Where is the bill of divorce?

Thursday, 4 September, 2014 - 3:22 pm


Here’s a good story:

In Tractate Sanhedrin (105b) it is told that ten people came to the prophet Yechezkel. He said to them: Repent! They said to him: A woman who was divorced by her husband – does any one of them have any demands on the other? At which point Hashem said to the prophet: Go tell them [the words of the prophet Yeshayahu]: “Where is your mother’s bill of divorce by which I sent her away?”

In simple terms:

The ten men claimed: how can Hashem ask us to do Teshuva, to repent – after all, he has divorced us. The “ex” no longer has any say in the life of the person he or she divorced.

But Hashem answered: “Where is the bill of divorce? True, I sent you away from Me and from My land because of your behavior, but I did not divorce you – there is no bill of divorce!”

This is how the Rebbe answers another question about the same issue. Among the laws of marriage that are mentioned in this week’s Parasha, there is a law stating that it is forbidden for a man to marry a woman if he already intends to divorce her; this law is based on a verse from Mishlei (Proverbs): “Do not devise evil against your neighbor, one who dwells securely near you.” How simple; how logical.

But here comes the question: How is it that Hashem married the Jewish People when He gave them the Torah when He knew already then – for He knows everything – that there will come a time when He will have to exile them, send them away? That is like the case brought in Mishlei, of devising evil against one’s neighbor, isn’t it?

But it isn’t. Hashem did not send us away! There is no bill of divorce separating us one from the other.

Several weeks before the Yamim Nora’im (the High Holy days) is a good time to remember that fact: There is no bill of divorce, and Hashem has the right to demand that we repent and come back to Him.



Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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