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I find the following verse to be very harsh as it gives a pink slip of Divorce to Israel and Judah Jeremiah 3:8:

וָאֵרֶא, כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֹדוֹת אֲשֶׁר נִאֲפָה מְשֻׁבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל, שִׁלַּחְתִּיהָ, וָאֶתֵּן אֶת-סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻתֶיהָ אֵלֶיהָ; וְלֹא יָרְאָה בֹּגֵדָה יְהוּדָה, אֲחוֹתָהּ--וַתֵּלֶךְ, וַתִּזֶן גַּם-הִיא.‏
And I saw, when, forasmuch as backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement, that yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not; but she also went and played the harlot;

What are the ramifications of the first verse? Has God divorced the Bnei Yisrael?

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3 Answers 3

The following is a verse from Isaiah (50:1) which helps us in our understanding this verse:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, אֵי זֶה סֵפֶר כְּרִיתוּת אִמְּכֶם אֲשֶׁר שִׁלַּחְתִּיהָ, אוֹ מִי מִנּוֹשַׁי, אֲשֶׁר-מָכַרְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לוֹ; הֵן בַּעֲו‍ֹנֹתֵיכֶם נִמְכַּרְתֶּם, וּבְפִשְׁעֵיכֶם שֻׁלְּחָה אִמְּכֶם.

Thus says God: Where is the the bill of your mother's divorce with which I sent her? Or whom of my creditors have I sold you to? Behold, for your inequities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.

What does this mean? First Isaiah makes it sound like there is no divorce ("where is the bill of divorce?"), then makes it sound like there is ("for your transgressions your mother was sent away"). Is there or is there not a bill of divorce? The way many of the Jewish commentators understand this is that there is no permanent bill of divorce, but rather one that is dependent on certain conditions. "For your transgressions your mother was sent away", implying that when the transgressions cease, the divorce will be revoked.

Now, what about Jeremiah? Why doesn't he specify something like this. Jeremiah implies that there is a permanent bill of divorce that was given. Many say Isaiah was referring to the Kingdom of Judah (as he prophesied primarily about Judah; see Isaiah 1:1), while Jeremiah was referring to the already-banished Kingdom of Israel (as is clear in the context of the verses). Israel was driven out of their land, perhaps never to come back. Judah was to be exiled, but destined to return less than a century later. (Although many maintain that Israel too will one day return in the final redemption, it is not uncommon for prophets to refer to indefinitely long periods of time as "forever".) [Alternatively, God has permanently divorced Israel as a kingdom, in the sense that even when they do eventually return, they will be joined with the Kingdom of Judah, and under Judaic (Davidic) leadership.] (See Radak to Isaiah 50:1.)

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Very nice +1 I heard the Isaiah verse earlier in my head but couldn't place it. –  Double AA Feb 27 '13 at 20:17
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The verse separates clearly between Israel and Judah -- the standard language referring to the Northern and Southern (Davidic) kingdoms:

  • Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement
  • that yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not; but she also went and played the harlot

So it seems Israel ends up with a divorce (exile of the Northern kingdom had no return and they vanished there eventually) but Judah "feared not", and "played the harlot" but the verse speaks nothing of a permanent divorce...

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Note also that even divorces are not permanent in that people can get remarried. –  Double AA Feb 27 '13 at 20:09
    
@DoubleAA Right, this would support R' Eliezer in his machlokes with R' Akiva if the 10 tribes are ever coming back... –  gt6989b Feb 27 '13 at 20:18
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God takes the children of Israel back. No other nation replaces them: http://ohr.edu/tw/5756/devarim/haazinu.tw

In times to come, when Israel is redeemed from among the nations and Hashem gathers us to Him, Israel will say "Master of the Universe, it's written in Your Torah that when a man divorces his wife and banishes her from his life, should the woman marry again and then divorce this second husband, she may never again return to her first husband.

"You banished us to amongst the nations of the world. How is it possible for You to take us back?"

Hashem will say to them "It says in the laws of divorce: When a man will banish her from his house'. I am G-d, not man."

These words from the Medrash are most perplexing. The relationship between the Jewish People and Hashem is understood to be that of a marriage, of husband and wife. How can it possibly be that about this very subject Hashem would say "I am G-d, not man!"

Let us understand the Medrash thus: The Talmud teaches us that if a man throws a get, a bill of divorce, to his wife while she is in his yard, the divorce is not effective. For a get to work, it needs to be given. And since his wife is still in his yard, in his domain, there is a deficiency in the giving. It is as though the get never left the orbit of his influence.

Thus, with this principle in mind, we can understand what Hashem is saying: "I am G-d, not man. The universe is Mine. The whole world is `My yard.' Thus I never really gave you a bill of divorce. I never really divorced you at all..."

Chanukas Hatorah

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One can only interpret to make it fair seeming to our hearts, but does the torah \TANACH contain any explanations for the divorce? –  Ali Feb 27 '13 at 19:01
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oh, are you limiting the discussion to the literal written torah text or are you asking for understanding within a jewish framework on a jewish site? –  Danno Feb 27 '13 at 19:02
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