Promoting Halachic solutions
Mavoi Satum advocates for and promotes the use of creative halachic solutions to resolve complicated cases that come to our door and in order to protect against gett abuse. We work to expand the halachic grounds for divorce and to promote halachic tools such as prenuptial agreements, Bitul Kiddushin, Gett Mharsham, Gett Mi’shaa Ahrona, and conditional marriage.
Within the framework of Jewish law (Halachah) there are various options for resolving the phenomenon of divorce refusal and “chained women” – Agunot.
The notion that it is impossible to apply these solutions today is a misconception whose implication for the lives of many women is devastating. It is claimed that the rabbis’ hands are tied, their good intentions notwithstanding – but nothing could be further from the truth.
Divorce refusal can be preempted using prenuptial agreements, which impose financial sanctions on a husband who refuses to grant his wife a bill of divorce. Today, such an agreement is a condition of marriage within the Modern Orthodox community in the United States, and rabbis of this community will not marry a couple who have not signed this type of ‘prenup’. In addition, at the time of the wedding, a document can be signed attesting to the conditions under which the marriage is contracted – a mechanism that provides protection against becoming “chained” and which together with the ‘prenup’ helps ensure that no woman will remain an Aguna. Other mechanisms can be applied after the marriage, such as invalidation of the marriage on a variety of grounds, annulment of the marriage, ‘final hour’ divorce and more.
These Halachic solutions are not new, and are not recent inventions for modern times. They are based on long-standing traditions dating back to biblical times. Indeed, King David instituted a divorce document for his soldiers to sign before going into battle, so that if they fell captive their wives would not remain trapped in the marriage. The Gemara discusses this in Tractate Shabbat: “Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Everyone who goes to war waged by the House of David writes a bill of divorce to his wife” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 56a).
In 1924, the Rabbis of Istanbul, Turkey, published a pamphlet, “Provisional Kiddushin.” Due to cultural changes and distancing from tradition, women were being abandoned by their husbands. In order to deal with this distressing situation the rabbis proposed instituting provisional kiddushin.
Rabbi Ouziel, the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, was extremely disturbed by the plight of Agunot and sought to find a general solution to the problem, while at the same time finding creative and innovative solutions that he applied to individual cases that came before him. Rabbi Ouziel suggested including the following statement in the wording of the kiddushin: “In the opinion of the rabbis of a Beth Din (rabbinical court) in the city, if he causes his wife to become an Aguna, the Beth Din will have the power to annul the kiddushin retroactively.”
We are working on developing and implementing these solutions, in order to prevent the next case of aginut, and to allow women to marry according to Jewish law without fearing they may be chained forever in an unwanted marriage.