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Excerpted with permission of the author from "Jewish Divorce Law" in Lilith Magazine, Summer, 1977.
A Jewish divorce goes something like this: After all attempts at reconciliation have failed, and the husband and wife have either been granted a civil divorce or have mutually agreed to seek one, they arrange to appear before a beit din, a Jewish court of law. The beit din consists of three rabbis, each of whom is an expert in the intricate laws of gittin, Jewish divorce.
Since Jewish divorce is not a decree of the court but rather a transaction between two parties, various authorities maintain that a single expert suffices. (The prevalent custom in America is to require only one rabbi.) In either case, a sofer (scribe) and two male witnesses must also be present. The wife will often bring along a friend to help her get through the trying time; so will the husband. The appointment with the beit din or officiating rabbi can be scheduled by one’s own rabbi, lawyer, or by the parties themselves.
Writing the Get
First the scribe must write the writ of divorce. Before he begins the actual writing, however, he makes a formal gift of his materials to the husband, who must authorize the writing of the get on his behalf. The husband lifts the writing materials and offers them back to the sofer, saying, "I give you this paper, ink, and pen and all the writing material, and I instruct you to write for me a get to divorce my wife."
The sofer hand-letters the get, filling in the details such as the names of the two parties, the city, the time, and the standard text of the writ of divorce in which the husband attests to divorcing his wife and setting her free to marry any other man. It generally takes an hour for the scribe to write the get in Hebrew lettering, during which time the man and woman to be divorced usually wait in separate rooms.
Questioning the Participants
After the sofer finishes his writing task, he and the witnesses make a distinguishing mark on the get. The witnesses read the document and affix their signatures to it. One of the three rabbis of the beit din will then ask the following questions:
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