My Get Experience

(Get – Jewish Writ of Divorce)

All this talk with the researcher about divorce yesterday made me want to write this piece. I have had it in mind to write it for a long time, and eventually it will be part of a much larger essay on the subject with input from other women. But for now, this is my story.

I guess I was fortunate in that I had no battle with my ex-husband over the Get. Seven and a half weeks after we separated we were called to the Beit Din to write the Get. For me it was way too soon. I wasn’t ready emotionally to say goodbye to my marriage. Did I think there was hope we could reconcile? No. But I wasn’t ready to face such a hard reality. I was still recovering from the shock of becoming a single mother practically overnight. Did we really have to make it official??

That day I called the school. Both my ex and I would be unreachable for the time that we were getting divorced and I was worried that if God Forbid something happened to the kids the school wouldn’t be able to find us. So I called the school to tell them where we would be. It was very prescient of me.

I remember even what I was wearing. It was a green long sleeved tee shirt and a long black skirt, black ballet flats. I had a sheitel on my head and I took time to do my make up that morning. Almost as if I was painting my face for battle.

My attorney was able to join me for a part of the proceedings but couldn’t stay. She was the only other female in the room for the short time that she was there. There were at least three Rabbis from the Beit Din and our Rabbi was there too. For both of us. Then there was the sofer, the scribe who would write the writ of divorce. And my ex. That’s at least 6 men. I am sure there were more in the room, it felt like I was in a minority. My ex and I didn’t look at each other for the whole procedure – interestingly enough, under the Chuppah we didn’t look at each other until we were actually married. Parallels. Sigh.

So we went into the conference room and we were asked to fill out a form with personal information, including names and nicknames, and the nicknames that our fathers were known by too. I have often wondered what the point of that was, but I think its extra insurance that the Get is written for two very specific people.

I was then asked to go wait in another small anteroom until I was called back in. From what I understand the Sofer was writing up the Get while I waited separately in a different room. The “husband” has to be there to make sure the sofer writes the Get on his behalf. Our sofer messed up the first Get, so he had to rewrite it. Every Get has to be written specifically for the divorcing couple. There is a special way it needs to be written too. It has to be a fresh sheet of parchment, the text has to fit a certain way. I never actually got to see what was written on it though. I was waiting alone for a while, then a girlfriend showed up to sit with me.

After what seemed like forever I was called back in. The Av Beit Din explained about the Get, that it was irreversible once it has been given and accepted. My ex was told that he had to throw the folded document into my hands, and I was told I had to catch it, put it under my arm and take a couple of steps to show that I accept it. I know the rabbi mentioned it was a sad occasion but I don’t remember much else, other than trying to hold back the tears and failing miserably.

I know it’s totally my own very subjective feelings here, but I felt so judged by all the men in the room. Being the only female, and being the one that was being divorced there, I felt that all eyes were on me as he threw the Get into my hands; those couple of steps that I took felt like the walk of shame, even though I had nothing to be ashamed of. The tears were rolling, my shoulders were shaking, my marriage was really over. He didn’t even catch my eye as he threw the Get at me. But he was suffering too. This can’t have been easy for him either. Look at me, I wanted to yell, look at what you are doing, at who you are doing this to. But I could tell he wanted to be out of there as much as I did. This was a necessary step, one we had both agreed to.

The issue I have with the Get is that no one asks at the Beit Din why you are getting divorced, who was at fault. It is immaterial. Whoever was at fault, or even if it was a mutual decision, the husband still divorces the wife. As if he has all the power. There is no opportunity for either of them to speak. He has to give it of his own free will and she has to accept it. It’s a two step process. There are women who have not accepted it – I wonder what happens then. I knew I had no choice. Deep down I knew there was no continued hope for us, so I had to accept it. That didn’t make it easy though.

I read in a few places that Batei Din are supposed to offer counseling or mediation before allowing a Get – I was never offered that. I doubt it would have helped. But you never know.

As soon as I had accepted the Get and walked the requisite steps the Get was taken from me, and get this, it was torn in half!! They do that so it can never be reused for someone else. No woman / man gets to keep their Get. It is held at the Beit Din. The divorced couple each get a certificate showing that they halachically obtained their religious divorce, in front of which rabbis, who were the witnesses etc. Here in Montreal they affix a passport photo of the divorced person. I am not sure this is done everywhere else.

I was told I was not allowed to get married for at least 3 months after. He wasn’t given the same instruction. Well, it’s not like he might have been pregnant. I remember thinking at the time that the idea of getting remarried so soon, in fact EVER, was just so out of the question. Marriage was something I was never going to do again. Famous last words. I hadn’t known the KoD was already out here waiting for me to be ready to do the marriage thing again.

As I prepared to leave the building after two hours getting divorced, it struck me that the wedding ceremony took 20 minutes, but the divorce took a lot longer. Interesting.

As I walked past the front desk, sobbing, with my friend’s arm around me, they called out my name. I turned, tried to dry my eyes, went to see what they needed. They told me the school had called. I went straight from freshly divorced wife to mommy mode. One of the princes had been hit in the eye with a baseball and the principal was rushing him to the hospital. We jumped into my friend’s car and hightailed it downtown to the hospital where my son was waiting.

In a way it was “perfect” timing. I needed distraction from my grief. I didn’t need a kid to get hurt, but if that was the way it was meant to be, so be it. The child was fine and we were all home safe and sound within hours. It just shook me how in the morning I knew I needed to call the school to let them know where I was. The mommy’s sixth sense I guess.

The one image that stands out for me from that whole day was cupping my hands to receive the Get. That is an image that will stay with me forever. My hands were close to being in a supplication position.  I just wish I hadn’t felt such male dominance in that room. I just wish there would have been some words to say, some other type of participation for me. I wish I would have felt the closure that the Get is supposed to bring. But it was way too early for that. Its an experience I will never forget. If God Forbid any friend of mine has to endure the same experience, I will volunteer to hold her hand through it all. No woman should go through that alone.

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13 Comments

  1. shorty says:

    H, thank you so much for sharing your story. You are such a strong incredible woman. Know that you are inspriring to me, and i know to others as well.

    I can understand this pain. I almost went thru a divorce myself. It would have been civil, which is kind of amusing, because rarely any divorces are civil. I felt like a total failure at the time. (somehow, we worked through it but it was touch and go for a long time)

    I can say, i had learned from that almost experience. I think you had too. Stronger? for me, i don’t know, i guess maybe just smarter, dare i say wiser?

    Be well

    Shorty

  2. I am sorry you had to go through that experience. I know you are willing to help other women through it, but isn’t the issue why should any woman have to endure such humiliation? Why should only women be terrorized by the threat of being an agunah her entire life? Did you ever wonder why you accepted this male dominated version of your personhood? Saying its the religion just isn’t enough.(It was the mantra of a dear friend, who should rest in peace) Our religion has been interpreted by men for almost 4 thousnd years. When do women get to have their say and the rights to their personhood?

  3. shorty says:

    Maybe we can flip this. Why do the men need to be “so many” in the room? Is it to really over shadow the women, or is it because there are higher expectations on her to be stronger in this situation. the men need a gang but a woman is perceived as strong enough to stand on her own. What would the room be like if the numbers were reversed? Would the man stand there all silent or would he get his feathers all ruffled? Would a man be able to stand alone? How often do we see a male criminal, standing alone in front of a jury, sobbing? Maybe this isn’t about trying to make a woman feel insecure, but this is the equivalent of the group of women going to the bathroom at the same time. Men can’t be judged by Hashem (either in prayer or at a Get proceeding) all on their own.

    as i said…blathering…

  4. Heide says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. It’s sad that there are so many monu
    ental moments in our lives as women when we are so alone.

  5. runawayexec says:

    Thanks for sharing. Someday the process of obtaining your Get will be a distant memory and you will have someone new in your life to love and be loved by . . .

    Today was just another step in the journey of your life. There will be many more.

    Thank God we are women of faith. In the end, it will sustain us.

  6. hadassahsabo says:

    runawayexec – i am remarried, its been 6 delightful months already! just wanted to let you know. :)

  7. ilanadavita says:

    May I ask how long ago this was?

  8. hadassahsabo says:

    June 2006

  9. Jax says:

    Hadassah,

    Thanks for sharing this, you’re an amazing woman, a true eshet chayil. For anyone seeking help in a get in the states (not sure how wide their int. reach is), I’d recommend contacting http://www.kayama.org- they helped my sis get through a very tough time, they walked her through everything and went with her to the Beit Din.

  10. ilanadavita says:

    Thanks for sharing what appears as a very painful experience. I am glad you got over it and found your KoD.

  11. Gave A Get says:

    If you’ve never been through it you can’t possibly understand. I was with my “religious ex” for 15 years and 3 children for whom I am thankful to Hashem.

    I brought a friend and my Dad, Religious-ex brought her sister, Toen and Borer.

    In that male dominated room, I was alone with my tears, facing the fact that my life was a lie for so many years.

    I’ve worked hard to erase the “drop” from my memory.

  12. [...] what’s the story today?  I read this post about a woman’s experience with getting a get, which prompted me to ask some rabbis whether [...]

  13. Batya says:

    Actually, the “no blame” aspect is good. It’s “too late” to hash out the story yet again. No doubt some couples would restart warring.
    And I’m pretty sure that each Beit Din has different customs. Too bad you didn’t go with a couple of close friends, so you’d feel more protected and less alone.
    But B”H you’ve made a good life since, and your boys seem to be strong and independent.

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