In a situation where both spouses live in the USA and want to dissolve a Jewish marriage with a Get (i.e, a document of divorce), what are the advantages and disadvantages of going to a beit din from the same movement as the rabbi that officiated at the wedding?

  • It's probably advantageous to always seek an Orthodox get, because otherwise other issues might ensue. The alternative is to seek a technicality with the eidim. – Noach MiFrankfurt Oct 25 '15 at 22:07
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt Will an orthodox beit din be willing to give a get to a marriage performed by another movement? Will there be additional hurdles to cross? – Yehuda W Oct 25 '15 at 22:14
  • There shouldn't be a problem. furthermore, everyone accepts Orthodox batei din, whereas there reverse is not true. – Noach MiFrankfurt Oct 25 '15 at 22:35
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/48405/… – Loewian Oct 26 '15 at 2:56
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    Will an orthodox beit din be willing to give a get to a marriage performed by another movement? Yes. Will there be additional hurdles to cross? No. – wfb Nov 2 '15 at 14:51

Rav Moshe Feinstein, z"l, maintained that marriages performed by the new, modern-era Jewish movements (that are based on a rejection of traditional halacha, e.g. Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist; henceforth: neoJewish) are completely invalid in the eyes of halacha. He even went so far as to suggest that these marriages were less valid than secular marriages (which he also invalidated) in that the couple erroneously assumed the ceremony was valid and had no further intent to marry at a later time.

However, Rav Yosef Henkin, z"l, maintained that both secular and neoJewish marriages were valid, either because there may have been valid witnesses present at the ceremony, or because the assumption of marriage at consummation would itself generate a halachic marriage.

Nonetheless, because of the myriad legal minutiae essential to effect a valid halachic divorce, no traditional halachic authority recognizes neoJewish divorce ceremonies. As such, a marriage created by traditional Judaism ("Orthodox") could never be ended halachically in ceremonies performed by neoJewish movements. The converse, however, is not true in that it is highly unlikely that neoJewish movements would not recognize the far stricter requirements of traditional Judaism to effect either a halachic marriage or halachic divorce. Since even Rav Moshe Feinstein, z"l, required a halachic divorce when possible even from the neoJewish or secular marriages he assumed to be invalid, it stands to reason that the advantage is to always have a traditional, halachic, "Orthodox" divorce regardless of the movement which effected or attempted to effect the original marriage.

If a halachically valid marriage is not successfully ended, subsequent relationships with, e.g., a second "husband" are considered adultery in the eyes of halacha. Further, the progeny from the later unions are considered "certain" or "uncertain" mamzerim. Certain mamzerim may marry only other certain mamzerim and converts. Uncertain mamzerim may marry only converts. In either case, the progeny would continue to carry the halachic stigma of the certain or uncertain mamzer and have the identical rules as these original products of adultery with regard to whom they can marry).

See, e.g. Iggroth Moshe Even Haezer I 74 and 76 and IV 75; Hapardes 38:7 (October, 1964): 5-6 reprinted in Kitvei Hagri’a Henkin vol. 2, pp. 123-125; all cited here.

  • This quote from the source you cite is fascinating: "... in 1930 ... Rabbi Louis Epstein, a leading Conservative rabbi from Boston and the president of the Rabbinical Assembly and its Committee on Jewish Law, suggested that prior to every marriage, the husband should appoint his wife as an agent to execute a divorce on his behalf. Thus, if the husband disappears or refuses to grant the get, the wife can, in effect, divorce herself." – Yehuda W Nov 2 '15 at 21:20

If an nonOrthodox "get" is obtained, the divorce is probably invalid and the people (if they were married to begin with) are probably still married. This would be because the "witnesses" who signed the get are probably not valid and the "bait din" that had the get written probably do not know the technicalities of a get. Given that a valid bait din is used, then the question would be is the heterodox "marriage" valid or did a valid marriage take place even though the "ceremony" itself was not valid.

Since two kosher witnesses are required and the husband must present the ring in front of them, there is the possibility that a non-Orthodox "ceremony" may actually be valid (bediavad - after the fact). That is, there may be two kosher witnesses among the guests who see the "ceremony". As a result, there are those that would say that a get is required in order to avoid problems. This is especially the case when the couple intend to marry, since intercourse with intent for kiddushin is one of the valid methods from the Torah. I have found a citation that says

The “legal formalities” exceptions to the need for a get have also been applied with respect to marriages in which a double-ring ceremony took place, as well as to Jewish marriages that are performed by Reform or Conservative rabbis. Rabbi Moses Feinstein ruled that Reform and Conservative ceremonies never meet the formal requirements of a valid marriage “in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel” (Igrot Moshe, Even ha-Ezer part 3, siman 25; part 4, siman 77 and 78). However, Rabbi Hayyim (Howard) Jachter, in an article entitled “Conservative Kiddushin,” has taken the position that, with respect to Conservative marriage ceremonies, such blanket rulings cannot be made and that the validity of each Conservative marriage must be decided on a case-by-case basis (Tehumin 18 [1998]: 84–91).

In an Israel rabbinic court ruling of 2003, Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky was asked to determine the status of Reform marriages. He held that an Israeli couple who married both in Cyprus in a civil ceremony and in Israel in a Reform ceremony were not married “in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel” but were married in accordance with Jewish law. Dichovsky deemed the Cypriotic-Reform marriage to be a “Noahite” marriage. A “Noahite” marriage is not null and void ab initio. It is a marriage that Jewish law recognizes and whose termination must be declared by a court of law. Dichovsky held that the Israel rabbinic courts could terminate the Noahite marriage following the determination that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. But since the “Noahite” marriage was not “in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel,” there was no need for the husband to give his wife a get, or for the wife to accept the get in order for the marriage to terminate. Thus, by applying the “formalities” of Orthodox marriage ceremonies in such a manner as to invalidate Reform ceremonies, Rabbi Dichovsky’s ruling presents an interesting solution for those Israeli couples who choose to marry in non-Orthodox ceremonies and who want to avoid the pitfalls of Jewish divorce law. It also preserves the jurisdiction of the rabbinic courts over such marriages (Ha-din ve-ha-dayyan [The Law and Its Decisor] 5 (February 2004): 5–9).

  • Safek here, safek there, safek, safek, everywhere. – Yehuda W Oct 26 '15 at 0:39
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    Does a get issued by an orthodox beit din for a Reform or Conservative marriage have the same wording as a get issued for a marriage that is certainly valid by Othodox standards? If so, why. If not, why not? – Yehuda W Oct 26 '15 at 0:42

The Reform movement generally doesn't require Gittin.

Conservative practices will vary.

An Orthodox Get will be accepted by all denominations. And if either spouse later chooses to affiliate with some other movement, it will be accepted there too.

I know a Reform rabbi who got divorced; he arranged for an Orthodox Get for his wife. It kept everyone's options the most open.

  • Do you have a source for "Conservative practices will vary"? – Yehuda W Oct 26 '15 at 14:58
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    @YehudaW several decades ago there were plans for a joint Conservative/Orthodox body for Jewish divorces, worked out between Saul Lieberman at JTS and Joseph Solovechik at RIETS. As I understand it, Lieberman could not get the movement to require people to use it, at which point it was not worth Soloveichik's sacrifice. – Shalom Oct 26 '15 at 17:01
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    @Shalom, according to this writeup, the initiative fell apart, at least in part, because the RCA rabbis backed out out of respect for RMF's recently-released prohibition against joining interdenominational organizations. – Isaac Moses Oct 26 '15 at 17:50
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    @IsaacMoses it took two to tango! Rabbi Rakeffet's version is that Soloveichik would have been prepared to take a lot of flak if he could guarantee that all Conservative folks would use this beit din. Once Lieberman couldn't deliver that, it wasn't worth it. – Shalom Oct 26 '15 at 20:07

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