Torah For Today: No fault divorce

Torah For Today: No fault divorce

Rabbi Ariel Abel looks at the Torah view on proposed changes to divorce laws

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

MP Richard Bacon has proposed a change to the law on fault-based divorce.  What is the Torah view on this?

The Torah clearly states that should a man find a “matter of nakedness” in his wife, he writes a bill of divorce setting her free of him, and she can then be free to go and marry someone else.

Does this mean that a married woman needs to behave adulterously to achieve a Get?

Rabbi Akiva’s view is that she need only “burn his dinner”, seen as a euphemism for withdrawal during sexual intercourse with one’s spouse.

Ultimately, such behaviour indicates that at least one partner is unhappy to be intimate with the other.

If this is what Rabbi Akiva meant, then the definition of rabbinic grounds for divorce extends beyond the question of who did what, to what the marriage looks like.

In Jewish law, the Talmud accepts the grounds of a husband’s repulsiveness (“Ma-ees Alay”) to his wife, a purely subjective judgment, as legitimate grounds for divorce.

Thus, once marriage is no longer workable between a couple, a Beth Din should process a divorce to remedy a situation which is now morally unacceptable – that two people who do not want to be together are forced to stay that way, without remedy.

Seeking blame for the marriage breakdown is usually damaging for the divorcing couple and if there are children, for their future.

In many if not most marriage breakdowns both sides carry a measure of “blame” of some kind, but the result is the same: the marriage needs to end.

For dignity’s sake, why not take the option of “irretrievable breakdown” as the only grounds for divorce? As a Rabbi, I support Richard Bacon.

Rabbi Ariel Abel is Padre to HM Armed Forces and Rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

read more: