Ask The Rabbi – 23/01/2014

Ask The Rabbi – 23/01/2014


Dear Rabbi,

I divorced after waiting years for my husband to give me a get. I don’t understand why my rascal husband gets to wield the power in Jewish law and decide when he’ll set me free. There is gross injustice in that.

The marriage document says he will care and provide for me. Once he stops doing that, surely he loses his rights? Can’t the rabbis redress the balance? I like to think where there’s a rabbinic will, there’s a halachic way.



Dear Rebecca,

The process of divorce in Jewish law is incredibly delicate. If anything is not a hundred percent in compliance with that law, the risks are enormous, rendering subsequent marriages as adulterous and any eventual children as mamzerim.

Thus to suggest if only rabbis wanted to, they could, is offensive in the extreme, suggesting such rabbis are simply misogynistic chauvinists.

It is the man who enacts the marriage through the placement of the ring. It is therefore he who later must render it void through the submission of the get. There is also the marriage contract (ketubah) to which you refer, in which the husband undertakes to care and provide for his wife and, more particularly, to also pay a settlement in the event of dissolution of the marriage, whether through death or divorce.

This document was implemented by rabbis to protect the woman, so the husband cannot readily discard her – rather, it would come at a price. That the husband acts in complete defiance of basic Jewish values doesn’t suggest Torah law is being unfair or rabbis are being un- reasonable. It’s expected the husband will be enough of a mensch both in marriage, and, thereafter, in the event of a break-up, by complying to give the get.

That some of them alas exploit that as well to heap further abuse upon the wife, again, is not in accordance with Jewish law and spirit and is not a reflection of Torah or rabbinic values.

There are three points to consider: First, there is a variety of sanctions that can be imposed on a recalcitrant husband, as much as is feasible within the realm of law, without being considered coercion, and we would look to implement that.

Second, the wife has some equal power where she could refuse to accept a get thus, to all intent and purposes resulting in a “chained husband”.

Finally, there is the civil side to consider, and many a wife, as much as a husband, has been known to use children as barter in the divorce negotiations. In normal circumstances, the Beth Din will only enact the get, or, at the very least not submit the relevant certificate attesting to the divorce and enabling remarriage, until the other, civil settlements are resolved and the decree absolute is granted.(to ensure there is no other under- handedness or exploitation at play).

I understand someone like you would be upset, having been treated as you have. But that blame lies not with rabbis, but with your ex-husband – which, I presume, is why you sought to divorce him. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I recently attended a partnership service, where women participate in the Torah reading – it was a strange experience. More of those attending were Orthodox synagogue members. What is Orthodoxy’s take on it and if it is good enough for them, why can it not be mainstreamed in all United synagogues?



Dear Melvyn,

Partnership, shmartnership. There are people who’ll look for every imaginable loophole within Jewish law so they could do less, without feeling too guilty about it.

I think they call themselves “openly Orthodox” –an absurd paradox. The Talmud states the evil inclination will not typically pounce on a person and tell them to do wrong. We would invariably reject the proposal as it goes against what we know to be wrong. Rather:  “Today he tells you to do this and tomorrow he tells you to do that until eventually he gets you to slide down the slippery slope.” 

By definition, initially, he will still get you to adhere to Jewish law, albeit trim a little off the edges, finding someone, somewhere who might offer a rabbinic sanction and what have you. That’s the starting point.

That someone, who encourages these sorts of services, is leading people astray. And those who listen to him – they delude themselves into thinking they are preserving Judaism by making it more accessible.

Only of course, when you dilute something, to paraphrase the Talmud, today you add a little water; tomorrow you add a little more water. Pretty soon, your original substance is all but unrecognisable.

It’s astounding that while every Orthodox rabbi across the spectrum utterly rejects these partnership services, when a lone ranger comes with some far-fetched argument, his thesis becomes the holy grail and he is hailed a hero.

An opposing rabbi is ‘out of touch with halacha’, reality and whatever else – even if yesterday, they were the one you trusted impeccably with all your other halachic concerns. With regard to those “Orthodox” rabbis who champion partnership services, to paraphrase one great American author and intellect: “I won’t insult the intelligence of those ‘rabbis’ by suggesting they really believe in what they said.” 

As for me, enough said. [divider]

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