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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 (113)
June 29, 2015
Our Children
While I am uncomfortable with this analogy ; I do think that divorce may well be a life saver for all involved. My comment is to Dana. Our sons need just as much unconditional love as our daughters. They also must know that they have options as well. They may be too ashamed or humiliated to get a divorce. They need our encouragement & unconditional love just as much. Everyone makes mistakes. Even divorce may be handled in a civilized loving respectful manner.
June 29, 2015
Right on, Alex.
June 27, 2015
Legal Aspects Of Not Obtaining A Get.
If a Jewish couple fails to get a get and obtains a legal divorce through the court, is there any claim to property by either person, under their Jewish marriage, upon the death of a spouse? In this case, both husband and wife have gotten remarried and one of them has changed their religion.
Please comment and advise. Many Thanks.
April 15, 2015
I agree with this article regarding divorce. Divorce is a solution of last resort. The problem is in defining 'last resort.' How much should we suffer/sacrifice before ending God's most sacred covenant? In today's selfish, narcissistic and materialistic society, many partners cut and run at the first sight of any kind of requirement to suffer for the sake of the other; whether that 'other' is their partner or children. And sadly, children are always the big losers in divorces, where the lusts, passions and idols of the parents come first.
Rio Hondo
April 5, 2015
Very good parallel. As someone who has been on the verge of divorce several times, I know the feelings of pain and loneliness it can cause. Like being incomplete. Fortunately, the divorce never occurred ... and the marriage only ended when my husband died.
New Orleans, LA.
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.
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