One Sin Begets Another: Oded Gez in Action

In the Jewish tradition there is a concept, or perhaps it can be called a warning or even a psychological insight, which says “aveira goreret aveira”. A transgression pulls another in its wake. If one begins with one sin, the next is quick to follow.

The actions of Oded Gez, the “infamous” get-refuser, as coined by Michael Bachner  in today’s report in the TOI, demonstrate this concept in depth. As Gez attempted to enter Israel today, he was arrested for a variety of crimes.

Gez’s wife, as reported, had taken protection in a shelter for battered women. Gez himself, having been obligated by the State Rabbinical Court to give his wife a get, according to press reports, continued to transgress civil law as well as his disobeying the rabbinic ruling. Despite his years of Torah study and despite his leading a “religious” life, Gez went to extreme lengths to violate the ruling of the Rabbinical Court Judges to give his wife a get. Eventually, although he was legally prohibited to leave Israel by the ruling of the Rabbinical Court, Gez fled using a false identity.

A different maxim is “necessity is the mother of invention”. Although this adage is not religious in nature it is applicable to rabbis as well. Getting Oded Gez to give his wife a get proved to be the potent necessity that brought the Rabbinical Courts to issue almost revolutionary rulings. For the first time in history, the High Rabbinical Court ruled that the centuries-old method of Harchakot d’Rabbeinu Tam (which amount to social sanctions) can be disseminated via social media. This decision of Chief Rabbi David Lau, Rabbi Aharon Katz and Rabbi Eliezer Igra, to publicize Gez’s name and the ruling against him via modern technology, developed into a widespread social media campaign against Gez. It was after this campaign that Gez fled the country.

The “Agunah Unit” of the Rabbinical Courts searched for Gez abroad. When Gez was located in Antwerp, Israel requested his extradition. (This request did not yet come to fruition, but as reported Gez flew back to Israel voluntarily, albeit under a false identity.)

Once Gez fled Israel, the regional Rabbinical Court handling the case understood that drastic measures had to be taken to free an agunah. Five years after she filed for divorce, the Haifa Rabbinical Court, headed by Rabbi Avraham Meir Shlush together with Rabbi Daniel Edri and Rabbi Shmuel Avraham Chazan, annulled the marriage and determined that “her status is that of a single woman who never married”. This allowed the former agunah to remarry within Orthodox Judaism, which she recently did.

Furthermore, in 2016 Israel’s Attorney General determined that get-refusal is a criminal offense. Thus, now that he is in Israeli custody, the Rabbinical Courts are weighing adding criminal charges against Gez to the existing ones, as a get-refuser.

There are many lessons to be learned from this real-life-stranger-than-fiction story. One should be learned by the Rabbinical establishment. The rabbis must solve the agunah and get-refusal problem by systemic halakhic solutions. A different lesson must be learned by the laypersons. Until the rabbis present a comprehensive solution, it is up to each individual couple to protect themselves.

Unfortunately even good people can fall into the trap of get-refusal, which indeed sets aveira goreret aveira in motion. Take your pick – warning or psychological insight – there is a clear necessity to use all means to protect oneself from either falling victim to a get-refuser or becoming one. For that very reason halakhic prenuptial agreements were invented. The Agreement for Mutual RespectHeskem l’Kavod Hadadi – provides for a quiet respectful get in the unfortunate case that it becomes necessary. In addition, Rabbi Michael Broyde’s Tripartite Agreement – Heskem Hachut Hameshulash – provides the tools to a classic agunah, whose husband disappears or lies in a permanent vegetative state, to achieve freedom though a halakhic ruling of a Rabbinical Court.

One more truism – “Forewarned is Forearmed” or as I put it “Prenup is Prepared”.

IYIM’s Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project together with ORA-The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, is holding a free global webinar on get-refusal and prenuptial agreements, coming up to International Agunah Day, on Sunday, Feb 23rd at 8 PM Israel time/1 PM EST. Register at
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/2915777806605/WN_79XFB8NDT6S7rN4z31mXKA

About the Author
Rachel Levmore, PhD in Talmud and Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University, is the director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency; one of the authors of the prenuptial "Agreement for Mutual Respect"; author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal; member of Beit Hillel-Attentive Spiritual Leadership; and the first female Rabbinical Court Advocate to serve on the Israel Commission for the Appointment of Rabbinical Court Judges.
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