This coming week, we will celebrate the beginning of the month of Nissan with Rosh Chodesh occurring on Tuesday. This month, more than any other Jewish month of the year, is associated with Geulah or “redemption.” We are told in writings of the rabbis that in the month of Nissan we were redeemed and in the month of Nissan we will be redeemed. This, of course, refers to our redemption from Egypt and our anticipated redemption, with the arrival of Mashiach (may he come speedily in our day!).
As it is the time period of Geula, over the years there have been various suggestions for gestures to be made at our Seder to raise awareness for and pray for redemption of certain people. For example, for many years, people placed an empty chair at the Seder representing a desire for redeeming and freeing of Soviet Jews. Then, a few years ago, we left an empty chair for Gilad Shalit. Still others have left an empty chair for the Jew who doesn’t “show up to the Seder.”
Sadly, there are so many issues that we can raise at a Seder that remind us of our communal responsibility. But, one of those issues indeed touches DIRECTLY on the topic of freedom and lack therefrom: Agunot. Chained women whose husbands do not give them a GET. (And let us not forget the men, whose wives refuse to accept one!) These women are living in a trapped world, a world from which they can be freed with a GET.
While so many articles and papers have been written about the subject, there is one current case that bears special note: Lonna Kin, whose husband Israel Meir Kin has refused to issue a GET to Lonna for over 9 years. He became a bigamist on March 20th when he remarried without first issuing a Get. In addition to the various forms of abuse and extortion seen in so many of the recalcitrant husband cases, this one is especially egregious due to Lonna’s husband remarrying without first giving his wife a GET.
While placing an empty chair at one’s seder to remind us of the struggle of these women will not grant a GET to them, it will indeed raise the awareness of the subject; will engender more discussion and perhaps lead people to action, at some point.
When we read the words of the Haggada and say that “...in every generation there arise those who wish to destroy us,” we must realize that, sometimes, those who wish to destroy your fellow Jew–are our other fellow Jews. By withholding a GET, a woman’s life is under attack; her children suffer; her family suffers and, ultimately, we all suffer for that despicable refusal.
May I humbly suggest we all place that empty chair at our seder table; let us raise the awareness that not only were we slaves thousands of years ago, but till this very day, there are Jews who are not freed from the chains of a broken marriage.