Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Divorced - but still married

There's a lot of Jews out there who have divorced under the civil law, but not according to Jewish law - that is, with the husband writing out a gett (Jewish bill of divorce) for his wife.  Actually, he doesn't write it, the rabbi does, but he has to hand the document to her.  The original ketubah (marriage certificate) is then torn up, and the couple are formally divorced.  If this hasn't happened... then they are still married, both according to Jewish law and according to Heaven, and all the laws of a married couple are still applicable. 

Jews who divorce without a gett cause themselves a multitude of problems: not the least of which can be a rapid descent into poverty for them both or singly, or even severe illness. This is because they are still married under Heaven's eyes, and their living arrangements as "divorcees" are not in accordance with their halachically "married" status.  Every day they continue in this manner, they are bringing more and more judgments upon themselves.

The following is written by Rabbi J. Forsythe (c) 2002

When a Jewish married couple decides that they are no longer able to live together as husband and wife, Jewish law requires that they separate from each other promptly and, in a reasonable period of time, terminate the marriage with a document of divorce, called in Hebrew, a "get." This applies whenever a Jewish man and Jewish woman have entered into marriage with each other.

Some people do not realize that their marriage remains fully intact as long as there is no get. A get is mandatory and inescapable to end a Jewish marriage. The Torah makes very clear that once a Jewish marriage has been created, only a kosher get, executed by a kosher bais din [Torah court], can undo it. The Torah refers to the get as the husband giving a "document of cutting off." The choice of words teaches 1. that the marriage is not at all terminated until this document is given by the man to the woman as the conclusion of the divorce procedure and 2. by the Torah's not using the literal name of the document ["get"], we should strive to refrain from ending a marriage [i.e. avoid coming to a get, just as the Torah avoids saying the word "get"] and we should consider it painfully sad when a marriage has to die and divorce has to come.

This is something which is not affected at all by a person's religious affiliation, philosophy, observance-level or marital-strife level. A civil divorce or agreement to be unmarried is not enough. Without a kosher get, executed by an authorized bais din, there has been no removal at all of the marriage status.

If a woman is separated from her husband, or has a secularly legal divorce, she might MISTAKENLY consider herself free to have a relationship with a man other than the husband with whom she had a Jewish marriage. However, THIS WOMAN IS NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER WOMAN MARRIED UNDER JEWISH LAW and her involvement on any level with any other man is adulterous. She may not be alone with another man, may not have physical contact with him, may not be without her body covered thoroughly by modest clothing or without her hair covered when in his presence, and she certainly may NOT have any intimate relations. A child born from such a union is a "momzer" which is an uncorrectable taint and distortion (on the soul of the child born from this union), which will be continued and passed on in all offspring through all generations. A "momzer" may not marry a "regular Jew," and his or her descendants will never be able to marry a "regular Jew" till the end of time.

If you know someone whose religious commitment is not strong, or who is not religious; whose marriage is essentially over but the couple is without a get, it is crucial that you bring to bear any influence or assistance to have the couple execute a KOSHER GET FROM AN AUTHORIZED ORTHODOX BAIS DIN WHICH IS UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED BY TORAH LAW AUTHORITIES. Generations are at stake - not just the couple. A Jewish marriage is holy and is in "rumos shel olam (the heights of creation)." Its violation; no matter how antagonistic or alienated the relationship is; is serious and treasonous trampling on the sacrosanct, is punished by premature death and is, in many ways, "playing with fire."

This is just a small extract; the entire article can be found here: Shalom Bayis Issues

No comments: