Divorce and Civility/Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld, J.D.

(The following Dvar Torah is repeated here as the Parsha of this week reminds us of a powerful thought.)

There is a Medrash on Parshas Noach that is based on the Pasuk that “Tov HaShem LaKol V’Rachamav Al Kol Maasav”. We are expected to imitate the Goodness of HaShem, and Noach did so by providing for the animals in the Tevah. The Medrash bolsters this idea by telling of a divorced man who supported his ex-wife even though he had no such legal obligation. Why did he do so? The Medrash instructs that when he saw her state of poverty, he was overcome by feelings of humanity and kindness.  What is the Medrash telling us? Its message seems to be that while kindness to a former spouse is not easy to perform, it is a meritorious act to conduct ourselves with compassion and decency, notwithstanding the challenge of doing so.

It is not easy to be civil and cooperative when a marriage has been terminated. The natural impulse is to blame the other party for their role in disrupting our married state, our inner peace and our sense of  self-worth.  It is not for naught that Chazal describe that the sadness of divorce makes even the mizbaech weep tearfully. However, as sad as it is, the Torah demands certain behavior from us. Divorce does not exempt us from conducting our life in accord with Torah values and principles.

I believe that the overwhelming number of human beings want to do the proper thing. Why is it then that divorce in our community has often become a “contact sport”? I have heard many theories about this. My own intuition is that people marry with the thought that the marriage will last as long as the two individuals will live. We truly believe in “they lived happily ever after”. The dissolution of a marriage leads to a search for a villain. Who is responsible for what has just transpired? Who brought the marriage “train” off the tracks. In point of fact, such discussion accomplishes little. It hurts the children. It hurts the respective families. It does not allow the affected parties to move forward with their lives.

As someone once told me, hate is a full-time job. It saps you of your strength and your vitality. Leave blame behind and the attendant enmity it brings. If the door has closed on your marriage, plan for the rest of your life. Wallowing in anger or self-pity will not make the next chapter of your life any easier. Be kind to yourself. Grieve for your marriage for a short time, but then plot the strategy that will govern the balance of your life. The soul you save may be your own (and that of your children).


About njmediator

I am a family attorney and mediator who believes that disputes can be resolved civilly and with dignity. I am a proponent of divorce mediation as a well to deal with the end of a marriage. I maintain websites at www.NJMediationWorks and www.CivilDivorceCivilGet.com.
This entry was posted in Agunah, Agunah Project, Beth Din, Divorce Mediation, Jewish Divorce and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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