Daily Archives: September 1, 2009

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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I found the mouse

Remember when I was flipping out that we had a mouse, way back when? I was cleaning in the boys’ room today and swept under the radiator. The mousetrap came out with what looked like a ball of fluff attached to it. It was the mouse. Dead. Very dead. Tiny little legs stuck in the air. Pathetic really. And I was scared of that? Sad, very sad.

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Divorce Research Project

I had a very interesting morning yesterday. A while back I was contacted by a friend of a friend who was participating in a research team and had wondered whether or not I could give them the benefit of my experience. This team was researching the Migration of Minority Religious Law to Western Secular Courts as it pertains to Jewish and Muslim Women who are Negotiating Divorce in Canada.

I have experience with both the religious and secular divorce here in Canada, and I am always interested in furthering knowledge and understanding about how it all works.

I had to sign a paper, which basically covers my identity not being disclosed in any research papers that emanate from the results of the study. Not that it bothers me if it was – I didn’t say anything that I am embarrassed of or give away any state secrets.

So the interview was yesterday. It lasted two hours. My answers were recorded, the tape will be transcribed, one copy of the transcription will be kept, the tape destroyed. I was conscious the whole way through that I was not just talking about my story, but that I was representing my people. That isn’t an easy feat, as I saw the Get procedure as very misogynistic BUT I didn’t want the researcher thinking that Judaism itself is a misogynistic religion. It was fine line to toe.

I was asked about the role that religion played in my life, pre-marriage and during it, and then post-separation. I talked about my first wedding ceremony and the feelings, thoughts and emotions that went through my mind at the time. (It was over 15 years ago, hard to remember everything). Because I recently remarried, it was very interesting to me, perhaps to the researcher too,  to compare and contrast the two wedding ceremonies that I had and the way I felt at both. How having been through one marriage and divorce changed my perception of what marriage is and should be.

I was asked my opinions about whether there should be civil legislation compelling a Get to be granted in cases where a civil divorce has already been granted but there is a recalcitrant spouse preventing the Get from being finalized. This is a subject I have thought long and hard about so I was able to give a considered opinion.

I spoke for almost two hours on many aspects of my feelings surrounding the divorce, the Get process, the civil divorce procedure – I don’t know how much it will help the researchers with their study, but I feel like I have done something to help.

Any articles that come out of this study will be forwarded to me. I shall be very interested to see the conclusions that are drawn.

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