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Question

I am planning to re-marry in a few months. Both myself and my fiancee are Jewish and had Jewish spouses. We would like to follow Jewish law by obtaining "Gets". How do we go about doing this? My fiancee's ex-husband moved to Israel several years ago and we have been unable to locate him. Your response is greatly appreciated.

Answer

Let's take one step back and ask: What is the Jewish understanding of marriage?

The Torah says that through marriage, a man and woman "become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)

One flesh means that the commitment of marriage is like the commitment one has to his hand. What is my commitment to my hand? I "am" my hand! I wouldn't reconsider my commitment to my hand if it were broken, ugly, scarred, or if I met someone with nicer hands. I'd reconsider my commitment to my hand only if I had
gangrene and it were killing me.

The commitment of marriage is until it's killing you.

There are times when marriages fall into destructive cycles of abuse, and in these situations, divorce is appropriate. But this isn't why most people get divorced. They usually just get tired of each other. The excitement goes out of the relationship, or their sex life isn't what it used to be, or "we don't laugh like
we used to." If someone told you they were amputating their hand because "the fun has gone out of it," you'd know they were crazy.

The Talmud says that the "Temple altar weeps" when a divorce occurs.

On the other hand, divorce is one of the 613 mitzvahs in the Torah. Which means that Judaism recognizes the need for divorce in the proper context.

So what is the procedure for a Jewish divorce?

Just as marriage is a metaphysical reality - i.e. two souls fusing together to create one complete soul - so too divorce is a metaphysical reality. When people get divorced, they must obtain a "Get." A Get is a religious document that separates the combined soul of the man and woman. Without a proper Get, even though the man and woman have physically separated, they are still bound together metaphysically - and considered as if fully
married. This is true to the extent that if the woman were to have relations with another man before receiving a Get, it would be considered as adultery.

A secular divorce does not count for a Get. A Get must be written in a very very specific way, and can be done so only by someone who is well-versed in Jewish law (i.e. not "just any rabbi"). For example, the Get must be written specifically for this couple, and a pre-printed document cannot be used. There are also specific formulas for the spelling of words and names. There are other factors as well, including the type of people who must
witness the giving of the Get. All these factors must be done properly, or else the couple is still considered as if fully married.

When getting divorced, a Get in not only the right thing to do, but it is the wise thing to do. It solves a lot of problems down the line. For example, someone who is divorced for many years and then wants to remarry, needs a Get. If they didn't take care of it the first time, they now have to track down the "ex," wherever he/she is, and ask for their cooperation in the process of a Get. Imagine the possible heartache and complications. There is a very powerful novel by Ruth Benjamin which deals with this issue called "Yesterday's Child" (CIS Publishers).

There is an excellent web site which provides information, contacts and resources for arranging a proper Jewish divorce. Go to http://kayama.org

With blessings from Jerusalem,

Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Aish.com

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