Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ask Chaviva Anything!: The Get

Here's a doozy of a question, around which this entire post will revolve,
Was getting a get difficult? 
I say doozy because it talks about the topic of divorce, which honestly is something I am so very much over I sort of wanted to ignore the question. It's not a painful topic, it's more like, meh. The truth is I don't think I ever talked about the literal process of getting a get, or Jewish divorce document. There are a lot of resources online that walk you through the process, but the actual experience itself was pretty painless for me. In fact, it had a sweet ending from the rabbi. But I'm a bit ahead of myself here.

I asked for a get on a Monday. By the following Wednesday, I had it. By and large, the giving of a get and the organization of the whole thing doesn't happen this fast; most people were surprised at how fast a beth din (rabbinical court of three men) was mustered up for us. I had a friend come with me, which turned out to be a huge blessing because a lot of Yiddish was tossed around and she helped me out when they were talking to each other over something about what to write in the get itself.

The truth is that the get is a very simple document, and it is very short. Although the origins of the term get seem to be clouded in rabbinic tales and historic assumptions (my favorite is that the Hebrew letters gimel and tet can't be used to form a word, so thus a couple whose marriage fails cannot come together to create anything), the biblical term comes from Deutoronomy 24 and is sefer keritut.

The requirements for the get itself -- we're talking what it's written on, who is writing it, how it's written, how carefully it's written -- are incredibly important. The validity of a get can be chucked out the window for the smallest thing. The most interesting thing about a get is that it can't be predated and has to be hand-written then and there. (For a full text of the get document, click here.)

So yes, you're sitting in the room with the beth din, your soon-to-be ex, and a sofer who is using as steady a hand as possible to make sure that he doesn't have to write and rewrite the document.

In my case, it was the beth din, the sofer, my ex, and my friend in a classroom at a Jewish school in New Jersey. It was a stale room with a big board-room style table and fairly comfortable chairs. I feel like the entire thing took about an hour, and most of the time was spent with me talking to my friend out of nervousness, listening to the rabbis discuss my name and where it came from (one had to pull out a sefer to explain something about it), watching the sofer carefully dip his quill into a dirty pot of overly used ink with such precision ... and then came the ritual.

It was a very odd, forced, choreographed bit that I don't know if I fully understand even now. The document is completed, the rabbis look it over, it's properly dated and signed by the present rabbis, and then? We were informed of the documents contents if I remember correctly, the most important aspect of which are the lines,
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 rabbi took the get and folded it up into small packet. My ex took the document and dropped it into my hands, which were cupped with my palms upward. I took the get and was directed to walk toward the door, as if I was leaving. I stopped and walked back, and the rabbi took the get from me. Corners were cut, and the document was put away until our civil divorce was complete -- only after that would we get our official copy of the certification of our Jewish, religious divorce. Nice insurance, right?

After the entire thing was said and done, one of the rabbis dismissed the sofer, the other rabbis, my ex-husband, and my friend who accompanied me and took me into his office. I was pleased because it gave me a chance to ask about hair covering (about which he gave me the blessing from Rav Feinstein that as a young woman without children to uncover), but there was something that meant a lot more to me.

"I want to speak with you briefly," he said.

I walked into his office, and he said,
"You know, if someone walked in here and told me a convert and a born Jew were getting divorced, I would have thought you were the born Jew.  
"The reason," he said, "is that you seemed so much more involved and interested in what was happening, you seem more knowledgeable."
Wow. I'm permitted to any man (well, not a kohein), and this rabbi clearly thought there was something special there for me, and in that moment, it meant so much to me.

So, in a nutshell, was getting a get difficult? No. It was a cakewalk. Would I wish the experience on anyone? Never in a million years.