Hillel and Shammai have different opinions:

  • Hillel says you can divorce your wife for any reason.
  • Shammai says you cannot divorce your wife for any reason. The only legitimate reason for divorce is adultery.

Is Shammai against divorce in general? Or maybe, if a wife doesn't commit adultery, and then she gets a divorce, Shammai thinks the divorce is null and void, and hence, when she gets another guy, it's still adultery, technically.

On the other hand, if the wife commits adultery before, and the husband divorces her, then he doesn't make her an adulteress because she already is.

What is Shammai's reasoning?

  • Not quite what they say. Shammai says you can only divorce for adultery, yes, but I should add that it’s not necessarily the type that can be punished in court (ex. no witnesses). Hillel says you can even divorce if she burns your soup, i.e. she does something wrong that bothers you. When he says you can divorce for any reason - there has to be an actual reason, and it has to be something that she did. You also neglected R’ Akiva’s opinion that even if he likes another woman better.
    – DonielF
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:22
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    Jul 18, 2018 at 15:14
  • I think you change my avatar. The christians do that.
    – user4234
    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


The opinion of the House of Shammai, as quoted in the Mishnah (Gittin 90a), is:

Beit Shammai say: A man may not divorce his wife unless he finds out about her having engaged in a matter of forbidden sexual intercourse [devar erva], as it is stated: “Because he has found some unseemly matter [ervat davar] in her, and he writes her a scroll of severance” (Deuteronomy 24:1).
(edited from Sefaria translation)

If her husband did divorce her for less than adultery, the divorce is still valid, even though he wasn't allowed to have divorced her, as is clear from this discussion (on the same page):

Rav Pappa said to Rava: What if the husband found about her neither forbidden sexual intercourse nor any other matter, but divorced her anyway?
Rava said to him that the answer can be derived from what God reveals in the Torah with regard to a rapist: “He may not send her away all his days” (Deuteronomy 22:29), indicating that all his days he remains obligated to remarry her. Only there the husband is obligated to remarry her, as God reveals as much. But here, what he did, he did.

(Even though Rashi says the question is about the opinion of the House of Hillel, the answer is equally valid for the House of Shammai.)

So she wouldn't be committing adultery if she remarried after being divorced for something other than adultery. Even though a woman who committed adultery remains forbidden to the person with whom she committed adultery even after the divorce (Sotah 5:1), the divorce allows her to marry anyone else.

  • I should note that this is precisely House of Hillel’s inference from the verse, which states “he found in her an illicit matter.” Really it could have just said “matter” - it adds “illicit” to teach that she can remarry after the divorce.
    – DonielF
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:26
  • So the only time a man cannot divorce her wife is if he is a rapist or if he have pre marital sex with her?
    – user4234
    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:12
  • @SharenEayrs There's also the case of a man who falsely accuses his wife of not being a virgin. The consequence is that even if he does unlawfully divorce her, he is always obligated to remarry her
    – b a
    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:18

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