I was recently sent by a friend this article which contains the following quote:

The temple altar, the Talmud says, weeps when a man divorces his wife. When a revered rabbi got divorced, his students came to him and asked: “How can this be? Does our tradition not teach that the altar weeps over a divorce?” The rabbi looked at his students. “Better the altar should weep than should I.”

This was a charming little anecdote, but I couldn't recall ever encountering it before. I did a quick survey of Gittin (which I thought would be the most likely place to find it) and found nothing, but knowing the Talmud, this could be anywhere. Is anyone aware of where in the Talmud this anecdote appears? Does it come from the Talmud at all?

EDIT: I should add that I'm looking not for a source on the altar weeping, but rather on the discussion between the rabbi and his students where the rabbi justifies his divorce by saying "Better the altar should weep than should I."

EDIT 2: It seems that that what I'm looking for isn't in the Talmud, but does it have a source in another text? Or did this person totally make it up?


1 Answer 1


End of Maseches Gittin (90b) three lines from the bottom in standard Vilna Shas

דאמר ר' אלעזר כל המגרש אשתו ראשונה אפילו מזבח מוריד עליו דמעות שנאמר (מלאכי ב, יג) וזאת שנית תעשו כסות דמעה את מזבח ה' בכי ואנקה מאין [עוד] פנות אל המנחה ולקחת רצון מידכם ואמרתם על מה על כי ה' העיד בינך ובין אשת נעוריך אשר אתה בגדתה בה והיא חברתך ואשת בריתך: (text from Sefaria)

I read the article, I don't think the article is quoting a Gemara, it is referencing said gemara in gittin, but is also telling over an anecdotal non-talmudic story of a revered rabbi getting a divorce

  • I saw this when I looked over Gittin, but this section deals only with the altar weeping, not with the tart comment of the rabbi quoted in the story that, "Better the altar weep than should I."
    – user5540
    Jun 6, 2014 at 7:23
  • Then do you know where the story might come from? Chasidic tales, for instance? Or did the person just totally make this up?
    – user5540
    Jun 6, 2014 at 13:26
  • 1
    Honestly, i conjecture its a chissidishe maase' Jun 6, 2014 at 13:29

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