Jewish View on Divorce
By Aron Moss
What is the Jewish view of divorce? If souls are united under the Chuppah, can they then split apart?
When a couple gets married in a Jewish wedding ceremony, their souls become one. It is like a spiritual operation that takes separate beings and fuses them into a new whole. The Jewish divorce ceremony is the reverse of this. It is a spiritual amputation, severing one part of the united soul from the other, creating two separate beings.
Divorce, like an amputation, is a tragedy, but sometimes it's the right thing to do. Our attitude to divorce parallels our attitude to the amputation of a limb in several ways.
It is painful. When a limb becomes so diseased that it endangers the rest of the body, the patient is faced with a horrible choice: to face the pain of amputation, or risk worse suffering by leaving things as they are. If the future risks are high enough to clearly outweigh the present pain, the right thing to do is cut off the limb. Similarly, divorce is painful for all involved, but it is the right choice when remaining in an unhealthy relationship will only cause more suffering and heartache.
It is a last resort. We do everything possible to avoid having to amputate. If there is a remote chance that the limb can be salvaged, even with great effort and expense, it is worth a try. Only after exhausting all other possibilities would we resort to amputation. Same with divorce - it is only considered after counselling and sincere efforts to change prove fruitless.
It is not just a "Plan B". Amputation is not taken lightly. It is not seen as an option if things don't work out. No one would recklessly experiment on their body, saying ,"If anything happens to my limbs, I can always amputate." Similarly, we don't enter marriage saying, "If things don't work out we can always get a divorce." Divorce should not be a factor in the decision to get married. Marriage is forever. There is no Plan B.
Prevention is better than a cure. Amputees can live a happy and fulfilled life. They may be far better off after their operation than before. But if they could live life over again, they wouldn't choose to go down that path a second time. So too, divorce may sometimes lead to happiness, and true love and contentment may come after the dissolution of a relationship. But if we can reach that point without the pain of divorce, surely that would be preferable.
Often when a couple splits up, the question is not, "Why did they get divorced?", but rather, "Why did they ever get married in the first place?" People are getting divorced for the right reasons, and married for the wrong reasons. High divorce rates should not scare us away from getting married, but rather strengthen our resolve to take marriage seriously, and ensure that we are choosing our partners for the right reasons. What are the right reasons? That's another question...
from the May 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine