Every religion holds the institution of marriage in high regard. However, some unavoidable issues, such as divorce and death, may lead to a union’s dissolution. Death, for instance, will immediately end a marriage since the surviving partner will remain single. On the other hand, civil or religious divorce is mostly a mutual agreement to terminate the marriage.
So, can a Jewish person remarry? As much as the Jewish believe in the institution of marriage, they still accept disagreement and separation as part of a couple’s married life. This belief in marriage is among the reasons why religion also allows remarriage. They believe in a person’s well-being; hence, if remarriage is necessary for one’s happiness, then he/ she can remarry. However, the main concern is that the divorcees should amicably solve any divorce issues, such as joint property sharing and children’s custody.
We highlight the Jewish view on marriage, the process of divorce, and the emerging concerns surrounding an annulment. We also expound on why a couple would opt for divorce and address the aftermath of the process. So, what is the Jewish stand in divorce matters? Can a divorcee remarry? Read on as we go deeper into the world of Jewish marriage termination.
Can You Divorce in Judaism?
The Jewish view marriage as a contract that not only brings a couple together but is also necessary for subsequent children to grow in a stable home. But just like most religions, Judaism also recognizes the unavoidable situation of divorce, and in some cases, the faith and the law can encourage it. The same way the two unite in matrimony is the same way that they can separate.
Jewish View on Divorce
Traditionally, some Jewish leaders condemned divorce and considered it a religious violation. They based their argument on the scripture’s view that marriage is a covenant; hence, breaking it is an unholy act. They also firmly believed that God frowned upon marriage termination and that it was a lifelong commitment. Another group also argues that the scripture allows divorce and remarriage. As the book of Deuteronomy states; if a man no longer favors his wife, he writes her a document that will enable her to go and remarry.
Even with conflicting views on divorce and remarriage, Judaism generally agrees to the amicable solving of spouses’ issues, divorce being one of them. The main concern in this matter is that both parties should mutually agree to it and should be of sound mind during the entire process (none should coerce the other to agree to the divorce)
The Divorce Process
In Hebrew, the document that makes the divorce official is the “get.” The same way they officially legalized the union, only the signing of another contract can nullify it. The first step in the dissolution is the legal/ civil divorce, and once the couple solves their personal and financial issues, the Jewish court (Bet Din) dully grants the get.
This document is well dated and provided by the husband, where he officially declares his intention to terminate the union. Since one person writes it to another in specific, it makes each ‘get’ unique. Both parties then use this unique transcription during the entire process. Conventionally, the couple would write the document in twelve lines (in Amharic), and the couples’ signature lies under the last line. However, in the contemporary world, the husband can write the ‘get’ in any language though he must include some particular words from Jewish law.
From start to finish, the divorce may take up to an hour. During this time, the parties answer some questions to ascertain that they are present of their free will then provide identification. This process may be quite costly but varies on a case basis.
Generally, Jewish divorce is rather complicated and requires the presence of some experts in such matters. For a successful annulment, both parties/representatives appear before the bet din accompanied by two witnesses to verify that the ‘get’ is well signed. After the signing, the council then hands the couple a new document to confirm their official status.
Once the civil and religious procedures are complete, the couple considers the union terminated. This notion is the standing of most Israeli and Non-Reform rabbis, who only grant remarriage if both parties have a get. However, it varies among the different religions, such as the Reformists, who consider civil divorce as sufficient grounds for remarriage.
When Is Divorce a Last Resort?
A couples’ married life encounters many trials, some avoidable, while others are forces of nature, such as death. Judaism strongly encourages believers to sort their marital problems amicably before considering divorce, especially when they have children together. If the couple agrees that the last resort to solving their issues is divorce, they can go ahead with the separation. The following are some grounds for a Jewish divorce.
If a spouse has stepped out of marriage to be with another person and have extramarital sexual relations, the other partner can file for a divorce.
- Domestic Violence
Judaism may support the dissolution of such a marriage where one spouse is violent, or both of them are violent with each other. Most people may also argue that such a union can directly or indirectly affect the children; hence; violence is sufficient for separation.
- Constant Disputes
In case both parties are in constant fights and cannot amicably solve their issues even with intervention from family, friends, and religious leaders, they may get divorced.
Another reason for divorce for some couples is childlessness, especially after a long time (up to 10 years).
- No Intimacy
One significant aspect of a marriage is intimacy; hence, if one party no longer wants to get intimate with the other, they may divorce.
Some of these issues are avoidable; the couple can set aside their differences and find a way around their problem. However, if there is no option but to separate, the couple may go through the various channels and get an official divorce.
The Aftermath of Divorce
Whether the divorce is civil or religious, the aim is to help cut any couple’s ties. This process is more straightforward if there is no shared property or children; the more links the two have, the longer and more complex the process will be.
As much as the separation is mostly mutual, there may still be resentment or bitterness between a formerly married couple. Such feelings are unhealthy, especially if the two have children together. On the contrary, the two may still be affectionate with each other, which may tempt them to return to their previous intimacy. The best remedy to avoid such scenarios is to minimize or eliminate the contact between the divorcees. Some people even prefer moving further away from each other or remarrying.
Can You Remarry in Judaism?
It is common for a previously married person to consider remarriage since most individuals find it lonely to live alone, especially if they were married for a long time. Similarly, in infidelity cases, two people involved in the affair may end up marrying. If the divorce was due to personal reasons, such as lack of intimacy or financial instability, the spouse might find another partner that fulfills these needs.
Judaism allows remarriage in two scenarios; if one partner dies or if the couple has mutually consented to a divorce. Death and divorce being different dynamics, the circumstances surrounding remarriage after these two events also vary.
Remarriage After Death
Since death is an inevitable natural phenomenon, most people battle with the idea of remarrying, some may go for years or even shelf the concept altogether to remain single for the rest of their lives. Many people would support the idea of a widow/ widower remarrying, given that death automatically ends the union.
There are no concerns about loyalty to the deceased in a social set up since the partner is no longer alive. Moreover, there are no issues such as property and child custody since the responsibility now solely lies on the surviving partner.
Remarriage After Divorce
Some people would argue that remarriage after a divorce is a sign of disloyalty. Others would also see it as a way to start a new life with a bad first experience. Either way, you look at it, remarriage after a divorce is a personal decision that one makes hoping to find happiness and a better life. The only concern is when a divorcee rushes to remarry without careful consideration of the consequences, pegging the question; does a second marriage always work?
There are more cases of divorces among second marriages than there are among first marriages. If the divorced spouses rush to remarry out of resentment for the other, their second marriages are likely to fail. Similarly, a rushed remarriage may end up the same way as the first one, especially if the divorcee does not strive to address the issues that caused the divorce in the first place.
However, if the divorcees find better partners, they can have successful and long-lasting marriages. Similarly, if the divorcee carefully thinks over the second marriage to correct the previous mistakes, they may be more successful than the previous ones.
Rules of Jewish Remarriage
While Judaism strongly supports remarriage, if one spouse dies, it considers remarriage after divorce a personal decision. The aim is to find fulfillment and happiness in whatever decision a believer makes. As long as the couple has obtained the civil and the religious divorce (get), any rabbi or celebrant can conduct a remarriage. However, most Reformists only require a civil divorce to perform remarriage.
The couple blindly follows their instincts for the first marriage, hoping that they have made the best decision. This marriage is all about love, passion, and prospects. However, for a second marriage, the divorcee is aware of all that marriage entails. Therefore, this second union is based on past experiences and failure from the first trial.
Judaism is keen on traditional ceremonies, and since the first and second marriages are different, the rituals will also change. Let’s have a look at some critical aspects of a Jewish remarriage.
- The Torah expects and supports remarriage, especially in the case where one of the partners dies. For divorce, the decision is optional.
- Given the complexities of the get, the Rabbinic law only grants the divorce and a go-ahead for remarriage if the law experts write and transmit it.
- In rare cases, the previously divorced couple may remarry each other, but under specific guidelines. First, if the man descends from a Kohen line (priestly family), he cannot marry or remarry a divorcee. Another exception to this rule is that if the divorced woman gets married, she cannot remarry the first husband even in divorce or the second husband’s death.
- Some aspects of Jewish law restrict the divorced couple from living close, such as in the same house or housing unit. It helps them reduce temptation that may lead them to intimacy instances when they are both out of marriage.
- During the second marriage, some aspects of the wedding will change. For instance, in the ketubah, instead of referring to the woman as a maiden (be’tulta da), she becomes armalta da if she’s a widow or a matarakhta da if she’s a divorcee.
- The couple shortens the Sheva Berakhot to one day instead of the usual seven days unless the wedding is the first for one of the parties, in which case, they can observe the seven days.
- The veiling and the yichud may not be necessary in this case since they are only symbolic of the first marriage.
- After death, where the departed husband had no children but has a living brother, the ceremony chalitzah has to occur.
- Unless a woman obtains an official ‘get’ from the former husband, the law may recognize the children as mamzer.
- There is no specific law that dictates how many times a divorcee can remarry.
The Emerging Issues of Jewish Divorce and Remarriage
Several matters arise before, during, and after a Jewish divorce. Some of these concerns include;
- What happens if one party does not consent to the idea?
- What becomes of the begotten children?
- If there is a shared property, what does the law state?
Unless they address these concerns, the ‘get’ process may be long and expensive.
It is solely the husband’s role to present the wife with the ‘get’, and the women don’t have much say in such matters. When the divorce is the wife’s idea, the problem arises if the husband does not consent to it. In such a case, this woman becomes an agunah (chained wife) since she cannot leave the marriage and cannot remarry.
In case she does remarry, the conceived children become mamzerim (converts) who will subsequently have to marry other converts. On the other hand, the husband can remarry without any consequences since biblically, polygamy is acceptable.
Divorce mostly affects children, especially if they are still toddlers. Judaism focuses on child welfare and emphasizes that one advantage of marriage is that the subsequent children will have a stable home with both parents. However, divorce and remarriage change the whole concept of family; it may tear the fabric. Since remarriage may be an unwelcome concept to the young children, the couple needs to address it before they proceed with the divorce.
The goal is for the children to lead a good life even after their parents separate. They also need to learn that adults make some sacrifices for the good of the entire family. Rushing into divorce without the children’s interest at heart may directly affect them in their social, religious, and moral life.
Finances and Property
Typically, spouses share assets and financial accounts. It is easier to inherit property if one partner dies by having a written will to hand over everything to the wife and children. However, there has to be an amicable way of dividing the property between the two during a divorce. These disputes are one major cause of bitter delayed divorces.
Another factor to consider is the funding and upkeep of the children. If they did not allocate any funds to go to the children’s education and well-being, they have to decide on child support, which may be another lengthy court procedure. The key to dealing with such scenarios is to hire an impartial financial expert or lawyer to help settle the disputes. Doing so ensures that property sharing is fair between the two parties.
The key to a happy remarried life is to correct the past mistakes and focus on changing what made the first marriage fail. Even if the religion does not dictate the maximum number of times that one can remarry, it is still advisable to aim for a long-lasting relationship. As long as an individual is happy with the divorce outcome, so will the rest of the family. Hence, the children can adjust faster to the new arrangement and accept the change.
Some formerly married couples amicably solve their issues and develop an efficient way to solve their separation. Doing so makes the process shorter and cheaper than dragging it along for months or years. Given that Judaism allows divorce, it is clear that it is one option for solving marital affairs. Since most divorces have sufficient grounds, the religion does not frown upon a couple that picks it as an option.