Look, over the years here on Jewlicious, we’ve had some uncomfortable debates about aspects of halacha – Jewish law – that to some of us appeared outdated and WRONG, and to others among us appeared to be the way things are and have to remain. Among flash-points such as what it means to keep the sabbath, what, if anything, is the Jewish value of Conservative and Reform Judaism other than to subsidize Orthodox Jews, whether converts who converted in movements other than Orthodox are actually Jewish, whether children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers who identify themselves as Jewish are indeed Jewish and should visitors at the Western Wall be segregated or divided into the haves (men) and have-nots (women), there was one particular topic that always raised my ire: agunot.
To those who don’t know, according to Jewish law, when a man wants to divorce a woman, he gives her a “get” which is his consent to be divorced. Without that “get,” the woman is not considered divorced and may not remarry in Jewish tradition. She is an agunah (agunot is the plural form). If she does remarry, it would most certainly not be considered valid by Orthodox rabbis and the children would be considered bastards which carries all sorts of negative connotations. In other words, this is a rabbinic sanction for a man to have extensive leverage over the woman who despises him sufficiently to seek a divorce from him. To give up the “get,” he can ask for money, sex, favors and all sorts of other goodies because until he says the magic words, the woman is “his” (literally, since that is what the traditional ketubah – marriage contract – stipulates).
Needless to say, this happens all the time. It’s actually even worse for some women because the husband so hates the wife that he does not grant her the “get” under any circumstances. She waits for years, usually her finite child-bearing years, hoping that he’ll release her, but very often he will move on with his life and out of spite refuse to grant her the “get.”
The rabbis know all of this, of course. In Israel, they have the luxury of controlling civil laws pertaining to marriage and divorce so the issue of receiving the “get” takes on even greater importance since the woman cannot even get around the country’s civil administration unless the husband grants a “get.” Over the years, some rabbis have tried different solutions. Some have tried pre-nuptial agreements, but the rabbis who control the rabbinate have rejected most of these agreements because the man, according to tradition, must come to the decision of his own volition and not because of coercion (Get it? He can coerce his wife any way he wants, but he cannot be coerced). Other rabbis send tough guys over to the guy’s house where they are supposed to apply, um, pressure on him. That’s supposed to work, but often it doesn’t because this is a form of coercion and unless the guy is seriously afraid that somebody is going to risk going to jail over this, chances are he won’t budge.
All of this is preamble to what this post is really about: how well halacha works!
From the Jerusalem Post:
A 50-year-old man from the Jerusalem area divorced for the 11th time, a new Israeli record for Jews, according to an announcement released Monday by the Rabbinical Court Administration.
The man, whose divorces were performed both in Israel and abroad in accordance with Halacha, said his custom is to divorce his wives every two years and look for a new bride immediately after.
“I throw out a hook and the fish come on their own,” the man reportedly said.
In his latest marriage, which also lasted two years, the two sides split the debts the husband had accrued. The woman claimed her husband had promised to work but ended up living off her assets and those of her parents.
See? What did I tell you? Halacha works! This guy gives a “get” on schedule and does not leave his wives as agunot, not even once out of eleven chances.
It’s good to be a man.