The Poetry in Divorce

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:

 גט שני

 במפתיע

מופיע בעין ליבי

המבט הראשון

החיוך האוהב

נוף פרצופו

וגופו

במקרה

משמיעים

צליל ברדיו

ומתנגנת באזני

סימפוניה שלמה

של ביחד

או מספרים בדיחה

מקריאים שיר

ואנחנו קוראים

ביחד ספר

ולא ספר כריתות

קורעים

במפתיע

געגוע נוגע במעיי

ואני לנה אתו

בפונדק הזכרון

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.

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2 Responses to The Poetry in Divorce

  1. Roz says:

    Thank you, Esther… I used a translator on the net and was able to get the gist of the poem. It brings to mind the psychological state of cognitive dissonance, the discomfort a person feels when holding 2 opposing views. One of the ways to resolve cognitive dissonance is to make a change, take a stand.

    • shaananlaw says:

      Thank you Roz for that (as ever) thoughtful comment.
      I agree that one of the ways to deal with cognitive dissonance is to take a stand. However, I think that it is a very important life skill to be able to live with some forms of cognitive dissonance. Sometimes my clients – who really want and need to get divorced – feel they are being inconsistent when they go through a period of mourning post-horrificmarriage , and they feel awkward sharing their emotions. I think one of the things that can be learned from learing classic Jewish texts is the ability to hold conflicting and contradicty notions in our minds simultaneously, and not be frightened by this. Rather, to embrace that life and the world are complex, and to seek consistency all round is a frustrating prescription for getting through life.

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