Victoria Sutton

We will return to you – Hadran alakh

Just as Jewish communities and leaders gather in celebration to ensure marriages start off well, so must Jewish communities and leaders ensure marriages also end well
Illustrative. A woman drops her wedding ring, divorce. (iStock)
Illustrative. A woman drops her wedding ring, divorce. (iStock)

This week, thousands will mark the completion of Tractate Gittin in the Daf Yomi cycle, which deals with the intricate laws around Jewish divorce, and then move on to the next tractate. Yet, amidst the celebrations, many others are waiting to close the book on Gittin, waiting for their own sifrei keritut (severance documents, the Torah’s name for a get, a bill of divorcement). Still waiting to move on. Stuck, between the lines, outside the margins, are agunot, those women chained in dead marriages, and mesurevot get, those refused a get by their husbands.

Before jumping into the next tractate, Kiddushin, which discusses the beginning of a Jewish marriage, bear in mind that for the kedusha, sanctity, of Jewish marriage to be preserved, the get process must be dignified, timely, and definitive. The Torah and the halakhic system outline the ways in which couples are obligated to each other as they enter into chuppah (the wedding canopy) and kiddushin (Jewish betrothal or marriage), and it also outlines the ways in which they are obligated to each other if they exit that marriage.

And just as rabbinic leadership and communities gather in celebration to ensure the marriage starts off on the right foot, rabbinic leadership and communities must rally together in support to ensure that marriages also end on the right foot.

Protections against get-abuse exist within halakha, as do solutions to other unfortunate events that might preclude the giving of a get (for example, if the husband is incapacitated). These halakhot, and these cases, can often be complex but they are by no means a new issue without precedent. Generations of scholars, from Masekhet Gittin through today, have written responsa addressing myriad complex cases and proposing halakhic solutions. They are too numerous to outline here, and there are leading scholars, community leaders and advocates bravely employing them to resolve agunah cases every day.

Bravery should not be needed, however, when it comes to an area of halakha in which the Hahamim took so much effort, employing leniencies and frameworks to prevent and free agunot cases. Tragically, many scholars and community leaders relegate these solutions to “l’halakha v’lo l’maaseh,” confined to mere theory to be studied in the beit midrash (study hall), but not to be used in practice.

As we move on from Masekhet Gittin and recite the hadran, may we commit to return again and again to efforts in education, advocacy and support until all those who are waiting for a get can move on in peace. And as we enter Masekhet Kiddushin, may all those who enter into a Jewish marriage be able do so with full da’at, knowledge and consent, that they will be ensured a dignified and timely halakhic resolution to the marriage, should that day come.

הֲדְרָן עֲלָךְ מַסֶּכֶת גיטין

Hadran Alakh Masekhet Gittin

We will return to you, Tractate Gittin, again and again, plumbing your depths for the resolution of agunot, for solutions.

דַּעְתָּן עֲלָךְ מַסֶּכֶת גיטין

Da’atan alach Masekhet Gittin

Our minds are on you, Tractate Gittin, as are those waiting for a get are on our minds, always.

לָא נִתֽנְשֵׁי מִינָךְ מַסֶּכֶת גיטין

La Nitnishei Minekh Masekhet Gittin

We will not forget you, Tractate Gittin, and we will not forget about you, agunot (those chained in dead marriages) and mesurovot get (those refused a get)

לָא בְּעָלְמָא הָדֵין וְלֹא בְּעָלְמָא דְאַָתֵי

La B’Alma Haden v’la b’alma d’ateh

Not in this World nor the World to Come. May we see to it that justice be served in this world and not only in the World to Come.

הַעֲרֵב נָא ה’ אֱלֹ-ינוּ, אֶת דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָתְךָ בְּפִינוּ וּבְפִיפִיּוֹת עַמְּךָ בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל

God, please make your Torah sweet in our mouths and in the mouths of the entire nation, the House of Israel. May the words of Your Torah have the power to sweeten the even most bitter situations.

ה’ עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן ה’ יְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם:

May God give strength to God’s nation and may God bless God’s nation with peace. May God give strength to those chained, and may they be blessed with peace of mind and freedom.

About the Author
Rabbanit Victoria Sutton is a Jewish educator and has served in positions of communal leadership in Orthodox synagogues on both US coasts. Her forthcoming book project explores Sephardic Women's Halakha and Minhag, as part of Sefaria's Word-by-Word fellowship.
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