Groundbreaking Ruling For Jewish Divorce Out of Israel

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The Torah on one foot according to Hillel is “what is hateful to you don’t do to your neighbor.” However, because the process of Jewish divorce, according to Torah law, gives the upper hand to the husband, men will sometimes abuse this power and use a get (Jewish divorce document) as leverage against their wives in order to negotiate for a more favorable settlement for themselves.

Many Orthodox rabbis have spoken out against this practice, declaring that using a get as leverage is a form of abuse and therefore prohibited. But some rabbis condone this practice with the justification that “the wife was being unreasonable.” In truth, in matters of matrimonial discord both sides can be unreasonable. Money can give one party the upper hand, children can be used as pawns; the list goes on and on. But having one side have more of an advantage solely because of his gender is difficult to understand and accept, which is why a ruling this week in Israel (according to Srugim.co.il) in the Beis Din of the Rabbanut Ha’Reishit of Israel, headed by Chief Rabbi, Dovid Lau, is so important.

In a ground breaking decision, they declared that it is not permitted to make any conditions or combine the giving of the get to the division of property. Only after the get is given may a division of property take place. The head of the Mavuy Satum organization, Batya Kahana Dror, told Srugim that this is a historic precedent that they have been working on for a number of years. “Until now men were totally unchallenged and unequally in control of being able to extort property from their wives on threat of not giving the get. Now, the beis din has finally declared that division of property and giving the get must be two completely separate issues and cannot be used as a threat. The husband must give the get before the division of property may even begin to take place at this point. This ruling has a very progressive implication towards resolving the problem of men extorting their wives for gitten, which is typically done simply for finances.

Kahana-Dror pointed out that the judges and specifically Rabbi Lau worked long hours in order to reach a solution. “Rabbi Lau and Dayanim Katz and Igra demonstrated tremendous effort, often sitting together in the Beis Din until the wee hours of the morning. It is unfortunate that a conclusion was not reached before this, but Rabbi Lau’s general practice is to put major effort and caring into every issue that he becomes involved in.”

 

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Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

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  1. Let’s be serious. When a woman takes her husband to the cleaners, and wants all his money, plus custody of the kids in secular court, and then asks for a get. Is he wrong for playing the only card he has? or saying, if you want a get according to jewish law, let’s either do everything according to jewish law or f u?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Eli. As I said, both sides can do awful things if they have more money or better lawyers. But a person’s gender shouldn’t make her worse off from the start.

  2. That’s always been an interesting question. Do we have 20/21st century values? Should we submit the Torah to our Procrustean bed of values? Or accept whatever it says as a baseline, and try to evolve values from there. The fact is, that the Torah gives a larger role to a man in marriage, and its dissolvance. Trying to judge that on the basis of other values, would be saying that we value that perspective more than a God given one. Is that something you feel comfortable saying?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      Do you want polygamy? Slavery? I don’t. They’re in the Torah but they were given when the world was very different than it is now and B”H Hashem made the Torah a *living* book and gave us a process, through halacha, to adjust (to some degree) as the world changes. There is obviously a limit in what we can do, but this is being done through a halachic process. I’m against *anyone* taking advantage of the other, but a woman shouldn’t be disadvantaged simply bc she’s a woman.

  3. I don’t want polygamy. All that would mean would be that my competitors would get 2 women before I had a chance at one 😛 But my question is still relevant. Define your (bleeping!) terms. Do you have any value system other then the Torah, and are you judging it by that?
    “a woman shouldn’t be disadvantaged simply bc she’s a woman.” is a statement. Which implies the back up of a philosophy. Or a value system. Is that compatible with Torah as we know it? And if so, how?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      The Torah’s value system is what is hateful to you don’t do to another. No one would want to have an unfair disadvantage against them because of the gender they were born into. This completely fits into Torah values.

  4. Hmm. Whether or not that is a Torah value system is worth a whole ‘nother discussion. But to keep it simple and on point, do you think gender equality is a value in and of itself? And if it is, when it collides with the patriarchy inherent in only allowing one side to dissolve a marriage, where do you stand?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs says:

      The rabbis already tried to make the system more equal when Rabbeinu Gershom forbade men to divorce their wives without the women accepting the get. In the world where the Torah was given, a woman not being married wasn’t an option. Once that changed, BH, the rabbis came in (and continue to come in) to prevent people from suffering. If you don’t think that “what is hateful to you don’t do to another” is the Torah on one foot, then perhaps we are not sharing the same Torah.

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