Torah For Today: Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Torah For Today: Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce

  Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for an Orthodox response

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates
Bill Gates and Melinda Gates

According to reports, a divorce between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda has been brewing for several years. So what does the Torah say about divorce, and its financial implications? 

First, a note about marriage. In Judaism, it is not money that determines a marriage. Rather, the value of Kiddushin, the sanctification of the wedding ceremony, often tendered in the form of a ring, is a promissory act achieving the exclusivity of a trustful spousal relationship. Essentially, why a couple decide to divorce is their private matter. 

When a marriage is over, so ought to be all the elements of its financial interdependence. 

The Talmud calculates minimum amounts to sustain the financially weaker partner, which historically was usually the wife. 

The basic amount of money mentioned in a Ketubah and the Talmud for subsistence is not sufficient to pay the bills for any appreciable length of time in a modern economy. 

Therefore, the Ketubah offered by the Israeli Rabbinate typically carries the insertion of an extra sum to try to ensure that, on the point of divorce, neither spouse will be unduly disadvantaged. 

The extra sum of the “Ketubah” is factored into the settlement of assets between the couple, which is usually 50-50, and is also the usual practice of a “clean break” divorce in the UK. 

The Gates couple did not have a prenuptial agreement to refer to, although much of the work of future finances are said to have been agreed through
a “separation document”. 

To date, the exemplary work of the philanthropist couple through their foundation has sustained the impressive humility that has been a marking feature of this high-profile divorce. 

The Torah ideal is to empower divorcees to move on and, for all
the pain, it is hoped that, rich or not, this will be the case for Bill and Melinda Gates.

  •   Rabbi Ariel Abel is chaplain to HM Forces, Merseyside

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: