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The Jewish View of Divorce

The Jewish View of Divorce

Divorce is a tragedy, but sometimes it's the right thing to do


When a couple gets married in a Jewish wedding ceremony, their souls become one. It is like a spiritual operation that takes separate beings and fuses them into a new whole. The Jewish divorce ceremony is the reverse of this. It is a spiritual amputation, severing one part of the united soul from the other, creating two separate beings.

Divorce, like an amputation, is a tragedy, but sometimes it's the right thing to do. Our attitude to divorce parallels our attitude to the amputation of a limb in several ways:

Divorce, like an amputation, is a tragedy, but sometimes it's the right thing to do

It is painful. When a limb becomes so diseased that it endangers the rest of the body, the patient is faced with a horrible choice: to face the pain of amputation, or risk worse suffering by leaving things as they are. If the future risks are high enough to clearly outweigh the present pain, the right thing to do is cut off the limb. Similarly, divorce is painful for all involved, but it is the right choice when remaining in an unhealthy relationship will only cause more damage, suffering and heartache.

It is a last resort. We do everything possible to avoid needing to amputate. If there is a remote chance that the limb can be salvaged, even with great effort and expense, it is worth a try. Only after exhausting all other possibilities would we resort to amputation. Same with divorce--it is only considered after counselling and sincere efforts to change prove fruitless.

It is not just a "Plan B". Amputation is not taken lightly. It is not seen as an option if things don't work out. No one would recklessly experiment on their body, saying ,"If anything happens to my limbs, I can always amputate." Similarly, we don't enter marriage saying, "If things don't work out we can always get a divorce." Divorce should not be a factor in the decision to get married. Marriage is forever. There is no Plan B.

Prevention is better than a cure. Amputees can live a happy and fulfilled life. They may be far better off after their operation than before. But if they could live life over again, they wouldn't choose to go down that path a second time. So too, divorce may sometimes lead to happiness, and true love and contentment may come after the dissolution of a relationship. But if we can reach that point without the pain of divorce, surely that would be preferable.

Often when a couple splits up, the question is not, "Why did they get divorced?", but rather, "Why did they ever get married in the first place?" In many cases, people are getting divorced for the right reasons, and married for the wrong reasons. High divorce rates should not scare us away from getting married, but rather strengthen our resolve to take marriage seriously, and ensure that we are choosing our partners for the right reasons. What are the right reasons? That's another question...

Web art by Menachem Nagar
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Discussion (108)
February 4, 2015
I agree, getting married for the right reasons will prevent a divorce.
Tracie Wise
January 1, 2015
Exile, punishment, and death begins:
Exile, punishment, and death begins, when you don't correct, but do blame someone else. The Torah teaches us that there are no problems until the man blames his most precious and perfectly created gift from G-D! A woman blesses, each morning: "you created me as your will". When the man learns and lives the Torah, G-D nullifies all outside interferences. פרקי אבות ב' ד': כדי שיבטל רצון אחרים מפני רצונך. When the man does not do what he was created to do, she will let him know in G-D's given way.
Alexander A. Feldbaum
September 10, 2014
I agree that divorce is a difficult process - one that most people prefer to avoid. Especially when one is not the partner who wants the divorce. It is only now -realizing how negative our situation was - that I understand why a divorce is necessary. But more importantly - my divorce has allowed my child to know that it is a option when necessary. I am very grateful - divorce can save lives .
February 27, 2014
connecting selflessly as one
I believe that the secret to marriage is a positive acceptance of the roles one has to play in this divine institution,
If he has roving eyes-they should be centred on her and if she shouts she should shout lovingly at him .
There is a lot of work involved like any planned mission

My daughter recently got divorced after a marriage that did not last 2 years-he was constantly ordering her around and his plans were always the only plans,There was not much giving from his side-the midnight tearful calls came within a few weeks after they married and I knew it was already sliding away
She felt it could be saved and was all for counselling but his plan was to get out instead.
February 25, 2014
making a decision
Dear Anonymous, Unless your husband is abusive, try everything you can to save your marriage at least for the sake of the children.The Lubavich Rebbe advised to use divorce as a very last resort. There is an incredible teacher via online webinars, Sara Yoheved Rigler (Jewish-e-books), who has helped Jewish women save their marriages and improve their lives.
February 25, 2014
Yes,it does become easier after the get. Separation, and divorce does get easier, when one practices the art of self care. Self care involves good nutrition,journal writing, sleep schedule, exercise,awareness of breath, tapping into community, and nourishing the spirit. All of these practices vary from individual to individual, and they may not include all listed. These helped me from spiraling into the victim mentality.When in doubt, talk to G-d. Also, talk to the dog. It has been nearly 10 years since I became newly single. I had never lived alone. I went from home to college with roommates to marriage. I still practice self care, and when birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries come around, I practice self care even more so. It has been quite a life line, to move from victim to victor.
February 25, 2014
Making a decision....
I have 4 wonderful kids , all in young age but things are not good between my husband and I. I am just afraid to hurt my little ones other wise I won't think twice in divorce. I tried counseling but he is not taking it seriously. What should I do??
February 14, 2014
You Have Been Given A Second Chance
Dear Alice , thank you for your warm wishes . As they say; from your mouth to G- D's ears. Actually , I went to the Dr. yesterday ,& got a clean bill of health. What a gift ! In your message you stated your ex violated you. That in itself is not only hurtful , it was abusive , unhealthy , & illegal. I hope you can eventually see your divorce as a Blessing & are able to enjoy your precious gift of life.
February 7, 2014
non jewish
After 4 divorces (dreadful choices I made ) my attitude is "let him love you more" ....your heart won't be broken / he will try to please you more / and infidelity flies out by the window etc etc etc ....I had a great and fantastic image and view of marriage ( my parents were "till death do you part") which was broken to smithereens because of mostly infidelity ( it just was not in my book of marriage) ...they were very "decent" hardworking men with wondering eyes ... and you must share your most intimate parts and desires with such a person ? it's not acceptable ... the woman must always be the very loyal, good loving partner while the man throws his eyes around ... I'm now remarried again (5th) and on no uncertain misunderstandings .... faithfulness / loyalty / compassion / gentleness and of course to care and give me a sense of complete security ...which will be returned no doubt ... I have seen good women completely broken for life , spiritually and emotionally.. I'm more happy now
November 11, 2013
8 years after the divorce
I was married for 24 years, when I left. My "wasbund" had a head trauma which changed his personality. The short story is that I left for personal safety reasons, and the safety for my daughter. It was the hardest/best decision that I ever made for myself, and my daughter. In the 8 years that have passed, the best recovery tool that I have found was going through the workbook "Getting the Love You Want" by Dr Harville Hendricks, Ph.D. I realized my part of what went wrong, so that I don't repeat the same mistakes in the future. It also boosted my self esteem, and now, when I read the weekly parashah, I see the family dynamics in a rich, real life context. I think of my wasband almost every day, and the pain is much diminished, and I feel that I am moving on. I go to parties, have a good time, and am ok with the single life. It is so good to lie down in peace, and arise in peace.
Austin, TX
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