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Rules of the Get Document

Rules of the Get Document

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The get is a document which states the husband's intent to "release, discharge, and divorce" his wife. In it he declares to her that "no person may object against you from this day onward, and you are permitted to every man."1 The following are the basic rules of the get document:

  • The get is written on paper by an expert scribe, using permanent ink and quill. The calligraphy lettering required does not allow for the use of a pen. Before writing the get, the scribe uses a sharp tool to etch twelve horizontal lines on the paper, which will guide him when he writes the get. Beneath the twelve lines he etches two small lines, where the witnesses will attach their signatures. He also etches margin lines on the two sides of the paper. The writing on the get is justified, every line starting and ending at these predetermined margins.

  • The husband verbally appoints the scribe to be his proxy before he starts penning the documentThe scribe must be a Jewish adult, and may not be related to the husband or wife.2 The verse stipulates that "he -- the husband -- writes for her a document of severance."3 Since most men are not proficient in the many intricacies involved in writing a get, it is written by a scribe who acts as the husband's agent. The husband verbally appoints the scribe to be his proxy before he starts penning the document. Furthermore, the supplies used to write the get must also belong to the husband. So before writing the get, the scribe transfers ownership of the paper, quill and inkwell to the husband. The husband lifts up these materials, thus completing a legal transaction of transference, and then hands them to the scribe.

  • One of the most important rules governing the writing of the get is the requirement that it be written specifically for the husband and wife who will be using it. This precludes the use of form documents.

  • Although technically the get can be written in any language -- provided it contains the key words and phrases mandated by Jewish law -- the universally accepted Jewish custom is to write it in Aramaic.

  • Since the scribe is merely the husband's agent, the entire document is written in first person: "I, John Doe, desired of my free will to divorce..."

  • Each letter and every word of the get is meticulously written. Care is taken that no letter should be smudged or unclear, and no two letters should be touching each other.

  • It is also an age-old tradition for the body of the get to be written in twelve lines. The witnesses sign on the lines beneath the text. Several reasons are given for this ancient custom. Among them: The numerical value of the Hebrew word "get" is twelve. Also, the twelve lines signify the woman's freedom to now marry any member of any of the twelve tribes.4

  • By rabbinic injunction, the document includes the date of the divorce. This is necessary in the event that verification of the date when the marriage was terminated becomes necessary.5

  • The names of both spouses are included in the get. Just to be absolutely clear about the identities of the parties, any nicknames by which the husband or wife are known are also included in the document.

  • Any nicknames by which the husband or wife are known are also included in the documentThe rabbis also instituted the inclusion of the location of the divorce in the get. Considering that many people carry the same names, writing the location is an additional means of positively identifying the husband and wife mentioned in the document: There may be many with the name of Joseph the son of Simon -- but in this particular city, chances are that there is only one. Also, in the event that the authenticity of the document is disputed, it may be necessary to locate the witnesses who signed the document and witnessed the divorce, who can verify the legitimacy of the document. Writing the location in the document will facilitate the locating of the witnesses.
    As an additional precaution, the document includes the names of nearby rivers and springs -- in the unlikely event that there is another city with the same name.

  • A divorce is only effected when witnessed by two witnesses. Technically, these witnesses only have to witness the actual giving of the get; however, the rabbis instituted that they also sign the document. This, too, is a precaution, taking in consideration the possibility that the document will be contested. In such an event, the signatures on the get can be verified, and the document would then be validated.

Footnotes
1.
Click here for the text of the get along with an English translation.
2.
This is a precaution taken in the event that the scribe will be summoned to testify regarding the validity of the get document -- and a relative's testimony is inadmissible in a Jewish court.
4.
Although a divorcee is precluded from marrying a Kohen, she may marry any other member of the root tribe of Levi.
5.
Such verification might be necessary for two reasons: 1) Allegations of marital infidelity; a punishable offense. 2) Until the termination of the marriage, the husband is considered the guardian, trustee, and beneficiary of his wife's property -- unless expressly stipulated otherwise. Establishing the exact date of divorce could be vital in the event that the wife alleges that the husband continued to benefit from her properties while he was no longer entitled to do so.
Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Naftali Silberberg (author) January 25, 2011

3rd Marriage See Tying the Knot for the Second Time. The rules and customs for second marriages apply to 3rd marriages too. Reply

Anonymous Pittsburgh, PA, USA January 24, 2011

How about a third marriage? What are the rules for marrying fr the 3d time late in life? Reply

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