Likkutei Sichos-Parshas Ki Seitzei-Changing your Shlichus and spiritual occupation

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Parshas Ki Seitzei

Changing your Shlichus and spiritual occupation

(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 4)

Parshas Ki Seitzei is a Mitzvah filled Parsha. A total of 74 out of the 613 commands are recorded in this week’s Parsha. One of the Mitzvah’s recorded in this week’s Parsha is the Mitzvah relating to divorce. When divorce takes place, there is a Mitzvah for it to take place according to Torah law, which is through the husband providing a bill of divorce to his wife. There is a great debate in the Talmud regarding what is considered a valid reason to justify divorce. Some say that simply finding a better woman is enough of a reason to justify divorce. Others vehemently argue on this position and state that one can only divorce his wife if there is a Halachic impediment in the marriage which obligates its divorce. Others hold that any matter of true deficiency found in the marriage can justify divorce. In this talk, the Rebbe delves into the fact that in this debate, Beis Shamaiy and Beis Hillel seem to change from their general line of ruling. Beis Shamaiy who is generally always stringent, in this debate seems to take a lenient approach, while Beis Hillel who is usually lenient, in this debate seems to be take a stringent approach. To answer this question the Rebbe explains that husband and wife spiritually correspond to the soul and the body and its physical involvement in this world. When is a person allowed or justified in divorcing himself from his current spiritual occupation in order to find a new one? This is the deeper debate between the above opinions. The lesson of this talk is one of great importance and emphasizes the need for one to remain dedicated to his divinely destined spiritual service and occupation, and that he not leave his G-dly ordained Shlichus unless there is a true justifiable reason.


Explorations of the Sicha:

1. What are the justifiable reasons for divorce?

2. Why is Beis Hillel, who is generally lenient in Jewish law, stringent regarding this law of divorce?

3. What are the justifiable reasons for one to leave his G-dly ordained occupation and Shlichus in order to find a new one?

1. The justifiable reasons for divorce:

There exist three opinions recorded in the Talmud[1] regarding the justifications for divorcing one’s wife.

  1. Beis Shamaiy is of the opinion that a person should not divorce his wife unless she is guilty of infidelity, in which case, he is Halachically obligated to divorce her.
  2. Beis Hillel is of the opinion that a person may justifiably divorce his wife even if she merely burnt his food. [This, however, refers to a wife who intentionally burns her husband’s food in order to pain him.]
  3. Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that a person may justifiably divorce his wife even if he simply found another woman who is better than her.

2. The leniency of Beis Shamaiy versus the stringency of Beis Hillel:

When we contemplate the above set of opinions, the following puzzling question is raised. In general, whenever we have a dispute between Beis Shamaiy and Beis Hillel, it is Beis Shamaiy who is stringent and Beis Hillel who is lenient [with exception to a minority of cases listed in the Mishneh[2] in which they switch positions]. The reason for this is, as explained in the teachings of Chassidus and Kabbalah[3], due to that the souls of Beis Shamaiy are rooted in the attribute of severity and are therefore more inclined to be stringent, and are unable to elevate everything. However, the souls of Beis Hillel are rooted in the attribute of kindness and are able to see the good in everything and hence allow it to be elevated, thus being more lenient in Jewish law. Now, let us analyze as to whether a leniency in the justifiable reasons for divorce is considered a leniency or stringency.

Although from the onset, being lenient in the justifiable reasons to divorce may seem like a leniency, in truth, it is a stringency. Divorce is an act of separation and divisiveness which comes as a result of severity and the couple holding grudges against each other. On the other hand, the love and bonding in marriage comes from the side of kindness. Accordingly, it is not understood as to why Beis Hillel who comes from the side of kindness is much more lenient in the justifiable allowances to divorce one’s wife, while specifically Beis Shamaiy who come to the side of severity takes the stance of kindness and does not permit divorce unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as that of infidelity, that require it. The position of Rabbi Akiva is the most puzzling. Rabbi Akiva is well known in the Talmud of being a person of love and kindness and one who is famous for his dictum of that loving a fellow Jew is a general rule the Torah. How then can he of all people be the most lenient in his justifications for divorce, saying that simply finding a better woman suffices.

3. Marriage and divorce of a couple corresponds to the marriage and separation of G-d and the Jewish people:

The above question applies not only in the physical sense of divorce between a man and his wife, but also in its corresponding spiritual sense. A husband and wife correspond to G-d and the Jewish people who are in a unity of marriage, with G-d corresponding to the husband and the Jewish people corresponding to the wife. Thus, the above debate regarding the valid justifications for divorce do not just relate to a husband and wife but also to G-d and the Jewish people. According to the opinion of Beis Shamaiy, G-d is only justified in divorcing the Jewish people if they have been unfaithful to Him [in the sin of idolatry]. However, according to Beis Hillel G-d can divorce the Jewish people for any offense, and according to Rabbi Akiva, G-d can divorce the Jewish people even if He simply finds a better nation, even if they intrinsically have done nothing wrong. It is most puzzling that Rabbi Akiva would hold of such an opinion, to be so leninet in holding onto the relationship of G-d and His nation.

4. A husband and wife also corresponds to a soul and its body:

The answer to the above question is that although in general a husband and wife spiritually correspond to G-d and the Jewish people, it also corresponds to a soul and its body. Every soul has a special mission to accomplish in this world. In this regard, the body does not just refer to the physical body but also to its physical occupation and its life mission. One’s life mission is accomplished in the location that he lives and through the occupation that he holds. A Jew needs to be aware that the location that he currently lives in and the occupation that he currently holds is with Divine providence, and was Divinely intended for him in order so he turn the area to a dwelling place for G-d. Even in the event that one sees difficulties in the fulfillment of his mission in his current location and occupation, and it appears that a different locality and occupation would be easier for him, or that he would accomplish more while there, nonetheless, he should not leave his current work. Once one comes to the awareness that it is G-d who has brought him into his current location and occupation, this itself is a proof that this is his mission in life.

5. The justifiable reasons for changing occupations and locations of living:

Now, it is regarding this matter of divorcing oneself from his current place of living and occupation and finding a new one, in which the above said rabbis argue, and in regards to this matter it ends up that Rebbe Akiva is most lenient, while Beis Shamaiy is most stringent.

Beis Shamaiy is of the opinion that a person may not divorce himself from his current occupation unless there is Halachic necessity in doing so, such as it involves prohibited activity. In his opinion, even if he faces great difficulties in his current occupation, and is filled with spiritual challenges, he may not desert it, as certainly in the end of the day he will be successful in his mission. It is only when he finds an actual halachic impediment in his occupation that he may divorce himself from it, as this is a sign from heaven that it is no longer meant for him. This mission and occupation may then be given over by G-d to another individual for whom it was destined for, and to whom was given greater powers and energies to perform it successfully.

Beis Hillel is of the opinion that even if one’s wife simply burns his food, it is a justifiable reason for the divorce. This means that if one sees that his mission in his current occupation and location is causing him to decline in his service of G-d and causing his soul to go down in level, then it is permitted for him to find another occupation and move to a different location.

Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that even if one simply finds a better woman then he may divorce his wife. This means that if he finds a better occupation and location to live, then even if there is nothing spiritually wrong with his current occupation, he may choose to change locations and occupation simply for the sake of having greater pleasure. Since a Jew is required to serve G-d with joy, therefore if one is not happy with his current occupation, he may find a new one which brings him greater joy.

6. The final ruling is like Beis Hillel:

The final ruling of Halacha is like the opinion of Beis Hillel.[4] This means that if one did not find a real deliberate deficiency with his wife, then he cannot divorce her even if he finds a better woman. The same applies regarding one divorcing myself from his current occupation and finding a new one. So long as there isn’t any actual blemish in his current occupation, then even if he finds a better occupation it is forbidden for him to divorce himself from it. However, when there is an actual blemish in his current occupation that it is causing him to go down in spirituality, then from the letter of the law he may desert it in order to find a new one. Nonetheless, even in such a case of a legal justification, the Talmud[5] states that the altar sheds tears on one who divorces his first wife. Accordingly, it is proper for one to continue his current occupation even if it has deficiencies. In the event that it was already deserted, then he should be stringent to return to it. Even in the event that one finds a real halachic impediment with his occupation, he is not to hurry to desert it, and rather he is to truly contemplate if there is a true unavoidable Halachic issue with his occupation and it is not emboldened by his imagination, or lack of energy to circumvent the issue.


The divine lesson:

· In life, we commonly face situations in which we find ourselves in a state of despair, a state of giving up, and looking for an escape and a new and fresh start. Sometimes, this is justified. However, quite often this is simply a road bump in our life journey and mission which will eventually pass by, and is one of the necessary birth pains in our journey. Accordingly, one should not escape the situation by simply aborting it and finding a new occupation. Rather, he is to face it and overcome the hard times, and understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that it is G-d who has destined him to be involved in this occupation as his divine mission in making a dwelling place for G-d. Even if we are offered an attractive new journey and mission with a new occupation which contains more benefits than our current occupation, we should seriously ponder if this is meant to be our mission in life, and so this is what G-d wants us to do.


[1] See Gittin 90a

[2] Eidyus 4:5

[3] See Zohar Chadash 3:245; Taamei Hamitzvos Parshas Ki Seitzei; Shaar Hagilgulim Hakdama 36; Igeres Hakodesh 13; Likkutei Torah Shir Hashirim 40a

[4] Michaber E.H. 119:3

[5] Gittin 90b

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