DIVORCE (Heb. גֵּרוּשִׁין), the formal dissolution of the marriage bond.
IN THE BIBLE
Divorce was accepted as an established custom in ancient Israel (cf. Lev. 21:7, 14; 22:13; Num. 30:10; Deut. 22:19, 29). In keeping with the other cultures of the Near East, a Hebrew in early biblical times could divorce his wife at will and send her from his home. This is reflected in the use of such terms as shalle'aḥ (e.g., Deut. 21:14; 24:1, 3), garesh (e.g., Lev. 21:7; Ezek. 44:22), and hoẓiʾ (Ezra 10:3; cf. Deut. 24:2) for divorce actions. It also accounts for the survival of the view down to the Christian era that "the woman goes out (yoẓe'ah) whether she pleases or not, but the husband sends her out (moẓiʾ) only if it so pleases him" (Yev. 14:1).
The biblical, like the Mesopotamian, law codes did not set down the law of divorce in all of its details. Instead, some of its provisions were stated in brief – almost in passing – within the context of a law restricting the right of a man to remarry his divorced wife (Deut. 24:1–4). Specifically, the husband was required to write her "a bill of divorce" (sefer keritut), hand it to her, and send her away from his house (Deut. 24:1; cf. Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8). The content of this document is unknown, though it has been conjectured that it contained the formula, "she is not my wife nor am I her husband" (Hos. 2:4). Z. Falk is probably right in assuming that biblical divorce remained essentially an oral declaration, witnessed by the writ. This accords with the actual Sumerian practice which required the husband to pronounce the formula "you are not my wife" and to pay his wife half a mina of silver before he dismissed her from his home. Moreover, as others have shown, the term keritut itself may be derived from the ancient Sumerian ceremony requiring the husband to cut the corner of his wife's garment to symbolize the severance of the marriage bond (cf. Ruth 3:9). In any event, biblical law was concerned with the finality of the divorce action and its attendant publicity, so that there might be no questions raised later with regard to the remarriage of the divorcée. Furthermore, the requirement that a bill of divorce be issued in writing and that the wife be formally sent out of her husband's house before the marriage was dissolved, kept him from acting rashly in a moment of anger. The prohibition of remarrying the same woman, if, in the interim, she had married another (Deut. 24:4; Jer. 3:1) acted, similarly,
GENERAL: J. Freid (ed.), Jews and Divorce (1968). IN THE BIBLE: Cowley, Aramaic, nos. 9, 15, 18; Pedersen, Israel, 1–2 (1926), 71, 232; L.M. Epstein, The Jewish Marriage Contract (1927), index; Epstein, Marriage, 41–42, 53; J. Patterson, in: JBL, 51 (1932), 161–70; C.H. Gordon, in: ZAW, 54 (1936), 277–80; I. Mendelsohn, in: BA, 11 (1948), 24–44; E. Neufeld, The Hittite Laws (1951), 146ff.; J.J. Rabinowitz, in: HTR, 46 (1953), 91–7; D.R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage (1953), 241–59; E.G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri (1953), nos. 2, 7, 14; A. van Selms, Marriage and Family Life in Ugaritic Literature (1954), 49ff.; R. Patai, Sex and Family in the Bible and the Middle East (1959), 112–21; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 34ff.; R. Yaron, Introduction to the Law of the Aramaic Papyri (1961), 44–65; J. Hemple, Das Ethos des Alten Testaments (1964), 70–71, 165ff.; B. Cohen, Jewish and Roman Law, 1 (1966), 377–408; Z. Falk, Jewish Matrimonial Law in the Middle Ages (1966), 113–43; B. Porten, Archives from Elephantine (1968), 35, 209ff., 223–4, 261–2; Pritchard, Texts (19693), 159–98, 222–3. IN JEWISH LAW: D.W. Amram, The Jewish Law of Divorce … (1896); L. Blau, Die juedische Ehescheidung und der juedische Scheidebrief… 2 vols. (1911–12); I.B. Zuri, Mishpat ha-Talmud, 2 (1921), 36–56; Gulak, Yesodei, 3 (1922), 24–30; B. Cohen, in: REJ, 92 (1932), 151–62; 93 (1934), 58–65; idem, in: PAAJR, 21 (1952), 3–34; republished in his: Jewish and Roman Law (1966), 377–408; addenda, ibid., 781–3; ET, 5 (1953), 567–758; 6 (1954), 321–426; 8 (1957), 24–26; Elon, Mafte'ah, 26–37; M. Silberg, Ha-Ma'amad ha-Ishi be-Yisrael (19654), 365–75; Berkovits, Tenai be-Nissu'in u-va-Get (1966); B. Schereschewsky, Dinei Mishpaḥah (19672), 271–342; M. Elon, Ḥakikah Datit… (1967), 165–7; idem, in: ILR, 3 (1968), 432f. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Drori, "Enforcement of Divorce in the State of Israel at the End of the 20th Century," at: www.sanhedrin.co.il; A. Be'eri, "Harḥakot Rabbeinu Tam: New Approaches to Pressuring a Husband to Divorce His Wife," in: Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri, 18–19 (2002–4), 65–106; "Individual versus Public Interest (Fear of Agginot as Opposed to an Extradition Order)," in: Teḥumin, 9 (1988), 63.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.