When people make the decision to embark on divorce proceedings, I often tell them to write down the difficult things in their marriage that brought them to this decision.
One of the reasons I recommend this is so that in the post-divorce period, when hit with loneliness and pangs of nostalgia for moments that were good, they have affirmation as to why they embarked on this journey. Even more, there are moments when we romanticize the past, and even people who have experienced serious physical and emotional abuse may start to question their own recollections as to what made the marriage fall apart.
For all these reasons, it’s good to have one’s narrative written down, for those moments when we question what we have done.
This week a former client contacted me and told me she was in just such a place; particularly in the post-Pesach period, when people now on their own have to make it through a holiday season with their family restructured and divided, they are particularly vulnerable to attacks of rose-coloured nostalgia.
I recently found a poem in a volume of poetry written by a friend in Jerusalem, Dr. Bayla Shorr, which struck a chord as it described that nostalgia I mentioned above. Dr. Shor wrote the volume while studying Tractate Gittin of the Talmud, the tractate dealing with laws of divorce.
The poem was inspired by page 81a of Tractate Gittin. Here it is, in Hebrew, published with the author’s permission. Unfortunately, I am neither a translator nor a poet, so I won’t butcher the poem by even attempting an English rendition:
מופיע בעין ליבי
או מספרים בדיחה
ולא ספר כריתות
געגוע נוגע במעיי
ואני לנה אתו
Emily Dickenson once said: “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry.”
So, while we might initially think that poetry and divorce are an unlikely team, the truth is that poetry – certainly in the sense Dickenson meant – is an apt medium for transmitting the wrenching emotions of divorce, the inconsistencies of our emotions around the process, and the difficulties some have in reconstructing a life, re-writing their own personal narrative in the aftermath.
Incidentally, Dr. Shorr has also published a marvelous volume of poetry on the weekly Torah portion, entitled “HaShira HaZot“. You can see a review of that volume by Emunah Elon.