Shabbat Ki Teytzey

Candles Friday Sept. 16th 6:42pm
Havdalah 17th 7:36pm

What happens when a marriage breaks down irretrievably? The Torah in this week’s reading and the Talmud both say that if there is a genuine grievance, and it is not just frivolous, then one may divorce. One appears before a Rabbinic Court of Law, a Beth Din. Terms have to be agreed for financial affairs and settlements and care of any children. Then the scribe writes out the wording of the divorce bill, called a Get. It is handed to the woman. She must agree to accept it. Then after waiting a short while, both parties may marry again. Problems may arise where a husband abandons the religion and refuses to grant a divorce, but that is an issue for some other time.

Here I am concerned with the very idea of divorce. In many Christian communities, divorce is never acceptable. You know the famous phrase that is still used occasionally in their ceremonies that couple promise to love each other “till death do us part.” Judaism does not take that view. There are few guarantees in life, and the reason given for allowing divorce is the famous phrase “Love Your Neighbor.” Which is followed by “Do not hate your brother (or sister) in your heart.” We must do whatever we can to avoid hatred and tension. They are debilitating. Where two people end up hating each other, we must strive to give them both an opportunity to live without debilitating negativity that can take the joy out of life.

Divorce is not something Judaism welcomes. A happy marriage is the greatest of gifts. But marriage is not easy. We believe that relationships need to be worked on. One has to persevere. And children need a loving, stable environment. But people change. People make mistakes. Life is rarely perfect, and most of us have to overcome one sort of disadvantage or another. But if one has genuinely tried, the Torah allows for a couple to split. As the book of Proverbs says, “Better to live on the edge of a roof in peace than in a magnificent house where there is argument and strife.”