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What Are the Grounds for Divorce?

The Talmudic Version of Romance

51 min

Class Summary:

Divorce is a fact of life, especially in today’s culture. But what are the grounds for divorce? When do you know it’s time to throw in the towel and just give up?

"It will be if she does not find favor in his eyes, for he found in her an unseemly [moral] matter, an ‘ervas davar,’ then he may write a divorce." (Deuteronomy 24:1.) But what does this mean practically? The Mishnah at the conclusion of Tractate Gittin quotes a three-way dispute between the school of Shammai, the school of Hillel, and Rabbi Akiva.

Bais Shammai—known for their strict opinion in most matters of Jewish law—say that divorce should only occur over a matter of immorality; only if the marriage has been betrayed by infidelity are there grounds for divorce. (Even then, the rabbis say, one must investigate the matter very carefully and not act impulsively.)

Bais Hillel—usually known for their leniency—say that divorce is permitted “even if she burns his dish.” Comes Rabbi Akiva—whose devotion and gratitude to his wife Rachel was legendary—and says that even if a man just finds a more beautiful woman, he may divorce his wife.

We can understand the first opinion. But the other two opinions seem incomprehensible. This might work for the Hollywood Code of Ethics, but not for the Sages of the school of Hillel!?

The commentators explain that they were referring to a woman who intentionally burns her husband’s food just to torture him. Ok, granted. But how can we justify Rabbi Akiva’s opinion? You are walking down the street and you see a better-looking woman, now you may go home and get divorced?

Please leave your comment below!

  • G

    Gabriel -11 years ago

    Divorce in the Talmud
    The rabbi is trying to be apologetic for the so called sages.

    How about seing what we are suposed to, that these rabbis , although were advance for their thinking in their time, they were stil mysogynistic compared to the equalities of men and women.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

    • C

      Chavi -3 years ago

      Lol.. How about 50 shades of Grey being the best selling book in America for the last decade... & the fastest selling paperback in Britain's history... 

      Judaism knows the eternal nature of pe. Men & women 👍 

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • MF

    mendi fei -11 years ago

    felisitaciones
    felicitaciones a moty 

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • G

    Gabriel -12 years ago

    Vision
    Thank you for this class.

    It provides an ideal an a role model that is hard to find.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • M

    mls -12 years ago

    how much more so...
    If the love that a sage had for his wife was so deep, if that's how Hashem felt towards us when we were pious and G-dfearing, how much more so does He appreciate every tiny effort we make to find Him in this world of double darkness and confusion. How precious it must be to Him when we do a mitzvah - against all odds. How much delight must He take in hearing our voice calling to Him through all the hundreds and thousands of sounds that fly through the air every moment, cutting through all the radio, television, internet, mobile phone transmissions - one small  voice that calls out and says "Hashem where are you?" "Tattie!"

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  • SC

    Shmueli C -12 years ago

    12 Years


    I came across these insights on learning for 12 years by Rabbi Akiva Gemorah in Kesuvos 62b-63a and other Talmidei Chachomim. You mentioned in shiur what Rabbi Akiva said about his wife that שלי ושלכם שלה הוא

    so I thought I would share this with you דרך אגב...



    LEARNING TORAH FOR TWELVE YEARS The Gemara records stories about Tana'im and Amora'im who left their homes to learn Torah for twelve years after their marriage. What is unique about twelve years that they all chose to go away to learn for specifically that amount of time?



    (a) The MAHARSHA explains that the Mishnah in Avos (5:21) states that a person is enjoined to get married at the age of eighteen, and the peak of his strength is at age thirty. Since a person learns best after he is married (Yevamos 62b), the best time to set aside for learning Torah are those years between eighteen and thirty.



    (b) The CHIDA (in Sefer Mar'is ha'Ayin) writes that there are (approximately) 613 weeks in twelve years. By going away for twelve years, one can spend one week learning each Mitzvah.



    (c) The BEN YEHOYADA adds that the twelve years of learning are comprised of six years learning the six Sedarim of Mishnah and Gemara with breadth (b'Ki'us), and then six years of delving deeply into the six Sedarim (b'Iyun).



    He points out that there is an allusion in a verse that success in learning comes after a person has learned for twelve years. The verse states, "For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall harvest your vineyard, and you will gather the produce" (Vayikra 25:3). "For six years you shall sow your field" -- just like sowing a field prepares the way for growing fruits, one must spend six years preparing the way for gaining understanding in the Torah by learning a large breadth of the Torah. "And for six years you shall harvest your vineyard" -- these are the six years of delving in depth and coming to Halachic conclusions in one's learning. After that, then "you will gather the produce." "The produce" refers to the Torah (Bava Basra 145b), for after twelve years of learning one will have made a true acquisition in his learning of Torah. 

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  • A

    Anonymous -12 years ago

    email?
    how can i send it to e-mail of friend?

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

    • A

      Anonymous -12 years ago

      Re: email?
      You copy the link of the video on top of the video page in the space where you type in email address and you email that link to your friend.

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • B

    [email protected] -12 years ago

    send this article
    thanks

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

    • A

      Anonymous -12 years ago

      Re: send this article
      Which article?

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • SC

    Sam C. -12 years ago

    Beauty
    Its interesting, but in the secular world they say:



    When a man says a woman is attractive, hes talking about her body!



    When a man says this woman is cute, hes talking about her face!



    And



    When a man says this women is beautiful, hes talking about her heart. 



    Internal beauty is a pervasive quality that  may reflect and surface to the fore.



    The word beauty is seldomly used in todays recreational dating arena. Its other words that have crept into the general lingo of mainstream encounters.



    Maybe if we reflect on our words more deeply, we would notice where in our mind and heart they originate from.

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  • SC

    Shmueli C -12 years ago

    The Yud and Hay in Marriage
    I flipped through a sefer once on maseches sotah and on the inyan of ish and isha discussed on 17a by Rabbi Akiva, the chachmei lublin asked what is it that really merits the shchinah to dwell amongst them.



    We know its the hey in isha and yud in ish and yud hey make up the word in az yashir of ozi vizimras yud hey and yamsuf is linked to the sophistication of marriage, but what is it that really merits the husband and wife for the divine presecence to dwell between them.



    So the Chachmei lublin answered that if we look in menachos 29b it says their that this world was created with a hey and the next world with a yud. This worlds domain and specialty lies by the isha, and the inyanim of ruchnius and limud hatorah belongs to the husband. So its actually the idea of husband respecting his wife in what shes is responsible for, olam haze, and her respecting him for what hes responsible to provide the family with ruchnius and limud hatorah.



    And support for this idea is further backed by the gemorah in bava metzia 59a as I had the merit to be in your shiur in yeshiva.

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  • JH

    john halstuk -13 years ago

    divorce
    How clever our sages. if only i studied more i would have understood why that ex wife of mine kept burning my food and not hers or her parents food, i would have divorced many years ago... that's my punishmnet for not learning hashem's laws.

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    • ZP

      zev pinsky -12 years ago

      Re: divorce
      great shiur i especially enjoy the green acres theme music before and after the lesson . thank you

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • TR

    ted Roberts -13 years ago

    definition of a midrash
    I find it interesting that you call these biblical stories a "midrash". To me a midrash doesn't have the authority of a quote or excerpt from the Humash. A clear differentiation should be made between the 2 in terms of authority as well as validity. Still, enjoyed your exegesis.

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  • S

    Sammy -13 years ago

    Poignant and Inspiring
    Support for this whole idea around Jacobs relationship is evident from the verse itself Genesis 29:18 " And Jacob loved Rachel" He then said I will toil 7 years for her.

    He didn't even know her and it describes him as loving her already.
    This demonstrates his feeling of a connection like a well..where he decided she's my prospective soulmate...and I Will work 7 years for her....

    Yosher koach !!!

    Baaruch teeeyhe!

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • RL

    Rivkah Lewin -13 years ago

    Well Truths
    A brilliant and insightful essay, thank you, Rabbi Jacobson. You answered the questions I have every year on Vayetzei. It is true that "Our labor is only to expose and enhance a preexisting bond and oneness." May I add more food for thought? Yaakov and Moshe both journeyed very far before stopping at the well (as did Eliezer, the shliach, though his journey was shortened for him). The girls came to draw water and provide water for others, be it for camels, sheep, or their family. Here is the feminine quality of giving. The woman is the giver--of water--and the man the receiver, unlike the usual description of man as giver and woman as receiver in Chassidus and Kabbalah. The man is thirsty and the woman provides the water he needs. He couldn't slake his thirst with all the money--or gold nose rings--in the world. He needed water, and she gave. He met her at a well. His ideal wife is a girl who comes to draw water.

    The well is the deep, mysterious source of the pure water, the fountainhead, and she takes the action and makes the effort (sometimes a great effort, necessitating repeated running or fending off cantankerous shepherds) to draw the water out of it. If it was just sustenance the men needed, the Torah could have made the three men meet their mates at meals, and the girls could have given them food. But no, they gave them water. We can't ignore the fact that water is Torah. And the great women who merited to be wives of Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Moshe met their holy soul mates when they came to draw water from the Source.

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  • RH

    ruth housman -13 years ago

    encounter at the well
    As you have written, there are many metaphoric connects that do involve wells. I like the hidden nature of this and the digging as you have described it.

    Of course wells are generally thought to be fresh water, bubbling up from springs in the earth and it's reminiscent of the Zohar, "a river runs through Eden".

    Spring in our parlance is a time of blooming, when buds are on the trees and we have an immensity of color, of fragrant beauty. A time of renewal, at winter's end. And so this too. To meet another, to join two streams in mutuality and love.

    Maybe too, the other meaning of well, as in Shakespeare: All's Well that Ends Well.

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  • D

    D -13 years ago

    how about the wife's perspective?
    I only wished, after watching the Ki Seitzei Shiur, that I had viewed it before I got married. The lessons were powerful, timely and helpful. It packed even more of a wallop for me because I am a man and most of the discussion revolved around the Man’s perspective, She being promiscuous, She burning his food,etc. especially based on our concept of “Hashem” being the Male partner and the Yidden being the Female.



    Can one similary discuss/learn these lessons from the female or women’s perspective i.e. He having the shortcomings and then Her reactions or her “grounds for Divorce”. I want to build my case for the Geulah Sholaima’s delay being a serious flaw in our Holy Marriage. I am not proposing divorce, just wanting to "flirt" with my husband, bringing a smile and getting my way!

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  • T

    TG -13 years ago

    great tool
    I think it is so cool and very needed when you take versus from the Torah that on the outside may seem hard to understand but upon deeper reflection realize the beauty and timeless messages behind them. IE this Shiur and Tazria Mezorah.. Jews from all back rounds and affiliations can gain from these insights in so many ways. There are so many observant and non observant jews who would think and act differently if they heard these messages. Also, its very empowering for women to hear these Shiruim which is also sooo important. I have posted this Shiur on my facebook page. I have worked this summer with groups from the Reform, Conservative, Modern orthodox Chasidish and Litvish communities and all of them will love the Shiur.. These Shiruim unify all Jews, make us better more compassionate and make us closer to Hashem while breaking down any pre- conceived thoughts about Torah ...
    Thank you- Hatzlucha- Good Shabbos

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    • A

      Anonymous -12 years ago

      Re: great tool


       Thank you so much for your very kind and inspiring message and comment. I am sure you will share the classes and the insights and lessons with all people under your influence, as today we live in a time when so many people are thirsty for the wisdom, depth and majesty of Torah.

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  • T

    Tamir -13 years ago

    amazing
    Just had to let you know this weeks Shiur "divorce" is absolutely amazing..
    Good Shabbos
    Tamir

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  • D

    Dovid -13 years ago

    I don't understand
    Beautiful lesson!!

    Wouldn't it make more sense to say that Hillel's approach is more profound than Rabbi Akivahs?

    Because, not looking at other spouses and/or finding people more beautiful is a fairly simple marriage.

    However, to live with the notion that even the FOOD (or anything else, for that matter) that your spouse prepares is the best in the world!!

    Please explain,

    Thanks,
    Dovid

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    • A

      Anonymous -12 years ago

      Re: I don't understand
      For the ordinary man, seeing his wife as the most beautiful woman is a deeper level than seeing his wife as the best ched in the world. The reason is that the former is far more intense and tempting.

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • JH

    John halstuk -13 years ago

    Divorce
    It simply resolved issues that were left as a puzzle in my relationship

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  • KT

    Kayo, Tokyo -13 years ago

    The Beauty
    Baruch HaShem

    I have not experienced beauty more than with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Sudakevich family of Beis Chabad Japan.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • M

    Michale -13 years ago

    So beautiful!
    This class is Class of Classes! I can't describe, find words how I like it! Thank you, Rabbi for te wonderful hour. I am waiting your Monday's class always.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • TG

    tzipi glick -13 years ago

    tonight's class
    Excellent. Yashar Koach!

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • J

    joe -13 years ago

    sounds great
    looking forward so much! thank you the entire team, and the Schottensteins for all of this tremendous work.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • A

    Admin -13 years ago

    Class Summary
    Divorce is a fact of life, especially in today’s culture. But what are the grounds for divorce? When do you know it’s time to throw in the towel and just give up?

    "It will be if she does not find favor in his eyes, for he found in her an unseemly [moral] matter, an ‘ervas davar,’ then he may write a divorce." (Deuteronomy 24:1.) But what does this mean practically? The Mishnah at the conclusion of Tractate Gittin quotes a three-way dispute between the school of Shammai, the school of Hillel, and Rabbi Akiva.

    Bais Shammai—known for their strict opinion in most matters of Jewish law—say that divorce should only occur over a matter of immorality; only if the marriage has been betrayed by infidelity are there grounds for divorce. (Even then, the rabbis say, one must investigate the matter very carefully and not act impulsively.)

    Bais Hillel—usually known for their leniency—say that divorce is permitted “even if she burns his dish.” You come home and the soup is burnt, the rice is sticky, the steak is black—that is already grounds for divorce.

    Comes Rabbi Akiva—whose devotion and gratitude to his wife Rachel was legendary—and says that even if a man just finds a more beautiful woman, he may divorce his wife.

    We can understand the first opinion. But the other two opinions seem incomprehensible. Your wife burns the meatballs, and you divorce her? This might work for the Hollywood Code of Ethics, but not for the Sages of the school of Hillel!?
    The commentators explain that they were referring to a woman who intentionally burns her husband’s food just to torture him. Ok, granted. But how can we justify Rabbi Akiva’s opinion? You are walking down the street and you see a better-looking woman, now you may go home and get divorced? And this opinion is coming from one of the greatest sages of all times, Rabbi Akiva! Rabbi Akiva, a man who once pointed to his wife in front of 24,000 students and announced, “Whatever I have and whatever you have, it is all to her credit.” How could he say that one can get divorced if he finds a more beautiful woman?

    In truth, we are given a glimpse here of the Talmudic version of relationships and romance, and it is far beyond our own paradigms. For this we must understand that divorce occurs on two levels, the inner and the outer, and the Sages are addressing primarily the inner mechanisms of divorce.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • August 15, 2010
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  • 5 Elul 5770
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Dedicated by Robyn and Josh Goldhirschin loving memory of Shraga Feivish ben Meir Goldhirsch For his Yartzeit, 12 Elul

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