Get Document - Importance of

I am in the process of divorcing my husband, and my rabbi tells me that it is sufficient to go through the civil divorce proceedings. But other of my friends have also done the Jewish ”Get” document. Which is correct?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Although divorce is common in today’s social landscape – over half of all marriages will end in divorce – it is still a heartbreaking way to end a marriage.

Unlike some religions, however, which do not permit divorce, Judaism recognizes the necessity under certain circumstances. Indeed, following the proper procedure for divorce is one of the 613 mitzvahs in the Torah.

What is the method of a Jewish divorce?

Just as marriage is a metaphysical reality – two souls fusing together to create one complete soul – so too divorce is a metaphysical reality. For a Jewish couple to become divorced, the man must give the woman a document called a "Get," as prescribed in the Torah (Deut. 24:1-4). A Get terminates the Jewish marriage and certifies that the couple is now free to remarry according to Jewish law.

Aside from the legal considerations, a Get can provide a sense of emotional closure – just as the marriage began with a Jewish ceremony, it ends with one as well.

Without a proper Get, even though the man and woman have physically separated, they are still metaphysically bound together – and considered as if fully married. This is true to the extent that if a woman were to become “remarried” without having received a proper Get, the second marriage is null and void, and is considered adultery.

A secular divorce does not count for a Get.

When getting divorced, a Get is not only the right thing to do, it is the wise thing to do. Regardless of one's personal convictions or beliefs, it solves a lot of problems down the line – ensuring free social interaction within the Jewish community.

For example, someone who is divorced for many years and then wants to remarry, cannot do so without a Get. If it wasn’t take care of the first time, they would now have to track down the "ex," wherever s/he is, and ask for their cooperation in the process of a Get. Imagine the possible heartache and complications. Any responsible rabbi will refuse to officiate at a wedding unless both the man and woman show proof that any prior marriage was properly terminated according to Jewish law.

Furthermore, if the divorce is not performed properly, there is a danger to future generations: If a child is born to a mother who is still technically married to someone else, that child may be considered illegitimate (mamzer). Such a child may be barred from marrying into the broader Jewish community, possibly depriving them of the opportunity to marry the individual of their choice. A very powerful novel, Yesterday's Child (CIS Publishers), deals with this issue.

As such, attaining a proper Get is an important component of preserving Jewish unity.

More Questions

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try Note also that this is not a homework service!

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