Esther is remembered for saving the Jews of Persia, and yet she herself was not saved. Esther lived out her days trapped in a marriage she had never wanted, but could not leave. Thus, The Fast of Esther has been declared International Agunah Day, a day of awareness for those chained in marriage against their will.
Today, like Esther, many people find themselves chained in marriages they do not want. However, while Esther had no option for escape, we can and must help today’s agunot gain freedom.
It seems that more Rabbinical outrage has been spilled over girls in tefillin in the past few months than has been on women in chains in the past few years.
Though there are many Rabbis who valiantly try to free agunot, real change has not been made and the phenomenon is worsening.
So, it is up to us to raise our voices and support their work.
We must demand that Orthodox Judaism make herculean efforts to use all Halachic solutions. That a wide range of Rabbanim meet and leave no stone unturned in order to reach a consensus on a wide sweeping and broad answer for current and future agunot. They have brave shoulders to stand on such as Rav Ovadia Yosef z’l who used everything he could to free agunot.
Until a consensus solution is found, we can and must prevent future agunot via the Halachic Prenup.
One version of a such halachic prenuptial agreements, the agreement for mutual respect, works as preventative.
Like a vaccine, it not only protects the recipient but it also protects the community by becoming part of the marriage process, part of what is done. The more couples sign it, the more who will sign it and the more who are protected.
By signing the prenup, you are helping to right a wrong and take a stand. You are making a statement that you are against anyone holding anyone hostage and using the Torah to do so. You are declaring your respect for marriage, for humanity and for Judaism.
The ability to withhold a get is ammunition. It is a trump card and a great temptation to s/he who has it in his/her hand. I have heard first hand from men whose lawyers and advisors –rabbis! — have told them to withhold a get in order to get what they want from their wives. People who are angry or who want something, often do things that would shock even their former selves. Not all succumb, but many do; the temptation is strong.
A prenup removes this temptation, it punishes the get refuser (be it the husband refusing to give one, or the wife refusing to accept it) financially. So far it has worked 100% of the time because it removes the incentive. By making the refuser pay, the charm is lost. The couple can resolve their differences without a threat over their heads. They can act like menchen… or not… but neither can chain the other and abuse them with the Torah we are meant to live and do good by.
People getting married: Sign the preup, make it a normal part of the marriage process. Music- check, Photographer- check, Dress- check, Prenup- Check.
Rabbinical leaders: Don’t let Torah be abused! Refuse to perform marriages without a prenup. Avoid the tragedy of chained women, men and children. Prevent people from leaving Judaism as the only way to be free. It cannot be that the only rabbinically sanctioned solution we use is to beat a man. Be brave! “Who knows if it is for this moment that you attained your position?!”
Educators and Parents: Be role models! Protect your students, community and family! Tell your kids there is absolutely no reason not to sign a prenup. Explain that it is a way to show love and respect, a willingness to protect your love – even from yourself. Tell your kids that get refusal is abuse, make it something they categorically reject.
Everyone: Get refusal is a black stain on Torah Judaism. Demand that the solutions offered in Judaism be used!
Great pushes are being made to use prenups as part of the marriage process and to punish get refusers, both via NGOs like Tozhar and in Knesset by MKs. But this is not enough, our voices must be heard.
In honor of Agunah Day, this thursday, we will be wearing turquoise ribbons, changing our avatars on Social Media, using hashtags, and sharing awareness memes- please join us in spreading awareness to make get refusal a thing of the past.
You can use the memes and avatars in this post and find them at this Facebook page for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
Also use hashtags #signit #prenupswork or my favorite #prenupssavekneecaps
Please visit www.iyim.org.il/prenup for more information!