This week’s Torah portion talks about the laws of a sad, but real situation — divorce.
There are opinions from various rabbis in the Talmud relating to divorce.
Interestingly, because there is a perception from those not knowledgeable of Jewish law and tradition, believing divorce to be unlawful. The fact that it is brought up here in Parshat Ki Tetze and debated among rabbis in the Talmud makes it clear that it is totally lawful. Perhaps not cheerful, but absolutely lawful.
There is perception that divorce is a slim-to-none activity in Orthodox Judaism. Certainly, over the years it has been in the Orthodox communities. However, its frequency has increased.
I am going to share my feeling on why divorce has increased in Orthodox communities in the past 25 years or so. Before I do that, however, allow me to clear up a few things about divorce, Jewish style.
Divorce in Judaism requires a writ referred to as a get – a Yiddish term for writ. Marriage in Judaism is more than just a man and woman sharing a life with each other in love; it is a pact between the two. That pact is read and signed by each spouse and two witnesses at a Jewish wedding and referred to as a Ketubah.
So many questions and comments are involved with the actual laws involving marriage and divorce, so much so that each one has a full part of talmudic law named after it. There is a Gemorah “Kedushin” – discussing all the laws of marriage – and a Gemorah “Gitten,” which discusses all the laws of divorce.
One thing is for sure: Despite what the law may be, two people unhappy in a marriage should do all they can to work it out, but if that’s impossible they should not continue it.
Over the past 25 years, there has been an increase in divorce. The Orthodox community encourages matchmaking as opposed to conventional dating. Matchmaking at one time was very successful, perhaps because it used to be done with true motivation of getting the correct fit between a man and woman for marriage.
In recent years, shadchanim, Yiddish for matchmakers, have turned their practice into a business. There is certainly nothing wrong with making a little extra coin, but it appears that many of these matchmakers are concerning themselves more with the business aspect than what is the true motivation.
I’ll never forget the time I attempted to make a match for a friend of mine. He could not afford to pay the matchmaker. The matchmaker said to him, “It appears you don’t have a strong background in learning Torah, therefore the only woman I could set you up with would be not very thin, not very attractive.” I remember wishing I could set this matchmaker up by sending the same person back a few weeks later with a great deal more money and seeing what the matchmaker would do then.
It’s not about physical beauty, nor is it about people’s status. The truth is, while it will continue in the Orthodox communities, and for others as well, matchmaking is a very questionable way of meeting for marriage. Why? There comes with it a stigma of worrying more about the actual date, as opposed to finding someone that connects.
Also, leaving the judgment of something so important in the ideas of people who are concerned more with making a living off of you than connecting you to your correct mate is a very scary concept. It also makes you wonder if that has contributed to the higher rate of divorce among a group of people who in the past rarely considered such an action.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)