Not all marriages can be saved – nor should they be.
While the Torah celebrates the joining of a couple in marriage and all that it represents; the Torah also commands the protection of couples from unloving, unhappy or abusive relationships.
The formal procedure to end a marriage is based on a verse in our parsha, Ki Tetze:
וכתב לה ספר כריתות ונתן בידה…
The husband writes and presents a writ of divorce – a get – to his wife…
The word “גט” – gimmel+tet – are never found together in Tanach, highlighting the fact that sometimes severance is best – when it is no longer in the best interest of the couple to remain together.
3,000 years ago, the idea of a formal get was a novel approach; the first concept in human history to ensure that a divorced woman would remain economically protected and not simply discarded.
But today this tool, created to protect, has been corrupted and turned into a weapon. Thousands of Jewish women around the world have become “agunot” – chained to marriages by recalcitrant husbands who hold them hostage by withholding their rightful get.
Sometimes the price he asks for the get is custody of the children, huge sums of money or giving up on joint property. Other times, his motive is punishment, and no amount of concession will change his mind.
This ugly phenomenon of get-refusal creates misery for the aguna and devastates the family.
Get-refusal is nothing less than a chilul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name, and it is inconceivable that such pain be inflicted under the guise of halakha.
You and I can change this.
We can and must insist that every couple get married with a halakhic prenuptial agreement – a document first conceived in the 17th century halakhic work, Nachlas Shiva.
A contemporary version, established by the Beit Din of America and Rav Mordechai Willig, with the strong support of Rav Herschel Schacter and the approval of poskim such as Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, zt”l, and libadel may’chayyim l’chayyim, Rav Asher Weiss and others, has been in use for more than 25 years, during which time tens of thousands of North American couples have signed it without one single case of aguna!
Here in Israel, similar documents have been created, but much work needs to be done to increase awareness of the issue in Israeli society.
By using the links that appear on the screen, you can download the halakhic prenup from the Beit Din of America; an Israeli version of it from Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline for agunot; or a slightly different Israeli version promoted by the Tzohar rabbinical organization.
What better way can a couple demonstrate how much they care for one another, how much they truly love one another, than to promise to never hurt one another?
Just as it is a mitzvah to end an unhappy marriage, let us recommit to ensuring that this sad process includes this important and common sense step in protecting our daughters, granddaughters and all Jewish women from avoidable agony and suffering.
We have the ability to end this chilul Hashem. Let’s do our part.