Divorce letter

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Postcard on the subject of divorce, Jewish Museum of Switzerland

The divorce letter (Hebrew גט Get ; also: Sefer keritut ) is in Judaism the document that the husband hands over to the wife with which he divorces . Religious basis is ( 5 Mos 24.1  EU ). In the Mishnah and Talmud , divorce and its formalities are dealt with in the treatise Gittin ( Gittin is the plural of Get ).

There is no civil marriage in Judaism . Family law in Israel falls under the exclusive competence of religious communities.

Formal requirements

The following formal requirements apply to the validity of the divorce and divorce letter:

  • The exhibition of the vagina letter must before one of three rabbis existing rabbinical done.
  • The issuance must be carried out by a clerk ( sofer ).
  • In addition, two witnesses should be present; in an emergency, members of the rabbinical court can also act as witnesses.
  • A finished form must not be used, but the get must be specially written.
  • The paper or parchment, the ink and the quill must be owned by the man.
  • The document must be written in square font , italics must not be used and no corrections must be made. The document must be exactly twelve lines long, the names of the witnesses appear on the 13th line.

In Ashkenazi Judaism, the consent of the woman has been necessary since the 10th century, whereby the woman expresses her consent by touching the divorce letter. The presence of the woman is not required for the exhibition. The get can also be delivered to her by a third party. If the woman accepts the get, then the divorce is final.

As a sign of its validity, the document is torn or cut and archived at the rabbinical court. The man and the woman each receive a document stating that they are divorced and that they can remarry.

Wife's request for divorce

Although the man can only initiate divorce, under certain conditions he can be sentenced by a rabbinical court to divorce his wife. These prerequisites exist if

  • the husband refuses to cohabit with his wife ,
  • he does not meet his maintenance obligation,
  • he cheats or abuses his wife or
  • suffers from a "repulsive disease".

However, the sanctions (such as expulsion from the community) that a rabbinical court can impose today are in some cases insufficient to force an unwilling husband to issue a divorce certificate. Hence, malicious refusal to divorce and blackmailing the wife and rabbinate by refusing divorce are an unsolved problem in the religious jurisprudence of Judaism today.

In Israel , the rabbinical courts have the following state leverage against a partner who is unwilling to divorce (usually men, but sometimes women):

  • Withdrawal of the passport
  • Limitation of access to your own bank account
  • Acceptance of the driver's license
  • Convict

But they cannot force a divorce there either. In 2012, however, a law was passed that forces the courts to set regular appointments and to impose new sanctions. Since very religious men who do not have any gainful employment, but not even conditional detention helps, stricter prison conditions were allowed in 2014:

  • no accommodation in the special department for religious people
  • no mehadrin kosher food
  • no private calls

In October 2013, the case of Brooklyn Rabbi Mendel Epstein , who ran his own team that kidnapped and intimidated men unwilling to divorce, became known.

In January 2017, Israel's highest court even confirmed the admissibility of the medieval punishments of ostracism and banishment . Such persons may not be invited, entertained or greeted. Business contacts with them are prohibited.

Barriers to divorce

Another problem arises when the man is missing or has disappeared. Here the unknown place of residence or the uncertain death is an obstacle to divorce, just like in German law, with the difference that the spouse cannot be declared dead after a period of about seven years has expired. Such an abandoned woman ( aguna ) cannot marry again according to Jewish religious law.

After all, the man may be alive but unable to state his will to divorce in his right mind. However, this is the requirement for a divorce. A famous historical dispute of the late 18th century, the Get von Kleve (1767 f.), Had to decide in precisely this situation. A man had given his wife a divorce certificate against her will, but there were doubts about his state of mind. The rabbinical courts of Western Europe fell apart over this decision.

To this day, the following applies: A mentally ill person ( Schoteh ) cannot have a get issued, so his wife cannot marry again. Another particular difficulty is that Halacha does not know any cure for mental illness (Gittin 70b: schoteh lo samei be-yadan , for example: “once insane, always insane”). Therefore, for example, the wife of a man diagnosed and successfully treated with schizophrenia cannot obtain religious divorce.


  • Ludwig Blau : The Jewish divorce and the Jewish divorce letter. A historical investigation (= annual report of the National Rabbinical School in Budapest. Vol. 34–35, ZDB -ID 305730-6 ). 2 volumes. sn, Budapest 1911-1912.

Web links

Wiktionary: Divorce letter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ansgar Marx: Family and Law in Judaism Braunschweig University of Applied Sciences , 2005
  2. Nicole Herbert: Current problems in marriage and divorce law in Israel's Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Jerusalem, July 2013
  3. ^ Ha-Aretz: Rabbinical court wants woman jailed for refusing to accept divorce, accessed on July 26, 2011
  4. ^ Israeli rabbinical courts now must track men who won't grant gets , Ha-Aretz on March 21, 2012
  5. Chief rabbi backs bill penalizing men jailed for refusing divorce , Ha-Aretz on February 13, 2014
  6. US rabbi accused of kidnapping divorce refusers to stand trial , Ha-Aretz on February 18, 2015
  7. Israel's High Court Invokes Medieval Punishment for Husbands Who Refuse Jewish ritual Divorce , Ha-Aretz on March 1, 2017