The Jewish Divorce

The ins and outs of the "get"

Unlike in many religions where it is forbidden, divorce is understood as a necessity in Judaism and is actually found among the 613 mitzvot (commandments). 

In Judaism the entire process of divorce begins with the "get," which is responsible for terminating a Jewish marriage, giving both spouses a chance to remarry according to Jewish law. 

When a man takes a wife and is intimate with her, and it happens that she does not find favor in his eyes because he discovers in her an unseemly matter, and he writes for her a document of severance, gives it into her hand, and sends her away from his house. She leaves his house and goes and marries another man. (Deuteronomy 24:1-2)

The get is both a document and a detailed process and, without it, a couple are bound together and the laws of adultery can become a problem. Although both Conservative and Orthodox Judaism require a get, Reform Judaism does not. Unfortunately, a secular divorce does not qualify as a get in Jewish law.

There are, unfortunately, instances in which a husband does not grant a divorce to his wife, which leaves the wife in a state of agunah, meaning she cannot remarry but the husband can.

The Document

The way a get is written is incredibly important. It must be written by a sofer, or scribe, under the careful eye of an rabbi who is well-versed in Jewish divorce.

The get comprises 12 lines of text written in Aramaic, the language of the Talmud. Interestingly, the reason for this is that the numerical value of the word "get" is 12. The document provides the location where the get is being given, the names of the spouses, and a brief declaration that the woman is free to remarry.


The get must be written specifically for the couple getting the divorce; it cannot be a printout or a get that was started for another couple and not finished. There are specifics as to who can witness the giving of the get and how the names of the spouses are written is also very important.

For example, the scribe must include all well-known names of the individuals getting the divorce, including nicknames.

If the specifics aren't followed, a couple could be considered to be still married. 

The Process

Once a couple agrees to go through with getting a get, they must meet with a bet din (rabbinical court), usually in the office of the officiating rabbi. 

After the scribe completes the custom get document, it s reviewed by two witnesses and then given to the man. He hands the get to the woman in the presence of two witnesses. No blessings are recited, and once the woman accepts the document the divorce is finalized.   

When the get is complete, the document remains in the files of the officiating rabbi and is torn so it cannot be used again. A certificate of proof of divorce is issued to both parties, usually after a civil divorce is complete. This is a modern-day security measure to make sure that a spouse does not end up bound to an ex. 

In rare cases, the process can be done via proxy if the procedure will cause emotional pain to either spouse or if geography creates a problem. The entire process usually takes about an hour. 

Text of a Traditional Get

Technically, a get can be written in any language. Traditionally, however, the text is composed in Aramaic. This is the English text of a traditional Jewish get:

On the __________ day of the week, the __________ day of the month of __________ in the year __________ after creation of the world, according to the calendaric calculations that we count here, in the city __________, which is situated on the__________ river, and situated near springs of water, I, __________ the son of __________, who today am present in the city __________, which is situated on the__________ river, and situated near springs of water, willingly consent, being under no duress, to release, discharge, and divorce you [to be] on your own, you, my wife __________, daughter of __________, who are today in the city of __________, which is situated on the__________ river, and situated near springs of water, who has hitherto been my wife. And now I do release, discharge, and divorce you [to be] on your own, so that you are permitted and have authority over yourself to go and marry any man you desire.

No person may object against you from this day onward, and you are permitted to every man. This shall be for you from me a bill of dismissal, a letter of release, and a document of absolution, in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.

_________ the son of _________ -- witness
_________ the son of _________ -- witness.