Friday, August 29, 2008

Rav Rosensweig is back and learning Gittin

Well the summer must be over, because YU is back in session. While I have had a nice summer, I realize that I have been looking forward to Rav Michael Rosensweig beginning his shiur. Even though there are still hours and hours and hours of his shiurim online, there is something about following along "live."

As Rav Rosensweig began to discuss Gittin, he asked a fundamental question -- why is Geirushin (divorce) even permitted? As we all know Judaism does not shy away from defining strict regulations for behavior, as the 613 mitzvas make clear. And in fact, Rav Rosensweig often talks about how one should strive for a maximalist approach to halachah and in the conduct of our lives.

So, why divorce? As you all probably know the Catholic Church does not permit divorce, but instead may "annul" a marriage (basically treat it like it never happened) in some situations. I should know, having been married in the Church over 30 years ago, but divorced a few years later. Therefore, officially not permitted to receive the sacraments. I also wonder if I tried to really get in full graces with the Church through an annullment now, if it would be possible, since I am no longer in touch in anyway with my former wife. To me this is a system that simply doesn't work, which is why Rav Rosensweig's question intrigues me.

So, if we wanted to really be maximalist . . . why not forbid divorce?

While there are a number of answers that Rav Rosensweig discusses, in his own approach he describes how he sees the institution of geirushin as something that in reality helps retain the sanctity and sacredness of marriage, by allowing an out for people, if needed (certainly not encouraged). This "safety value" or "exit clause" helps preserve the choice, the union and the kedusha of the marriage, it does not destroy it.

This line of reasoning, reminded me of some of the Kiddushin shiurim I have listened to from Rav Rosensweig, in which he describes how erusin and nesuin (the two steps of a Jewish marriage that in former times were often separated by about a year of time, but now take place on the wedding day) where introduced by Moses to bring more sanctity to the institution of marriage as compared to those societies around the Jews.

What is clear to me is the importance of marriage for Rav Rosensweig and the tradition as a whole and what a wonderful insight to our human reality, that divorce used responsibily can truly enhance the bonds and faithfulness of marriage and not simply tear it apart.

I am glad he is back . . .

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