony?

  1. The traditional divorce ceremony is only observed with the couple and a bet din, while this ceremony is observed in public among friends and community.
  2. The traditional divorce ceremony assumes that one partner is in the right and one is in the wrong, while this divorce ceremony does not assign blame or guilt.
  3. The traditional divorce ceremony is legalistic, based on halacha without agadda, while this ceremony is an attempt to bring emotion and spirituality into this life passage.
  4. The traditional divorce ceremony is based on a four thousand year old tradition, while this ceremony is something new, an outgrowth of the recognition of new spiritual voices in Judaism.

Selection from Divorce is a Mitzvah by Rabbi Perry Netter, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002

Selection from John Carmody, Psalms for Times of Trouble, Twenty Third Publications, 1995

Song: L'chi Lach, by Debbie Friedman

Selections from Men on Divorce, ed. Kaganoff and Spano Harcourt Brace and Co., 1997

"Release Her" by Yehuda Amichai

Symbolic Separation: Un-knotting the knots

Some 20 years ago D. and I tied the knots of our marriage.
In the ketubah we composed, we vowed to strive to embody core values in our shared lives. With these colored cords, I untie each braid and release the knots that bound me in my marriage to D.:

the knot of a shared household
the knot of extended family
the knot of Talmud Torah
the knot of pursuit of peace
the knot of respect for life
the knot of love of the Land of Israel

Giving thanks

I am thankful to D. for:

Forgiveness

I forgive D. for:

I ask her forgiveness for:

Blessings

I bless D. with the hope that:

Song: Mi Shebeirach-Debbie Friedman

Sheva Brachot for a Spiritual Divorce

  • Blessed are you, source of all life, who created everything exactly as it should be. Without accident. Without coincidence. Blessed is the life that continually evolves and transforms. Blessed are our lives, divinely designed to lead us on our path in Your image.
  • Blessed are you, source of all love and life, for creating the potential of "holy union" between men and women. This union becomes the opportunity and gift of a lifetime, in which we are given the freedom to choose the 'perfectly imperfect' partner, who in turn helps teach us the 'perfectly imperfect' lessons we need to learn about love, intimacy, and partnership.
  • Blessed are you, who dwells in sacred space, for lending me your divine guidance when I lost my own. Only when I let go of my defenses and let myself feel deep pain and disconnection did I begin to listen to my true inner self. Humility acted as a doorway through which the divine could walk into my life. Your guidance showed me how to believe in myself and how to have faith in the universe. Your guidance enabled divine wisdom to emerge from within.
  • Blessed are you, Adonai, who enabled me to surrender to the unhappiness and confusion of a marriage in crisis. Your faith and strength enabled me to face this crisis so that my life could begin to change. Blessed are you, compassionate healer, for bringing me light and clarity so that I could see truth and use it as a tool for personal growth and renewal.
  • Blessed are you, source of all life, for leading me toward wholeness, liberation and fearlessness from a place of disempowerment, paralysis and ignorance. Blessed are your strengths which enable me to take responsibility for my life and actions. Your power liberates me from old patterns and allows me to choose new interpretations of my life history. Your wisdom fills me with thanks and gratitude.
  • Blessed are you, all knowing God for the gift of forgiveness, which helps me to make peace with the past, so I can let it go and move forward. Forgiveness opens the door to compassion, for my self and for others. When I forgive myself and develop compassion for my self, I will develop it for my ex-mate. Forgiveness gives me the freedom to understand that I and those closest to me have done the best they can with what they have. Relationships and marriage can be our best teachers and direct us on a path toward wholeness.
  • Blessed are you, whose presence reigns in the universe, for the gift of healing, for innocence reborn, for a heart learning to contain and trust unconditional love, reciprocity and consciousness, and a renewed commitment to life and truth-seeking. Blessed are you, creator of all, who has commanded us to sanctify life.

Blessing over wine

At the wedding ceremony, the husband crushes a glass. Now I hold this glass erect, symbolic not of destruction but of renewal, renewal of my life and my new home. May my new life be blessed with friends and joy, learning and good deeds, with family and love for all who enter.

Shecheyanu blessing

Barukh attah Adonai...

Blessed are You, Creator of all, who has given us the gift of life, sustained us in life, and enabled us to reach the present moment.

Song: Tefillat HaDerekh,by Debbie Friedman

Sharing memories

At a shivah the comforters are encouraged to share memories of the deceased. At the divorce ceremony, the participants are asked to share memories of the home and life of the couple and what they will miss.

Blessing over bread

A beginning is small like a grain of wheat. Every day is a miracle. With patience, time water and light, each grain is nourished. Hidden in the folds of the protecting leaves, a kernel matures and becomes bread, the miracle of new life.

Hamotzi:

I thank God the creator who brings forth bread from the earth, for sustaining me during this year, for giving me the support of friends and family, for giving me the strength to move from darkness to light.

Ceremony to be concluded with meal of comfort