Sunday, March 19, 2006

Agunot

I was thinking the other day about the absurdity that technical Halacha forces on women of whom their husbands refuse to give them a get. They are agunot, chained women, who cannot Halchically re-marry and are forced to remain in marriage limbo. This is an intolerable and unjust situation which cannot be tolerated. Of course, this situation is symptomatic of the larger issue of gender inequality in Orthodoxy but this one issue ought to be rather easy to solve.

The two parties (or, more accurately, the husband and the father of the bride) already sign what is essentially a pre-nup before the marriage ceremony. That is the Ketubah. Why haven't the Orthodox taken the message already initiated in Conservative circles by introducing a new clause in the document which gives over to a beit din the power to issue a get. Or if not that, then have the groom sign some other sort of conditional get that comes into effect if he does certain actions. I'm fairly certain that this is all acceptable under Halachic guidelines.

And if that is questionable, or if people don't trust a beis din, then have them sign a secular legal contract which obligates the man to hand over a get if certain conditions are met. This could be taken to actual secular court and the husband (or ex-husband) could be met with a court order to pay fines or punished because of breach of contract if he refuses to give his wife a get.

Am I so out of line here? Or are these solutions just obvious to me?

8 comments:

Mis-nagid said...

"This is an intolerable and unjust situation which cannot be tolerated."

And unjust. Don't forget unjust. ;-)

Orthoprax said...

Heh, guess I ran out of adjectives. ;-)

aj said...

I know that the RCA (Body of Modern Orthodox Pulpit Rabbis) strongly encourages, if not requires, a pre-nuptual. In Israel, people are a little behind, but are starting to encourage the same. Additionally, I know of one Orthodox Rabbi who has other ideas, such as a Ketubah with conditions in it. Also there was the case of the Rackman Beit Din, who would try to void the Ketubah if a get was refused...alot of people didn't accept it...

smoo said...

With any court system, nothing is as simple as it may seem. From first hand experience, I can tell you that what seem like air-tight clauses, can be rendered useless with the right 'interpretation'. (I have given the Get already but could have easily avoided this even with the prenup!)
That being said, I beleive if a law is so unfair that attempts are made to render it useless- just change the law and put the lawyers out of business!

Orthoprax said...

AJ,

This shouldn't be a slow movement. I think its easy to solve and women should not be put in these conditions.

Smoo,

I'm sure there are enough Jewish lawyers out there that can figure out the best wording. But even if the clause needs some testing in open court, after that case it can henceforth be improved if necessary. My point is that such clauses should be being written up today and not be held back because of silly social inertia.

"That being said, I beleive if a law is so unfair that attempts are made to render it useless- just change the law and put the lawyers out of business!"

Unfortunately, Judaism doesn't like to throw out old laws. It prefers to let them collect dust and get to where people just don't follow them anymore. This is a rather long process though.

Anonymous said...

halakhic discussions of the aguna problem, and why some suggested solutions dont work...

http://www.tabc.org/koltorah/aguna/

lakewoodyid said...

Ortho,

Do you recall the gemara - Kol Hamekadesh, Ah'dayta Deh'rabonon Mekadesh?

That should make it tough to play around with kedushin or kesubah.

It prefers to let them collect dust and get to where people just don't follow them anymore. This is a rather long process though.

Can you give some examples of laws that UO people don't follow anymore?

Orthoprax said...

LY,

"Do you recall the gemara - Kol Hamekadesh, Ah'dayta Deh'rabonon Mekadesh?
That should make it tough to play around with kedushin or kesubah."

Doesn't this Gemara give authority to the Rabbis to decide exact cases like divorce? So let Rabbis today decide how to make it happen according to Halacha.

"Can you give some examples of laws that UO people don't follow anymore?"

Oh, I dunno. How many slaves have you owned lately? Given any korbanot? Have there been any Jewish courts killing heretics and Shabbos desecrators?

Nobody does these things because they are no longer applicable today and/or are impossible to actually do. But instead of changing the laws to reflect the times, Judaism lets them sit since they don't bother anyone.

Is OJ's "official" stance that slavery is acceptable under certain conditions, yeah, technically. But realistically, no OJ is going to buy one today.