The Precious Pre-Nup

Much ink has been spilled over the past many years regarding the subject of Agunot, women (AND MEN in many cases) that are left “chained” to a spouse who will not grant the other a GET (a Jewish divorce). The abuse, the pain, the devastation all make the life of the chained party a living Hell.

This epidemic of chained women seems to be getting more and more out of hand, and the threat of leaving one an Aguna has kept many a woman in a failed marriage and living with a spouse whom she no longer loves.

While the debate rages on and while Torah scholars attempt to find a resolution for this AFTER-THE-FACT situation, there is already a vehicle for prevention of this abuse: The Halachik Pre-Nuptual Agreement.

Let’s be clear from the outset: there is no 100% foolproof method to prevent this. However, ignoring a very strong, viable document in the battle against the scourge of Agunot is wrong. And for a rabbi to ignore this document is tantamount to rabbinic malpractice.  (To read all about the details and the rabbinic endorsements, please see here )

Over the years, ever since the Halachik pre-nup was first implemented, I have not performed a wedding without using it. In my initial conversation with a new couple I am to marry, I deal with all of the subjects necessary prior to a wedding. During the discussion, I bring up the topic of the pre-nup. As soon as I mention the topic, I also immediately address one of the major psychological stumbling blocks of signing such a document: “We are sitting here speaking about MARRIAGE, and you want us to sign something about DIVORCE?”

The use of a pre-nup does NOT indicate that the couple is unsure of the viability of their marriage. Quite the contrary–it is a sign of their mutual love and respect of each other. It indicates to both the chattan and kallah that they are willing to ensure the security of each other in the future in case (G-d forbid)  the need should arise. In the best case scenario, the document will grow “old and grey” along with the couple who will share many years together b’simha. But, should the need arise, the document is already in place and can save, literally, years of hardship and pain.

Once it becomes clear to the young couple that it is out of love and respect for each other that this document is important, they are more comfortable with it. In addition, I explain that while the couple sitting in front of me hopefully will NEVER need such a document, once it becomes “standard” to do for all weddings, then those couple who indeed DO need it, it will be there for them at the right time. It is not a game nor is it subterfuge to present it in this fashion–it is truthful.

It is currently coming up on the so-called “wedding season.” I would urge not only couples to consider this crucial document but also the Rabbanim performing the marriages and both sets of parents, as well. Sometimes, it occurs that one set of parents is interested in seeing their child have a Halchachic pre-nup and the other is against it. It is very important to have the discussion early on–while the plans are being made for the wedding–and not wait until days before the simcha. While these discussions can potentially be uncomfortable between future mechutanim, if both sides approach it with the same attitude that it is to enable both the chattan and kallah to express their care and love for each other, it will become  self-evident that they are acting in the best interest not only of THEIR children but of all couples seeking to marry.

One final point: In the event that the Mesader Kiddushin is unaware of this document or is not interested in it, it is in the best interest of all concerned to be proactive and bring up the subject that you are interested in the pre-nup. This issue can be raised by parents and the chattan/kallah. The bottom line is that this action can have a tremendous impact on a truly difficult issue and the more who involve themselves in seeing to it that the Halachik Pre-Nup becomes standard, the better off we will all be.

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.