This year marks my first Hanukkah post-divorce and I’ve been thinking about how to spiritually acknowledge it. My ex-husband is a non-practicing Catholic and therefore I cannot get a get (Jewish bill of divorce) since we did not have a Jewish wedding. Our two children are Jewish, have become bar and bat mitzvah and are engaged in Jewish life and practice through our synagogue, Jewish camp, and a large circle of Jewish friends and family.
But right after my divorce, when I found myself without a Beit Din (Jewish court of law) experience, without a get, without a formal ending of my marriage Jewishly, I felt like something was missing. Around the same time, I was scrolling through my son’s bar mitzvah pictures, taken in October. I don’t know why, but at the time, my ex-husband declined to be in any of the pictures and didn’t even show up for the final run-through. A wonderful friend, Kelly, took pictures that day, and we have the requisite serious poses of my kids and me with the rabbi and my son David reading from the Torah. But we also have plenty of natural, silly, fun and goofy pictures because my son, for reasons known only to him, breaks out the goofiest smile whenever he sees a camera.
Kelly thought David was hilarious and her good mood was infectious. We went outside on that beautiful October afternoon and took pictures in the synagogue’s sukkah and the preschool’s sukkah–the same one that my kids had celebrated Sukkot in many years ago.
The kids and I laughed, made faces, hugged each other and mugged for the camera. What could have been a painful photography session became awesome because we let the fun take over.
And when I looked through the pictures post bar mitzvah, all those great feelings came back. Suddenly, I had my answer about how to Jewishly and publicly acknowledge the end of my marriage. I would use our bar mitzvah pictures to create Hanukkah cards adorned with dreidels, menorahs and Jewish stars. The cards would serve as a very public announcement of the new configuration of my family and without my ex-husband in the picture (literally and metaphorically) I could send a family Hanukkah card for the first time.
The divorce wasn’t something I wanted or asked for. But the ink is dry on the judge’s decree so it’s done. If every cloud has a silver lining, mine has brightly shining Jewish stars.