"A man takes a wife and possesses her. She fails to please him because he finds something obnoxious about her, and he writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house." This verse, Deuteronomy 24:1, provides the basis for divorce according to Jewish law or Halakhah. It means that there is no divorce other than by way of the husband delivering to the wife–and not vice versa–a bill of divorcement, or a get.
Although I consider myself a traditionalist in many ways, I have always taken issue with Judaism's lack of concern for women's equality with men in many aspects of Jewish law. As a Conservative Jew, I applaud the fact that this branch of Judaism has finally dealt with many issues concerning women's participation in the ritual, and particularly those issues concerning the ordination of female rabbis and cantors within the movement. One issue, however, that I take exception with is the inequity concerning the get, or Jewish divorce.
I have yet to meet a woman who felt comfortable with the divorce procedure as prescribed by Jewish law. I personally found the experience lonely and humiliating to me as a woman. I do not object to the various aspects of the procedure, such as the scribing of the document, its presentation, tearing of the edges of the document, and so forth, as these aspects all fall under the Halakhah. What I do object to is the lack of concern for the human soul, the lack of compassion which is so fundamental to our Jewish tradition.
I am, therefore, suggesting a small ceremony which could take place following the traditional ceremony for divorce.
It is important that your closest friends be present. In fact, it would be emotionally supportive to have a good friend accompany you to the actual presentation of the get.
Symbols for Ceremony
Saltwater – to symbolize the tears shed during this period of mourning.
Egg – traditionally associated with mourning, but also the symbol of life, birth, fertility, and regeneration. The egg is one of nature's strongest structures, yet it can be broken easily–as can humankind.
Half-filled goblet of wine – to ask ourselves: "Is life half empty or half filled?" The choice is ours.
The blessing over the wine is recited to reaffirm our faith in God, with the hope that we will find the strength to make the right decisions in our lives.
Hold the half-filled goblet of wine and say:
Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, borei p'ri ha-gafen.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who created the fruit of the vine.
In the presence of my dearest friends, I pray that I will find the ability to face the future with a new spirit. I am grateful for the good years that were shared with another human being, and for the children [if there are any] that were formed from this union. May I always remember that with my dear friends and family, and with You, my Maker, that I will never really be alone...and that one day, this goblet of wine will overflow.
Dip the egg into the salt water and eat it. By doing so, you are combining the symbol of tears (salt water) and the symbol of life and regeneration (egg). These are primal emotions associated with both despair and hope for the future.
A small festive meal with friends may follow.