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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Ki Tetzeh 49-5

When you go out

Deuteronomy 23:24(25) – 24:4

When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.  

Deut. 24:1-4 ESV


Is divorce permitted?

A Jewish wedding is only valid if it is performed under a chuppah. In the same way, a Jewish divorce is not valid without a get – bill of divorce. A wedding for the sons of Noach is valid if it is made under an authorised personality of his nation.

During the second temple period there were two main interpretations of the word “indecency”, in Hebrew ervahערוה, nakedness, displeasure, lack, inappropriateness, uncleanness, confusion, shame. On the one hand, we have the understanding from the house of Hillel, which says that a man can divorce his wife for anything that bothers him, even if it is just that she burns his food. The house of Shamai was stricter. He only permitted divorce when there was improper sexual conduct by the woman.

The author of Sefer HaChinuch considers that a bill of divorce, which is called a get, represents the balance between those who do not permit divorce at all, and those who permit divorce by the man saying only one word, for example “go”.

In Matthew 19:3-10, it is written: “Pharisees came to him, testing him, and saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ He answered, ‘Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall join to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?” So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore Elohim has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.’ They asked him, ‘Why then did Moshe command us to give her a bill of divorce, and divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘Moshe, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so. I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her when she is divorced commits adultery.’ His talmidim said to him, ‘If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.’”(HNV revised)

Here we see how Yesh˙a comes into the discussion between the house of Hillel and the house of Shamai. He says that the house of Shamai has interpreted the Torah correctly. We can draw some conclusions from this passage:

  1. Divorce is not the Eternal’s original intent for man.

  2. Divorce was permitted by the Eternal, not commanded.

  3. The Eternal permitted divorce because of man’s hard heart.

  4. Divorce with the purpose of remarrying cannot be just for any reason – only if the reason is something improper, in Hebrew ervat davar, which is translated as “sexual immorality” in Matthew 19:9.

The expression ervat davar - some unseemly thing – is the key to this whole discussion. The question that they asked our Rabbi was: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”, which was Hillel’s interpretation, who understood the expression ervat davar to mean anything at all. Yeshua answers that ervat davar does not mean anything at all that displeases the man, but that it has to do with sexual impropriety in her, which in Greek was translated as porneia πορνεία, immorality, fornication, sexual sin, unchastity.

However, if she had committed adultery during the time of her betrothal, she was to be stoned, not rejected by divorce (Deut 22:20-24; Lev 20:10). The Torah cannot have two laws concerning the same crime.

When a man is to divorce his wife, it must be done by an official act in which he gives her a bill of divorce, which is called get - גט. This causes the woman to return to an unmarried state and thus has the right to remarry with another. The bill of divorce is an official, legal document that gives the woman the right to remarry. Without a get she would be an adulteress if she were to be united with another man.

According to Yeshua’s answer in Matthew 19:9, a man does not commit adultery when he divorces one woman and then marries another, if there was sexual behavior found in his first wife that was improper – ervat davar. The expression ervat davar is also found in the previous chapter of this Parashah (Deut 23:14) where it is referring to human excrement, which could not be visible in the Presence of the Eternal neither in nor outside of the war camp. If it were visible, it would be something inappropriate for the heavenly Presence.

We can then summarize the whole thing by saying that the expression ervat davar, in chapter 24, is not talking about any behavior at all by the woman, as determined by the man’s whim. Neither does it mean immorality before the marriage or adultery during the betrothal period or during the marriage, but a woman’s sexual perversion that is very repulsive to the man, just as excrement on the ground inside or outside a consecrated war camp is repulsive to the heavenly Presence.

According to Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 19, where he is explaining the text of Deuteronomy 24, divorce is permitted among those whose hearts are hard, when the spouse has a behavior of sexual perversion.

However, every divorce causes tears in heaven (Mal 2:13-15).

An official divorce, where a legal document is handed over, brings with it the right to remarry.

For those who have received the Spirit of the Messiah through the new birth there is also an instruction in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11: “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” (ESV)

May the heavenly Father give us grace not to have divorces among us.



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