A book review by Maury White
Every client who sits with me in my law office has questions. To provide them with valuable counsel, I must listen very carefully to each and every one of those questions. My professional knowledge, my experience and my temperament, require that I make sure every husband, wife, mother and father, who I have the privilege of meeting, is asking the "right" questions.
In his book, Divorce Is a Mitzvah: A Practical Guide to Finding Wholeness and Holiness When Your Marriage Dies, Rabbi Perry Netter, addresses many of the questions which those considering divorce ask. The questions are universal; Rabbi Netter, a divorce, a father, a congregational rabbi and a pastoral counselor provides insight and wisdom taken from his personal experience and Jewish tradition. The tradition dates back as far as Deuteronomy 24:1, wherein the Torah mentions grounds for writing a bill of divorcement and, Rashi, who in the 11th Century made the pronouncement, “Divorce is a mitzvah.” (From whence the title of Rabbi Netter’s book is derived).
Is divorce a good deed? Is divorce a commandment? No, those are the wrong questions. The questions that Judaism answers have to do with how we conduct ourselves. The Mitzvah inform us as to that process; they are our guides. A marriage is not defined by the wedding, nor does the settlement, the court hearing or the decree define the divorce. Both are cycles of life aptly suited for guidance by Jewish ethics and values. Rabbi Netter prompts us to ask, what does G-d expect of us? If we are to obey the commandment that “As I am holy, so shall you be holy”, how are we to go through divorce without destroying our souls?
The nine chapters and epilogue address questions such as, Why Is This Happening to Me? How Do I Decide to Leave? Is Divorce Kosher? What Do I Do with All This Anger? How Do We Tell the Kids? How do I Get Closure? What Do You Say? To Litigate or to Mediate? How Do We Continue to Raise Children Together?
Some people ask me, “How can you stand to do what you do? Isn’t it depressing?” If I am able to help my clients focus on the correct questions, my work becomes sacred work. Rabbi Netter has validated my experience. By choosing process options such as the Collaborative Family Practice , which focuses on a couples’ underlying motivations, goals and interests, as opposed to a legal model based upon a lawyers’ paradigm, I am able to help, as Rabbi Netter suggests, increase wholeness and holiness in our world.
Divorce Is a Mitzvah : A Practical Guide to Finding Wholeness and Holiness When your Marriage Dies, by Rabbi Perry Netter, Afterword by Rabbi Laura Geller, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont (2002).