The Get (Jewish Divorce) Procedure/Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka

Posted on August 5, 2010


Anything that is sacred is sacred at both ends. A sacred day is sanctified at the outset via Kiddush (sanctification), and its sanctity is terminated via a separation (havdalah), a disjoining of the day from the ordinary. Sanctity does not evaporate on its own. Marriage too, as a sacred union, is sanctified at both ends; through Kiddushin and Nisuin (Sanctification and Uplifting) to bind the union, and a Get to dissolve the union.

In Israel, a divorce which is finalized in Rabbinical Court is recognized as binding, and accepted as divorce for all purposes. And, at the risk of Israel becoming a Las Vegas or Mexico, a couple who goes to Israel and resides there for the necessary length of time to establish residence by prescribed statute, and then is divorced via a Rabbinical Court in Israel, could then have that divorce accepted in other countries as the legally binding civil divorce.

The fact that the secular courts do not recognize the Rabbinical Court when it comes to divorce is unfortunate, since such recognition could alleviate the burden of the divorcing couple, and also significantly cut down the legal expenses that are incurred at the time of the dissolution of the marriage. Additionally, the prospect that a Rabbinical Court can dissolve the marriage in all its aspects would serve to increase the chances that the couple would divorce via Jewish law, rather than submit their claims and counterclaims to a civil court, whose parameters of judgment often run contrary to Jewish law.

There is a critical difference between the divorce procedure in a civil court, and the divorce procedure that unfolds in a Rabbinical Court. In a civil court, the couple who seeks a divorce is pronounced as divorced by the court. It is the court, through its power, which decrees that the husband and wife are no longer a marital unit. However, in a Bet Din, the supervising Rabbis are not the ones who pronounce husband and wife as divorced. The divorce action is effected through the wife accepting the bill of divorce, called Get, from her husband. The Rabbinical Court gives its imprimatur to the fact that the divorce has been carried out properly, and that it is therefore in effect. But they do not make a pronouncement by decree; they make a pronouncement about an act that has taken place between the two litigants, husband and wife.

This does not mean that the Rabbinical Court is a non-participant in the events that unfold. They are quite actively involved, but their active involvement is to assure and to ensure that the procedure of divorce takes place properly.

The divorce, or Get procedure, is relatively simple. It involves the husband instructing a scribe (sofer), in the presence of the presiding Bet Din (Rabbinical Court), to write a Bill of Divorce, a Get, on his behalf, for his wife. The scribe undertakes this charge of the husband, and writes the Get. The Bill of Divorce, the Get, is then given by the husband to his wife in the presence of the Rabbinical Tribunal of three individuals, and two witnesses to the actual transmission of the divorce from the husband to the wife.

This, essentially, is the divorce procedure. However, there are many attendant details that enter into the picture, and these should be explained.

Firstly, the scribe must write the divorce specifically for the husband who is making the request, and for his wife. This must be the scribe’s intention. If per chance there is another couple in the city who come for a divorce a few days later who by coincidence have identical names, this divorce cannot be used for them, if for whatever reason it had not yet been used. Each divorce is reserved exclusively for the couple for whom it had been written.

The Rabbinical Court, for its part, takes great pains to be one hundred percent sure about the exact names of the couple that is involved. The meticulousness with which this is approached is sometimes unnerving to the couple, but is essential to the divorce procedure.

The couple must be aware even beforehand, that any responsible Rabbinical Court takes the matter of divorce very seriously, and looks upon the Get, as well as the procedure of transmitting the Get, as sacred. It is sacred because it is via this Get that the mitzvah (commandment), the obligation to separate via a Get, is fulfilled.

When the couple has reached the stage wherein divorce is the only alternative, then it is a mitzvah to do so via a Get. Marriage is holy, and its holiness endures to the very last moment, inclusive.