If you are Jewish and going through a divorce, in addition to any steps you take to obtain a civil divorce, it is critically important to also arrange for a Jewish divorce, or Get. The information below is designed to help you understand the need for a Jewish divorce and outlines the procedure followed at the Jewish court (Beth Din) in issuing the Get.
Divorce Under Jewish Law
The family unit is of primary importance in Jewish tradition, and Judaism greatly values the institution of marriage. Nevertheless, the Torah recognizes that for a variety of reasons, marriages sometimes do not work out and need to be ended.
The Torah states that in such an event, “he shall write for her a bill of divorce and place it in her hand.” (Deuteronomy 24:1) That bill of divorce is referred to as a Get.
Why the Get Is Important
In order to end a Jewish marriage, Jewish law (halacha) requires that the husband give and the wife receives it. Unless one of them is deceased, under Jewish law both husband and wife require a Get in order to remarry. In addition, without the Get, the woman’s offspring from any subsequent union may bear the stigma of illegitimacy (mamzerut). This stigma remains in place for future generations.
The word “Get” (also referred to as Gitten) is an ancient term for the twelve-line document (the numerical value of the Hebrew word “Get” equals 12) which marks the termination of a Jewish marriage. Each Get document has uniform language.
It bears the signature of two witnesses and attests to the termination of the state of marriage between the two individuals of the Jewish faith named in it.
The only changes in text deal with the individuals named in the Get document as well as the name of the locale where the Get is written. It is the custom of rabbinic courts to keep all Get documents on file and to issue a certificate, called a “Ptur,” to the parties who participated in the Get process. This confirms that they are divorced according to Jewish law.
Why is a Get necessary?
Although a marriage may have been nullified in a civil court, a Jewish divorce is still required. Where there is no Get, the parties are prohibited from remarrying according to Jewish law. Furthermore, the children born to a subsequent marriage of the wife will be deemed illegitimate according to Jewish law, thus hampering their ability to freely marry within the Jewish community.