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An open letter to men withholding a get

To the husband who refuses to grant a religious divorce: Do what the Torah says is the right thing to do

You think you are strong – but you are weak. You think you are powerful – but you are anemic. You think you are brave–but you are a coward.

“YOU” are a man who is withholding a “get” from his wife. Whether your reasoning for withholding a “get” is for money or it is for spite or for any other reason, you are committing one of the worst possible abuses out there. While you play your mind-games and circle the wagons of your supporters, lives are being destroyed; families are being torn apart and children are having the fabric of their homes and potentially their futures torn to shreds.

You stand behind the Torah you supposedly hold so dear to support the idea that you are “in charge” here and that you are coming from a position of strength. But it is that very same Torah that cries for your wife and proclaims you to be weak. Sadly, you forget the words of the Torah and merely apply them when they suit your needs. The prohibition of abuse – because withholding a “get” IS abuse – the commandment of ואהבת לרעך כמוך (love your neighbor as yourself); the list goes on and on as to all the sins you continue to commit every minute you abuse your wife and families by not doing the right thing.

You play the “legal” card sometimes, trying to justify your actions. You forget about the fact that there is only ONE “law” that is above all others – the Torah! And what of the law? You sat at your wedding and, as witnesses watched, you accepted upon yourself – halachikally accepted upon yourself – the words in the Ketubah to “honor, provide for, and support…” your new wife. Wherefore is that support and love and honor?

I have sat by the side of a few of these women who suffered at the hands of people like you. I have watched the pain of yet another disappointment as they thought a “get” was forthcoming, only to see that hope vanish and be replaced by despair. (Blessedly I have also watched the elation as that long-awaited-for day arrived with some as well, Baruch Hashem)

One should NEVER withhold a “get.” It should never be used as a weapon or a form of abuse.

Bottom line – you have a choice: you can remain at the point you are and continue your abusive and obscene behavior or you can do what the Mishne bids us to do: ובמקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש (“And in a place or situation when there are no “men” attempt to be a “man.”) It is time to be a man and do the right thing: Stop the abuse and give your wife a “get.”

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.
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