Merkaz Anash, Beis Hamedrash L’shluchim and COLlive.com present The Chassidic Perspective with Rabbi Yoel Kahn, a weekly short webcast on topics that are timely and relevant.
Rabbi Kahn, often referred to as “Reb Yoel,” is the most preeminent authority on Chabad-chassidic teachings and was the chief reviewer and transcriber of the discourses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Kahn is also the lead editor of Sefer Ha’erechim, a multi-volume encyclopedia of abstruse chassidic and mystical concepts and the head Mashpia at the Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY.
This webcast is delivered in Yiddish and a transcription in English, prepared by Rabbi Shraga Dovid Homnick, appears below or can be printed in a PDF format.
One of the pesukim in parshas Ki Seitzei speaks of a husband writing his wife a “sefer krisus,” a bill of divorce. The legal details alluded to in those words are actually paradoxical: On the one hand, there’s “krisus,” the severance and utter termination of marital bonds, yet “sefer” in the singular indicates that the get must be written entirely on one sheet, a display of oneness which surpasses even that of a sefer Torah!
The phenomena we encounter in our world emanate from a higher reality, and thus man and wife are in fact a representation of the relationship between Hashem and us, as exemplified in Shir Ha’shirim. It therefore follows that the parallels extend to marriage and divorce as well.
Will He Remarry Us?
The Gemara states that Knesses Yisroel argued: Having ‘divorced’ us, Hashem no longer has a legitimate basis for his continued intervention in our misconduct! Hashem’s response to this was: “Ei zeh sefer krisus…?” What divorce are you speaking of? Cleary both sides have a point here, and apparently arguments can both be made that we’ve been divorced and that we haven’t.
Another Gemara on this topic asserts that tshuva has demonstrated the capacity to override a negative commandment of the Torah, since it’s the reason that Hashem disregards the prohibition to ‘remarry’ us, His divorcee. However, a Midrash addressing this point differs and posits that the law barring remarriage only applies to an “ish,” which Hashem is not. Which is it then? Is Hashem overruling the law or was He never under its jurisdiction?
Finally, the tractate of Gittin begins with the overly specific case of a get being delivered by a messenger from overseas. Wouldn’t it have made sense to first establish the basic contours of the laws of divorce and gittin before discussing the case of a shliach, particularly one from overseas? Why avoid the main issues and focus immediately on an unlikely, secondary case instead?
The truth is, however, that the laws in the revealed part of the Torah are actually mirroring a deeper, G-dly reality, and that’s the case here as well.
Matan Torah was an act of kiddushin. “Asher kidshanu b’mitzvosav,” our ‘marriage’ was enacted and is reinforced by way of Torah and mitzvos. Conversely, aveiros are acts which breach the union and sever the marriage. Yet halacha dictates that in order for a divorce to take hold, the woman must obtain the get outside of the husband’s property. How then is it ever possible to find oneself outside of Hashem’s territory when His presence is everywhere?
Making the case that we’re outside Hashem’s domain and the ‘divorce’ has taken hold relies on an impression created by Hashem’s concealment, but the truth is that on the deepest level, Hashem is forever present and our connection can never end, except superficially. We connect with Hashem through Torah both on a galya (revealed) level and on a sasim (concealed) level, and it seems possible for that revealed connection to be broken. This is why the yetzer ha’ra can argue, as is reflected in the exchange depicted in the Gemara, that our aveiros don’t matter anymore because we’ve separated, like a divorced woman. Yet Hashem retorts, “What divorce?” since we’ve never truly left His domain, which would be impossible.
On a Trip Overseas
This is related to the discussion of the get from the husband overseas, which is along the lines of another Midrash which states that we are merely like a widow, but our ‘husband’ is really overseas and plans to return. Although we technically would still not be widowed were He ‘alive,’ even if he had no intention of returning, the point is that the connection is so deep that He can’t help but ultimately ‘return’ in a revealed way. This is Hashem’s promise that no Jew will be abandoned, even when it can appear otherwise.
The mishna in Gittin therefore speaks of the gentiles who were the ‘shliach’ to exile and ‘divorce’ us: While they might be tempted to believe that they were simply acting based on superior warfare and weaponry, they must acknowledge (“b’fanai nichtav”) that they are merely the messenger for a greater entity, the ‘husband.’ They need to concede that they are acting on something the husband ‘wrote,’ but He’s still out there and He plans to ‘return.’
Revealing the Deeper Connection
We must therefore remain aware that the ‘messenger’ isn’t actually responsible for our state of exile, and that the gentiles’ spiritual source is actually aware that Hashem alone is responsible for our fate; hence there is in fact no real ‘divorce.’ We must recognize that the entire point of all of the exile is to rouse us to tshuva which results in a deeper bond than before.
Thus “sefer krisus” is double-edged: On the one hand it seems like a divorce, yet the oneness reflected in the single sheet transcends that of a sefer Torah. The kiddushin at matan Torah were the kind of bond which can tear and appear to be dissolved, but it is through tshuva that we discover that the “krisus” is really a “sefer,” creating an even deeper connection than before.
Finally, the Gemara which states that tshuva overrides the prohibition to remarry is focusing on the superficial sense that there is a divorce. The deeper truth as revealed in the Midrash is that none of this applies since Hashem isn’t an “ish;” He’s beyond the tzimtzum which creates the impression that divorce is possible. Thus, the Midrash is not at odds with the Gemara but instead uncovers the underlying, deeper connection. As the Rambam’s states that the Torah promises that we’ll do tshuva as our exile ends, and we’ll be redeemed immediately.
For further learning see לקוטי שיחות חלק ט’ פרשת תצא ב’.