IRWIN H. HAUT
Divorce in Jewish Law
In the cycle of life, there are moments of extreme joy and of profound sadness, both of which come into play in connection with marriage and divorce. In this chapter we shall explore Jewish law as it relates to divorce-- including the equality of the spouses in initiating divorce proceedings, the particulars of the divorce process itself, modern dilemmas confronting the Jewish community in divorce law, and finally some possible solutions to those dilemmas.
Under Jewish law, a marriage validly entered into can be ended only by the death of one of the parties or by a document known as a get.1 The writing, transmission, and acceptance of the get are all governed by specific rules. Moreover, only the husband has the right to give the get to his wife; if he refuses to do so, his wife is unable to remarry. She is then called an agunah, or "anchored woman"--that is, one who cannot free herself from the marital bonds. Various approaches have been suggested for the resolution of this problem, including that of a legislative enactment, or takkanah, that would permit the wife to sue for divorce.2 And indeed, some ancient Semitic traditions, evidence of which is