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The NY Post Agunah Story is About Much More Than Jewish Divorce

One of our Jewish sisters, Gital Dodelson (Weiss) published a heartrending account of her marriage to a now-recalcitrant husband Avrohom Weiss. Reading her story brought tears to my eyes. It’s so painful to hear of her struggle and there were a few lines in there that resonate with all of us who may have some issues with parts of the Orthodox Jewish establishment.

There are two sides to every story and her husband’s family and supporters have supported Mr. Weiss’s right to withhold the get.

I’ll be quick on the get issue. I don’t care what the supposed justification might be, I don’t care how terrible of a person a wife might be, I don’t care if she broke Jewish tradition, broke Jewish law, is an adulterer, is a bad mother, I don’t care about any of it. There is no justification for withholding a get. Wielding a legal document as a weapon to a person whom one willingly entered into a marriage and supposedly loved and shared a life with, is abuse. I cannot condone any forms of abuse. Emotional, financial, sexual, verbal, or any other form of abuse is against Torah principles.

(For more on this topic see: Answering the Most Difficult Question About the Agunah Crisis)

divorce

Further, the statement from the Weiss camp does not justify not giving a get. Not even in their own words.

In fact, in this case there is apparently a letter (I say apparently, because one never knows if a letter is real these days) from leading Charedi rabbis who support Gital. This is an important fact as the Weiss family carries heavy rabbinic credentials and mockingly claimed that Gital was only being supported by YU and ORA. This is obviously untrue. More importantly, it doesn’t matter. There is no justification for withholding a get.

As an aside, this saga demonstrates how little social sanctions matter in contemporary Orthodox Judaism. No one cares. This guy is not suffering any serious social consequences for his recalcitrance.

But I think this story is more about Orthodox Jewish marriage than it is about Orthodox Jewish divorce.

Gital claims she did not want to continue dating Avrohom after the first or second date. Her parents and support group pushed her into it. And from there, her troubles began.

We’ve discussed the infantilization of young adults within Orthodox Judaism. Parents love their children very much and want what is best for their children. But parents are often wrong and often have different interests than their children. Yet, in the Shidduch System parents vet potential suitors, parents push children to continue dating, parents pay for the wedding and make it a party for their friends that the children are invited to, parents support their children and we all know that money comes with strings attached, the married couple eventually is thrust into difficult life situations with no real life experience, a minivan full of their own children, and no idea how they got there.

Young couples are hardly even given the opportunity to work things out. Dating is short. The focus is on external things and simple things like getting along nicely. But there is rarely enough time to even work out a problem together. Engagements are too quick and hectic to encounter and tackle real challenges. Obviously couples do not live together before marriage so there is no way of really knowing what that is going to be like. They get married and it’s traumatic for most couples. Which would be okay if they had the tools and skills to figure it out. But they don’t. Almost always, pregnancy begins almost immediately and now the focus is on a young woman surviving the difficulties of pregnancy. Eventually that becomes navigating parenthood. But again, there is little time to work on the marriage and the relationship. Let alone time to figure out one’s religious feelings.

Indeed, the system as it is today makes it increasingly difficult to be prepared for life’s challenges. According to Gital, Avrohom says he can’t handle it when things don’t go his way. He’s not the only one.

This dovetails into a bit of anecdotal disillusionment with Orthodox Jewish marriage and post-Yeshiva life. Anecdotally, people are finding it harder to make marriages work and finding it harder to make their frum lifestyle work in sync with their spouse. The sometimes spoken, but always unspoken goal of Orthodox Jewish life until 20years old is to get married. Get a good shidduch. Be a desirable match. That’s what it’s about and then everything is supposed to just work out nicely. Fall in line with the communal standards and way of life. People get married young and before they’ve had a chance to find their religious niche. It can change a lot between the age of 20 and 30. But most of us are married closer to 20 and by the time 30 comes along, it feels like it’s too late.

Gital writes:

“If I move on romantically without a get, I would have to leave this community — my friends and family and entire support system — because it’s committing adultery. My children and I would be ostracized and not welcomed in the community.”

“Some people might argue that I should ignore the traditions of the Torah. But I’m deeply religious and won’t go against the God I believe in.”

This is one part that made me cry. The feeling of being stuck is more and more common. These people want to be frum. They believe in God. They believe in the Torah. But they don’t believe in many aspects of the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. But our communities are so monolithic that it makes being a non-conformist very challenging. Sometimes it’s even social suicide.

It’s easier in Modern Orthodox Judaism, but even there we see an expected conformity that can be uncomfortable for some. Today’s Orthodox Judaism is very rigid in its organization of people and groups. That kind of inflexibility is having an adverse affect on many people.

I am sure there is some Yeshiva guy out there who, after reading this article, says he wants to date for longer or spend more time getting to know a potential shidduch. But will the community and his parents allow it? Unlikely.

Others will read this and wonder why it’s okay for Weiss to terrorize his ex-wife but a woman who wears the wrong clothing is ostracized.

These are legitimate issues that are all raised by the saga between Gital, Avraham, and their supporters. I hope their situation is resolved soon. I really do. But I think the story illustrates some of our more systemic problems that are affecting many more people than just the few Agunos out there.

I thank Gital for writing her story. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the state of normative Orthodox Judaism today and perhaps a chance to right the ship. It’s a big ship and it doesn’t handle very well. But the next generation of Orthodox Judaism will have a say in how it is steered.

Link: NY Post (and Weiss’s old Statement)


196 Comments
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  • http://daashedyot.blogspot.com/ The Hedyot

    This article has so many typos. You really need to proofread your stuff before pressing ‘publish’.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      You’re right. I fixed most of them before you left your comment. I apologize.

    • Red Sox Fan

      Hedyot, I miss your blog. Please start writing again.

  • MarkSoFla

    “In fact, in this case there is apparently a letter (I say apparently, because one never knows if a letter is real these days) from leading Charedi rabbis who support Gital.”

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that she is related to the Kotlers (of Lakewood?), that would explain charedi support.

    Maybe it’s a Kotler versus Feinstein cage match?

    • Shragi

      If that’s the case, maybe they’re settling old scores, you know, Malkiel vs. Yechiel Michel.

      • MarkSoFla

        Old scores? What are you talking about?

        • Joshua Pines

          Wow, I had never heard of this issue but I looked it up and found on wikipedia, following (FWIW):

          Malkiel Kotler’s first wife Hinda was the daughter of Rav Yechiel Michel and Lifsha (née Soloveitchik) Feinstein (i.e. she was the granddaughter of the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik). When he was called back to the United States from Jerusalem to succeed his father as rosh yeshiva of BMG, his wife refused to go or to accept a get (Jewish divorce). Kotler received an extradordinary and rarely used exemption (Heter meah rabbanim), allowing him to take a second wife.[6] Several months later he married his second wife Sarah Tikotzky.

          Shragi may be on to something!

          • MarkSoFla

            Wow. It’s the Jewish version of the Hatfield-McCoy feud that spanned generations!

    • doj464

      @MarkSoFla:disqus I would say that is a somewhat fair statement. There gedolim on each side, and it IS a cage match. I am a personal friend of the man, so I am biased. However, the article has absolutely no reflection on the reality of the situation… She is not a helpless victim, she has stuff of her own she is holding out on him. This isn’t a case of abuse, nor of a husband who is deliberately trying to not give a get. It is a complicated issue that should have been handled in a private forum. Giving the broader public a biased view is a chillul hashem and lashon hara.

      This doesn’t negate the value of having a conversation about our social structures that caused this issue…

      • ABS

        Are you saying that she actually refused to accept a get from him? If so, you would be doing everyone a tremendous service if you could provide proof of that contention.
        I think that you are correct in saying that everything should be handled privately, except that: Every divorce has 3 sides, his, hers and the truth! In this case what seems to be the reality (until definitive proof is provided to the contrary) is that she wants a get and he is not giving it. This is the crux of the matter. Let him give the get and let them sort out their differences away from the public eye.
        Of course it would be utterly warped to say that she is in fact refusing the get because she will not agree to his conditions. That would be like a child saying the fight started when he hit me back!!!

      • MarkSoFla

        “the reality of the situation”

        The reality? We only know two definite facts here:
        1. They are civilly divorced (for a few years).
        2. She doesn’t have a get.

        I can’t think of any other potential facts that have any bearing on this matter. If he has a problem with the custody arrangements that HE (via his attorney) agreed to at the divorce, he should approach the court for modification. And I can’t think of any reason why she would have to pay his legal fees, she has her own legal fees to pay. That’s how divorce works, 2 parties, 2 sets of legal fees.

        And I agree that the general conversation is worthwhile having.

        • Susan Barnes

          If they have a civil divorce, then there is no excuse for him not giving the get, even if he thinks she is “holding out” on something.

  • ari

    “It’s easier in Modern Orthodox Judaism, but even there we see an expected conformity that can be uncomfortable for some. Today’s Orthodox Judaism is very rigid in its organization of people and groups. That kind of inflexibility is having an adverse affect on many people.”

    I’m not quite sure what you are trying to say there but halachacly there is no recourse for her “to move on romantically without a get”.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      She could find a boyfriend and not be intimate with him. That’s for sure.

      • ari

        but she is looking for a step-father not a date

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          She would like both, I am sure. It’s lonely.

          • aliza

            but why on earth would she put herself thru that emotionally? dating and wanting to get married and then not being able to? that makes no sense at all.

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              People do it all the time. And they can hope she will be more available eventually.

      • MarkSoFla

        I think this is terrible advice! It is hard enough to be an agunah as a single person, but imagine how much harder it would be to be an agunah while in love with someone that you cannot begin to make a life with together. Furthermore, the recalcitrant husband would have even more “reason” (in his own crazed mind) to continue to hold her hostage, AND he could use the fact that his wife has a boyfriend with the various batei din as “proof” of a character defect on her part.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          I’m not saying it’s good advice, I am saying that in a more modern environment she would have that option.

          • MarkSoFla

            No! In a more modern environment she would NOT have that option. Even in a secular environment you do not have that option (if you are a moral person). You DO NOT start dating until you are divorced. Dating while separated is severely frowned upon.

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              She is divorced.

              • MarkSoFla

                A glib response like this isn’t helpful.

                From the Jewish point of view, she isn’t divorced, she is married, and therefore dating someone isn’t permitted.

                • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                  She can meet men if she wants. Married women can meet men too.

                  • MarkSoFla

                    Now you’re just being plain ridiculous :-)

                  • malkah

                    How would a married man like his wife to ‘meet men’ in the way she would be meeting them. That is ridiculou.

                    • sanesight

                      a married man maybe not but he’s a divorced man. Maybe he’s not a garush but he’s certainly divorced as he signed legal papers declaring it to be so. If you want to discuss this in English you have to call him divorced :-)

                • sanesight

                  from the Jewish point of view he’s a naval birshut Hatorah who’s using Torah as a weapon. Any Beis Din worth its salt would be applying some sort of pressure ala “kofin oto ad sheomer rotze ani.” There are many measures which in Israel are actually law taht can be taken against people like this Weiss fellow. So before you start discussing her morals maybe you should discuss those of any Beis Din which could pass a ruling on this that’s failing to do so! Technically you’re right she’s not free to marry but as far as whether she could morally go out with someone? Those who are doing something to get her releasd have a right to commet on her morals. Those sitting by eating popcorn and passing judgement watching the show and letting this woman be tortured with Torah – they really ought to put a lid on their moralizing…

            • debbie8431

              In what world? Almost everyone I know who is separated and waiting their time before divorce is finalized is dating.

            • Tova Ross

              I think normal and conventional dating rules go out the window when your ex has sent you to wallow in halachic purgatory. Do you not frown upon the husband more severely in this situation? Do you not look more askance at his morals here?

              • MarkSoFla

                “Do you not frown upon the husband more severely in this situation? Do you not look more askance at his morals here?”

                Yes (much much MUCH more severely) and yes (he’s a lowlife who deserves complete shunning by all Jewish communities until he relents).

                “I think normal and conventional dating rules go out the window when your ex has sent you to wallow in halachic purgatory.”

                But please realize that this entire conversation is within the context of halacha. Outside the context of halacha she is divorced and can do as she pleases regarding dating/relationships/marriage. But within the context of halacha, she is a married woman. That *IS* the issue.

                • sanesight

                  which means she can’t sleep with someone else or bear them children. dating? within the religious world dating is so limited in scope (no negia, no yichud etc.) that there’s really nothing she’d be likely to do which would even qualify her for mei sotah (and if she could take those all it would do is give her another baby if she were to have sex with hubby which she won’t and anyhow there are none these days). yes there’s the issue of maarit eyin but of course by this point everyone in this community who’d know her well enough to be able to have maarit eyin thoughts about her already knows her situation. and as for chillul hashem I think we know who THAT lies with. So no…I really DON’T see an issue with her being with someone. maybe you’d like to explain what the issur is

            • AlexisRT

              Not these days it’s not. My secular friends start dating once they’ve announced the intention to divorce, though usually after one person has moved out. And without halacha I agree with them; the morality is over the end of the relationship, not the completion of legal hurdles which may be held up by a number of things outside one’s control.

      • Daniel from Israel

        No she couldn’t. If he even begins to fancy her, he will be over the lav of “lo tachmod eshet rei’echa”, even if he never touches her physically.

        • sanesight

          irrelevant. the moment a man even meets her and knows her situation he’s liable to become enamored of her – going out with her is only the byproduct of that attraction. So basically anyone who sees a woman and is attracted to her is over on that dating or not. Anyhow the sin is on the man not the woman so it’s his issue and frankly I’m not so sure that the sin isn’t on the mesarev get who at the very least is over on “lifnei iver” by leaving her out on her own to be coveted by others. The fact is I don’t see why a beis din couldn’t rule that by the very act of his giving her a civil divorce he’s agreed ipso facto to give her a get since the act of divorce clearly signifies an intent to free her.

      • SG

        This would be very difficult for both, might not be worth trying, since there is no set time when she will be available for marriage.

  • gogetter

    How long did you date your wife for? Were you pressured in anyway to marry her?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Let’s not get personal here. These are general observations from personal experience with friends, family, and correspondence to me as a rabbi.

      • Nancy Phelps

        How long before it is obvious to the community he is withholding the get to be spiteful? How long can he go on like that?

  • newyork1235

    Excellent post and I couldn’t agree with you more. I also was struck by Gitel describing how Avrohom’s parents pressured her into another date she didn’t really want. Really a prime example of how illogical shidduch dating can be.

    • Ben Waxman

      oh give me a break. parents pressure their kids all the time! that in of itself is not bad.

      • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

        It can be. Especially in an environment where parental approval and support is necessary.

        • Ben Waxman

          pressure can be bad and non-intervention can be bad. this is a huge subject with tons of gray area.

          i am having problems with this picture of a poor innocent girl who was betrayed by everyone around her.

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            Over-intervention is an epidemic of mass proportions in the yeshivishe community.

          • MarkSoFla

            The girl made a mistake … that’s still no reason for her to be trapped in that mistake forever (or even for a few years).

          • walt kovacs

            it doesnt matter…dont you get it

            one cannot purposefully hold a woman in agunah

            • Ben Waxman

              i get the “get” problem, really. i get the “over-intervention problem”, really. i get the “she shouldn’t be trapped” problem, really.

              i also get that she (in all probability) has a staff of olive pope style advisors who arranged that interview, set up her facebook pages, tell her what to say, what to wear, and are holding her hand until the final victory. and i don’t think anything less of her for using media advisors. however, i also reserve judgement on the whole episode until, well probably forever because i will never know what went on.

        • debbie8431

          Why is parental approval and support necessary in the frum community? I think one could be frum and not operate based on parental approval and support. This is a choice, isn’t it?

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            It’s not necessary. They just made it that it’s necessary. It’s a social thing.

            • Ben Waxman

              its more than “they just made it necessary”. caveat: i am more familiar with the israeli frum scene than the american so the following may not be entirely accurate. with the pressure/acceptance to marry young (ya’ani under 18), the parents have to be involved. someone so young, and even someone 19, 20 would need outsiders, namely the parents, to be involved.

              • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                We are taking here about American Yeshivish type who marry at 19-20 for the girls and 21-23 for the guys. The parents make all the decisions except the final decision to marry.

                • Ben Waxman

                  i don’t think that anyone can draw lines and say “to the left of this line is ignoring, from here to the next line is advice, past this point is over-intervention”. i admit that i don’t know what goes on in lakewood or staten island, having never been in either place. having said that, i still feel that people are getting caught in the social media frenzy that she is trying to create. i’m not blaming her for that. i just want to stay out of it.

                  • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

                    I’m not even discussing HER case per se. I am talking about systemic issues that arise in the course of the discussion about her case.

                    • Ben Waxman

                      i’m discussing both subjects, excess intervention vs advice along with the picture that she is painting of someone who was pressured, abandoned, helpless.

              • sanesight

                Ben – which is precisely the reason taht they’ve just raised the legal marriage age in Israel to 18 (this week) and it would have been better if they’d raised it to an older age still.

                • Ben Waxman

                  actually what i heard from interviews with several MKs was that the prohibition of young marriage was really directed to the arabs. the chareidim are small change in this law.

                  you can’t tell someone he can be drafted, can vote, etc but he can’t get married.

          • Leah G. Goodman

            When I graduated high school, my parents and I had a serious disagreement about what to do next. I folded to them because I barely even understood the concept of making my own decision, and I was terrified of being on my own financially and emotionally.

            They wanted college, I wanted to go to the army or sherut leumi. I went to college.

            On the whole, it’s not nearly as serious a decision as marriage, and on that score, my parents were very careful as to how much pressure they put on me – to the point that they almost let me marry someone totally wrong for me – but I can certainly understand the concept of being scared of losing parental support.

            Honestly, I’m 35, married +2, and my parents’ support and approval still hold a lot of value for me.

          • kweansmom

            In the ultra-Orthodox community it is. They have no way to meet potential dates without parental involvement. Young married couples are often not financially able to support themselves for the first few years, if ever.

  • Red Sox Fan

    I read the letter from the Weiss family and still cannot understand – what exactly is their justification for withholding the get?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I was wondering the same thing.

      • Aryeh B.

        Read yudelstake.blogspot.com Rabbi Yeedle Shain has been covering this story for a few years now. He has a lot of how the Kotler family’s involvement plays a role and all of that corruption which it comes with. He gets into much more of the nitty gritty on the Weiss’s side. He has met with Gitals brother Aryeh Malkiel who is a big player in this case and he writes alot about that on his site. He also writes about why their arbitrator Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald has left this case. I am very friendly with both families here, and boy is it a mess. I have no opinion on any side and obviously condemn any sort of force such as withholding the get r”l. Thank you for a really great written article , I am married 2 years now, I live in Lakewood, and we always wonder how people get married and just have kids literally 9 months later. My wife can’t relate to the fact that you date 6 times in 3 weeks, get engaged, talk twice a week and then get pregnant. So he never knows you because you’re busy with your pregnancy and being hormonal, and then your busy with the kid and pregnant. This system must be changed quickly. It’s a mess , and the system is controlling, it is insane. I can go on for hours on the chosson / kallah teacher system and how controlling and manipulating they are, how they don’t educate at all,,,but that’s probably for a diff article. :)

        • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

          > This system must be changed quickly. … I can go on for hours on the chosson / kallah teacher system and how controlling and manipulating they are, how they don’t educate at all

          The control is the point, the system is working perfectly, and so it won’t be changed.

          No one deliberately set it up this way, but, like all community institutions, it evolves the best system to perpetuate the community. The best marriage system for perpetuating the yeshivish community is to get people married young and them and their children tied to community institutions as quickly as possible so that they don’t leave the community. It’s not a coincidence that typically the older an unmarried person is, the more modern he gets.

        • walt kovacs

          shain is a nutjob and a pig

          the kotler involvement has nothing to do with what weiss is doing

          there is already a civil court child custody agreement…if gital doesnt follow it, she will be held in contempt

          im sorry, i dont know how you can remain friends with the chasan’s side

        • Jacob Alperin-Sheriff

          R. Ronnie Greenwald is R. Fink’s great-uncle IIRC

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            You are correct. He is no longer strong enough to handle too much workload. His leaving the case is not indicative of anything.

  • http://spaghettitree.tumblr.com/ tani P.

    Agreed. This whole fiasco is a symptom of a much greater ill—thoroughly despicable as it is on its own.

  • ton

    The cynical side of me notices that she is going to graduate law school soon and would like work in this field. The story is heartbreaking, but this article is a bit self serving.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Of course it’s self serving! She’s trying to get a get!

      • ton

        in the nypost with a pretty picture of her holding a law book?

        • MarkSoFla

          When you are being refused a get, after a while, you will use ANY tactic to attempt to resolve the situation. And I mean, ANY tactic, including illegal ones (cattle prods, etc).

          • walt kovacs

            wanna go back to the good old days

            mr weiss wouldnt be walking right now…and the fbi and local law enforcement wouldnt do squat

    • Shragi

      I think you’d have to be super duper cynical to even think that.

    • anon109

      So you’re saying that she did not publish the op-ed in the hopes of being freed with a Get, but to hopefully get a job? Sounds legit.

      • ton

        this isnt an op-ed, and what i am saying is that something about this story feels off. its clearly very sad, but does anyone really think this will suddenly change things for this guy? i certainly dont.

        • sanesight

          there may be all sorts of things wrong about it and much we don’t know but one thing is crystal clear. The woman wants a get and is being refused one. That particular point isn’t up for debate and there’s nothing to excuse it. If she beat him or castrated him or stole his money or who knows what crime let him comlain to the police and let hr have her just deserts. But even if she should actually be the worst person imaginable he doesn’t have the right to wield the Torah as a weapon to chain her – end of story on that issue. the rest of it? that’s for people who are interested in gossip but it’s the siruv get that’s at issue here.

    • walt kovacs

      the cynical side of you is krum

  • Shragi

    I heard about a group in Monsey who are creating a drive to have young couples counseled to wait a year before becoming pregnant. I can’t see how it’s a bad thing.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Some of the yeshivish rabbis in LA are saying 6 months. But same idea. And yes, it’s good.

      • Shragi

        Yeshivish rabbis? OMG, only in LA.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          It’s major.

      • Aryeh B.

        Overhere, in Lakewood, if you’re not pregnant within 6 months they start davening for you, stop talking to you bec its awkward.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Lovely.

        • walt kovacs

          wonderful

          extension of what is being done to unmarried people

          mashiach better come soon

        • MarkSoFla

          That’s insane. And sad.

      • chana

        Which Yeshivish Rabbis in LA?????

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Email me.

    • Aryeh B.

      Wow that’s amazing , Lakewood would never think of it.

    • Guest

      they have to find a halachic principle behind it or no one will follow it

      you are talking about birth control…which is asur without a rav’s psak

      • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

        They do.

    • kweansmom

      I think blanket rules for everyone are a bad thing. Especially if you’re talking about couples who date for two years and are engaged for another year, and get married in their thirties.
      It’s further infantilization.

      • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

        They’re talking about one month dating three month engagement don’t think for themselves kind if people.

        • kweansmom

          Then it’s a band-aid measure. Children who can’t think for themselves shouldn’t be getting married. Better to focus on helping the young adults become more prepared for marriage and parenthood before they jump into either. A young couple even without children who get divorced within the first year is still a tragedy. Waiting a year is an arbitrary number that won’t work for everyone; better to tell them that every Jewish child should come into a stable home where they are truly wanted, and help them learn to use their own judgement about when that should be. Telling everyone to wait a year reinforces the message that they can’t and shouldn’t think for themselves. Get married when we tell you; have babies when we tell you.

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            Well, it’s a solution for helping them grow up. Sink or swim as it were. They must figure out how to get along and stop worrying solely about making babies.

          • sanesight

            if these children had the maturity to think for themselves they wouldn’t be getting married while still children and having children themselves. Babies rushing to make babies. But that’s just the point. They marry them off when they’re too young to have a clue what they want so they can explain to them what they ought to be wanting.

      • Shragi

        True.
        And to be honest I don’t know the details of this thing, but I imagine that anyone trying to institute such a thing, which is currently against the “norm”, isn’t trying to infantilize, they’re trying to empower, so I imagine they have enough seichel to understand this. But I really don’t know, it’s just something I heard about.

      • MarkSoFla

        Counseling to wait a year is much different than *requiring* to wait a year. And I think with a little seichel, people can make it work out for themselves (for example, a 30-something year old, concerned with fertility, would have the choice to attempt pregnancy as early as they like).

        • sanesight

          I would assume that any “wait at last a year” rule would be for the younger couples who can more than afford to wait even 5 years and still start having kids before their secular peers. Obviously someone in their 30s ought to have more maturity and can approach a rav and get the year rule waived or lessened based on circumstances. Though the truth is any yeshiva guy whose spent 30+ years with no day to day concept of what a woman is had really ought to get used to that for a year or so before he goes rushing into the next stage!

  • ahg

    In the article she writes ” I am willing to air my dirty laundry if it means I can finally get on with my life.” without explaining by what mechanism this article might help.

    I’m wondering what does she hope to accomplish by publishing her story in the NY Post that she couldn’t accomplish by having it in Jewish publications?

    A couple years ago, when the case of Tamar Epstein was in the general media, it was clear that because her ex worked for a public official there was hope that enough public pressure might be exerted so to force her ex’s hand.

    However, Avrohom Meir is a student at a yeshiva that’s very unlikely to kick him out over this as they haven’t already. If you want to get to the school’s donors the NY Post is probably not the best way to do it. [But might prove to be a better strategy.]

    As the recent embarrassing arrests have shown, Orthodox Jewish law is completely anachronistic, sometimes barbaric, and basically emasculated in modern times. What good is another article in the public eye going to accomplish other than shaming our broken system more than recalcitrant husband?

    It’s not like cases of sexual abuse where we can hope to bring the secular authorities to intervene. Here, the husband hasn’t broken the law. The cries of domestic abuse only exist due to her fealty to Jewish Law as she admits – not an area the secular courts will consider.

    How does she hope to benefit from a story in the NY Post?

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I think public shaming works.

      • ahg

        Generally I would agree. However, for someone who exists only in an insular community that is almost certainly aware of his situation and has accepted him – I don’t see how it will help.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          He doesn’t live on in an insular community. There live in Staten Island.

          • ari

            Also the family is prominent and he hides behind them. Their prominence makes it a bigger embarrassment.

            • ahg

              The embarrassment they’re most concerned about would be within the Jewish community not what the “goyim” think. The yeshivish world preaches that chilul Hashem is only “B’toch Bnei Yisrael”.

              I say go after the donors if you want to see a 180 degree about face in his grandfather’s stance.

          • ahg

            The Staten Island Yeshiva community might not be Lakewood or Boro Park, but it appears that his only “job” is learning at the family yeshiva – he lives within that bubble. Does he have any job outside the yeshiva? Does he belong to a shul where people will scorn him or does his life exist within the yeshiva where he has the protectcia of his grandfather?

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              That’s not the issue. The point is that live in a community that cares what the outside thinks.

          • MarkSoFla

            By the way, the yeshiva in Staten Island is nowhere near the frum communities of Staten Island. And as a result, it is in fact pretty insular (though nothing at all like chassidish communities).

      • Orthoprax Bible

        Do we have any evidence of that? I mean the question seriously – there have been a few public get conflicts in the last few years, how did they turn out?

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Tropper was run out of town because of international shame.

          • MarkSoFla

            Sadly, that “shame” and that “running out of town” seems to be reversing. Since we’re talking about Staten Island …..

          • Orthoprax Bible

            I was under the impression that that lasted a few weeks and that he was back. I don’t think that is analogous anyway. Did Tamar Epstein ever get a get? Were there other such stories recently?

      • MarkSoFla

        Social sanctions, or more accurately their effect, are directly proportional to your standing in the society. So if you are a poor schnook with no connections, social sanctions (many call it “bad for shidduchim”, but it has many facets) affect you quite a bit. But if you are related to a famous rabbi, or you are from a wealthy or otherwise powerful family, social sanctions affect you less (if at all).

    • JJ

      Have you seen this story published in The Jewish Press? Of course not. Will The Jewish Press or other “yeshivish” publications condemn Rabbi Feinstein’s grandson? If you do I have a bridge to sell you.

      • walt kovacs

        rav feinstein z’l would…he wrote tshuvas on this issue

        not a single one favored the husband

        • Guest

          And how is that going to help Gital and women like her?

          Gital Dodelson
          Gital Dodelson

        • JJ

          And how is that going to help Gital and other Agunot?

          • walt kovacs

            dont know…just pointing it out

            feinsteins still havent cleaned up their act since the tendler issues on both coasts

            something seriously wrong with the entire family

      • ahg
        • JJ

          The Jewish Week is not The Jewish Press and I would bet that hardly anyone in the yeshivish world knows that The Jewish Week exists.

    • walt kovacs

      shaming all of the feinstein clan
      its worked in the past,…it will work now

    • sanesight

      have you not noticed that the yeshivishe world happens to be a) patriarchal (which is why women so often get stuck in this situation in the first place) and b) enthralled by yichus (you find me a respected Jewish yeshiva publication that’s willing to take on Rav Moshe’s great grandson. So which paper do you think would have printed her story?

  • Shlomo Abraham

    Well written Rabbi.

    I will point out that by accusing ‘the community’ of infantilizing 20-year-olds, leading to bad marriages, you’re doing the same thing. In credit to Ms. Dodson, she doesn’t seem to begrudge ‘the community’ for things going wrong.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Well it’s certainly noble of her not to blame others. But I can.

      • walt kovacs

        and its been going on for far too long

        baruch hashem this is just an agunah situation

        here in los angeles, there was a case of murder, when the community continued to push the wife to stay in an abusive relationship

  • JJ

    My wife and I grew up in Modern Orthodox homes and attended M.O. yeshivas. We dated 2 years before getting engaged and our engagement ran for13 months because of education responsibilities. This enabled us to get to know each other very well before getting married. To my knowledge, all of our friends dated their spouses for a lengthy period of time before getting married. As you may have guessed, I am no fan of the shidduch process. Meeting a boy or girl three or four times in a public place and then tying the knot is absurd. I suspect that there are many people like Gital out there who if given the opportunity would opt to date over a longer period of time. How sad that these robotic yeshivish kids miss out on the pleasures of dating, holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes and being able to truly say “I love you.”

    • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

      The shidduch system is designed specifically to avoid the holding hands phase of the relationship.

      • JJ

        And keep them separate and apart at weddings, functions, etc. They should really love each other before getting married. Instead, they put the proverbial cart before the horse.

        • walt kovacs

          love is a chemical reaction

          whats love got to do with it?

          • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

            On the one hand, I’ll be the first to say that love isn’t some mystical ethereal thing – I’ve said it often enough when people point to love as proof of some spiritual reality.

            On the other hand, love exists for good practical reasons, and while it is brain chemistry, it’s not *just* brain chemistry. Love’s purpose is to tie people together in family units, to motivate people to take care of each other, and to overlook each other’s flaws.

    • walt kovacs

      there is nothing modern about being over halacha

      • JJ

        Instead of worrying about a boy and girl holding hands, stop ignoring the plight of Agunot as the vast majority of Orthodox Jews do.

        • walt kovacs

          i have never ignored the issue

          i dont see how one has to do with the other

      • http://aztecqueen2000.blogspot.com/ AztecQueen2000

        “And Yaakov kissed Rachel, and he wept.” It’s in this week’s parsha.

  • Orthoprax Bible

    1. Your viewpoint on the get issue is indefensible. Almost anything is justifiable under certain circumstances. The question is whether the circumstances in this case justify not giving a get. Your decision to weigh in equates to passing judgment on a conflict arising out of divorce on the basis of one side’s claim.

    2. Of course the frum system has shortcomings. The real question is whether its benefits outweigh its shortcomings, whether there are alternatives, and what the shortcomings of those alternatives would be.

    I think that a lot of the supposed “shidduch crisis” and ensuing “shalom bayis crisis” arises from the mass migration of marriageable men to the Lakewood (and secondarily, New York) areas. Shidduchim then become the realm of shadchanim, who are limited in who they know and the criteria they can use to match people. The process becomes more and more impersonal, and people choose shidduchim on the basis of these broadly applicable criteria.

    If, for example, there would be ten different yeshivas around the country that frum men would attend after returning from Israel, then more lay people would be exposed to more eligible men. Shidduchim would be suggested on the basis of softer compatibility factors that might not show up on a shadchan issued checklist. People’s dating pools would represent a broader array and their self-perception would mature more rapidly, resulting in healthier relationships.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      1. No. If you are civilly divorced and are withholding a get for no reason, there is no justification in the world.

      2. Maybe. I think an overhaul is easier and wiser.

      • Orthoprax Bible

        1. Imagine a criminal holding a gun to your head and threatening to kill you if you give a get. Now imagine that he’s threatening to beat your child. Come on, you went to law school, you know how this works.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Oh, that’s what you meant? Come on…

          • Orthoprax Bible

            No, I think that my point is correct. There are various scenarios that present themselves in divorce that would fit into this setup. It’s fairly common for wives to accuse husbands of abuse of themselves or the children to gain an advantage. I think we’d agree that “there is no justification for alleging abuse”. Leaving aside the issue of why there is no systematic movement to address the practice, which by reasonable assumption is more common than withholding gittin, what should a husband faced with such a threat do?

            Another, more innocent scenario: a husband feels that his wife’s family has turned her against him, and over a period of a couple years makes a series of concessions to attempt to hold the family together. He leaves a good job and moves to his wife’s hometown to work for his father in law, who is a “parnes” in the community. Over time he repeatedly sacrifices dignity and money to sustain a relationship with his in laws. One day, his wife suddenly unilaterally ends the marriage by changing the locks and sending him a text message. He is, of course, fired. He finds himself in dire straits and demands money from his father in law, and later conditions the get on receiving such money. Yeah, he’s not doing the RIGHT thing, but how wrong is he?

            • kweansmom

              Why is it a reasonable assumption that false allegations of abuse are more common than withholding gittin? Do you have any data to back that up?

              In your example, the husband is in a bad, possibly abusive (to him) relationship. That doesn’t justify his being abusive in return. If he was wrongfully terminated from his job, he can sue the father-in-law. The divorce procedure should determine who gets ownership of their joint property; she can’t just unilaterally claim the house by changing the locks.

              Otherwise he has no recourse other than to choose his next spouse…and employer…more wisely.

              • Orthoprax Bible

                If I had data to back it up, I would not have characterized it as a reasonable assumption. There is no reason to quibble over the exact comparison between frequency of withholding gittin and falsely claiming abuse; we both know that both happen occasionally.

                Everything else you write assumes your conclusion but provides no rationale. In my example, the husband is using the only available tool to get what is rightfully his. Why is this wrong?The termination was not wrongful in the legal sense, the same way that withholding a get is not wrongful in the halachic sense. And good luck suing for prior “soft” abuse in a divorce case. I’ve seen a thousand people say that “it’s never okay to withhold a get”, but as I keep responding, of course there are some times when it’s okay, the question is just which times. Moreover, even if it were never okay to withhold a get, frum society’s decision to jump in on an individual conflict that has two sides is another decision entirely.

                And your final sentence is equally puzzling. How about “otherwise she has no recourse other than to choose her next spouse more wisely”?

                • kweansmom

                  1) You’re right in a sense. It makes no difference how often a man withholds a get and how often a woman falsely accuses of abuse. Both are wrong, and neither excuses or justifies the other. And there is a systematic organization to fight for father’s rights as well as laws against making false abuse accusations. As there should be.

                  2) “The husband is using the only available tool to get what is rightfully his”. What about a wife who kidnaps her children because she thinks custody should be rightfully hers? Or because she thinks she deserves more alimony and child support than the court awarded her? Or the person who believes his property was stolen and burglarizes someone’s house in order to get “what is rightfully his”? In all of these cases, the ends don’t justify the means. As for your example, I don’t see how demanding money from his father-in-law is a fair way of compensating him for his wife’s bad behavior. If he thinks he deserves alimony from her (because her divorce robbed him of his livelihood) let him ask for it. What does his FIL owe him? Was he unfairly fired? There are legal remedies for that, too. What if the FIL doesn’t have the amount he demands? Is his wife’s misery fair recompense?

                  3) I’m talking about legal recourse to sue for damages. There are times when a person just has to accept that they made a mistake in judgement and have to live with a financial loss. In her case, you’re talking about accepting a life of slavery and a devastating emotional loss. You cannot compare that with the loss of a job. In fact, the situation you describe is often what happens to women in divorce. The financial burden of divorce overwhelmingly falls on women. One in five falls into poverty as a result of divorce. Often, the wife has given up what could have been a more lucrative career in order to raise the couple’s children. If her husband suddenly dumps her, is she entitled to do whatever it takes in order to “get what is rightfully hers”?

                  • Orthoprax Bible

                    2) In all of your scenarios, there is a legal/practical deterrent to doing those things, because the person who does them will end up in jail. Otherwise, you are right about my opinion – when there is an ongoing dispute and everyone knows about it, it’s silly for outsiders to pick on the misdeeds of one side as presented by the other side. When OJ Simpson was arrested and sentenced to essentially life in prison because he used force to get back memorabilia that he believed was his, I also believed that the moral opprobrium in the media was misguided. When I see an “Amber Alert” and it turns out that it resulted from an ex-spouse returning the kids too late I am furious (especially when it’s an alert on by BB at 3 am). Like this situation, the publicity in those cases mis-directs people’s moral outrage to situations where it’s not warranted.

                    3) I’m not sure what you mean. Law and morality are related but not synonymous. Why is the in-laws’ action more justifiable than the husband’s? And why shouldn’t the husband use what leverage he has to get what he deserves?

                    • kweansmom

                      Thanks for clarifying. Now that you say you find OJ Simpson a sympathetic character, it all makes sense.

                    • Orthoprax Bible

                      No, you did not understand what I wrote which kind of proves my point. You are so distracted by your emotional response to “agunah!” and “OJ Simpson” and “Amber alert” that you are not thinking logically about what is going on.

                      Assertion: It is never okay to kidnap a child.

                      Story: Once there were two ex-spouses who fought over everything having to do with the children. Under the custody agreement, Spouse A was not allowed to take the children out of state. One weekend, Spouse A asked if s/he could take the children to an amusement park just across state lines. Spouse B of course did not acquiesce. “Screw it!” Spouse A said, “I’m going anyway!” Spouse B reacts by calling the police and reporting his/her children missing. An Amber alert ensues. A reasonable person would conclude that Spouse B is deliberately overreacting in an attempt to manipulate the public and hurt his/her spouse. You would never get past “kidnap” and “Amber alert”.

                    • kweansmom

                      No, I’m not distracted by anything and I understood you perfectly clearly.

                      OJ’s 2009 conviction for robbery, assault, and kidnapping with a deadly weapon was entirely justified, as is an Amber alert when one parent takes a child across state lines in contravention of the custody agreement.

                      Simpson is eligible for parole after 9 years so he’s not likely to be spending the rest of his life in jail.

                      From Judge Glass’ statement at Simpson’s sentencing:

                      “When you take a gun with you and you take men with you … in a show of force, that’s not just a ‘Hey, give me my stuff back,’ ” Glass said. “That’s something else. And that’s what went on here, and that’s why we’re all here.

                      “I have to tell you, it was much more than stupidity. … You went to the room, you took guns — meaning you and the group — you used force, you took property, whether it was yours or somebody else’s, and in this state, that amounts to robbery with the use of a deadly weapon.”

                      As for your amusement park scenario, are you perhaps Spouse A or his close friend or relative?

    • walt kovacs

      rav moshe feinstein, z’l, the husbands great grandfather, disagrees with your first comment

  • ahg

    Staten Island Yeshiva, like most sizable yeshivot, likely has donors outside the yeshivish world who would be extremely embarrassed to be associated with Avrohom Meir’s behavior.

    Here’s a recipe that I am proposing:

    1. Write an open letter to Rabbi Reuven Feinstein demanding that either Avrohom Meir grants a get or is expelled from the yeshiva. Get it signed by as many rabbonim as possible.
    2. When/If the letter is ignored, get a copy of the yeshiva’s last dinner journal and contact all the major donors. Let them know what kind of institution they are supporting and ask them to reach out to Rabbi Feinstein. If that doesn’t work…
    3. Let them know there will be a full page ad in the NY Post listing them as supported of this yeshiva with Gital’s story. If it doesn’t work, follow through with the ad.

    Thoughts?

    • walt kovacs

      i think this is great, and i will financially support such an endeavor

    • JJ

      I suspect that those who support Rabbi Feinstein and his yeshiva could care less. They are of one mindset – If the Rabbi says jump, they ask how high. If the Rabbi says that his grandson has the right to ignore a Bet Din summons and withhold a Get, they will nod in agreement.

      • ahg

        Most yeshivot, even right wing ones like Staten Island, have supporters that range from unaffiliated to traditional to modern to modern-yeshivish. Even the modern-yeshivish ones, who might highly respect the Rosh Yeshiva’s opinion, can’t afford to have their law practice, medical practice, or IT company, etc. portrayed as supporting an abusive husband in the NY Post.

        • JJ

          “Modern-Yeshivish?” That is the consummate oxymoron.

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            There are plenty of them.

          • walt kovacs

            i know many

    • Jacob Alperin-Sheriff

      So make it happen

      • ahg

        I’m an unknown, uneloquent, unconnected, ba’al habayit. No rabbi worth their semicha certificate is likley to sign a letter I write to so a known scholar such as Rabbi Reuven Feinstein. However, perhaps a young rabbi with connections, a knack for writing, and with a following, like, I don’t know… no one in particular coming to mind here… might be able to pull it off. ;-)

  • vladimir

    I am proud of you, Rabi, for standing tall against the “systemic problems” , passionately taking side of this woman.

    • walt kovacs

      the rav is taking the side of halacha

  • katems@live.com

    When I see these sad stories, it is a valuable lesson for me to be careful what I wish (pray) for. I was converted by R Feinstein’s primary student, R Aaron Felder, yet the shidduch system has been particularly cruel to me and often left me feeling like damaged goods that no Yeshivish man would want. I know I’m not the only convert who’s been treated this way. I am certainly not comforted by the plight of any agunah, but it reminds me that born Jews who made good matches have their own problems. The current system, in my mind, is not great for many Orthodox people.
    I think there are two other issues that should be addressed here. The first is this idea of dynastic families. No one should have greater pull in a community because of who their father/grandfather/great-grandfather was. Period. Greatness is not genetic, and each individual should be judged on his/her own merits. There are many examples of great self-made men in the United States, and just one or two generations later, the offspring may have the money but they are severely lacking in the vision and ethics of the man who built the wealth.
    The second is the culture within the shidduch system that runs counter to everything Judaism teaches us about men and women. E.g. women are of a higher spiritual nature, women are to be cherished and valued, women are the center of the family, etc. But how would a young man transition to that state of mind when he has just come out of a shidduch system that sends him the message that he is the center of the universe and can have the pick of the litter? Oh, and that’s after his mother has weeded out the ones who aren’t good enough for her son. Infantilizing, indeed. Perhaps a shidduch system that values women will better prepare a man to be a husband who, as the Talmud advises, respects his wife more than himself.

    • walt kovacs

      i am very sorry that the system has made you feel that way

      trust me, you are not alone

      and that is a very sad fact

    • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

      > runs counter to everything Judaism teaches us about men and women. E.g. women are of a higher spiritual nature, women are to be cherished and valued, women are the center of the family, etc.

      That’s not what “Judaism” teaches about women. That’s what kiruv workers pretend Judaism says about women.

      Oh, there are traditional sources that say theses things, but they are far outweighed by the legal and social rules that make women second-class citizens, by the sources that describe women as “kalos rosh” and lump them in with children and the mentally deficient, and by the de facto status of women as almost-property in halacha.

      A shidduch system that values men more than women is a problem, but it’s in sync with the way Judaism has always been.

  • ddfgdfg

    Guy is a piece of shit. Forget jews, makes humans look back. Him and his family are a waste.

  • IH

    Sooner or later, we will be back to R. Rackman’s proposal as there has been no better answer within the halachic process for the past 38 years of hand wringing. By way of tutorial:

    “The solution Rackman proposed was a form of retroactive marital annulment, based on the model of the ‘mistaken sale’ – monetary transactions annulled for lack of full disclosure by one of the parties. Since in marriage, as in sales, full consent is required by both parties, the withholding of information by one is considered to compromise the other’s consent. ‘Concealing an important fact in selling a piece of property can justify the annulment of the sale. The same argument can be applied with regard to a marriage.’” The Talmud recognized the logic of this argument and would have allowed it to be the basis of annulments and saving an aguna, but disallowed it on another ground: “the general presumption that women prefer any marriage at all to being alone,” even to a leper or an abusive husband.

    “Rackman proposed an appropriation of this logic of annulment, with a critical amendment in its application based on an updated presumption about women’s preferences.” Rackman “acknowledged that the mind-set of preferring a bad marriage to no marriage may have been common among Talmudic women” for the woman who was left alone was lost in the society of the times and perhaps even in danger. But, Rackman “concluded simply, ‘In our day it is no longer true.’” A presumption, called hazaka in Hebrew, is in the Jewish legal system a prediction about nature, in this case, human nature. However, this presumption is outdated and should be ignored and the “mistaken purchase” annulment should stand as the solution to the terrible problem of the “chained wife”.

    Unfortunately, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik nixed Rabbi Rackman’s argument in 1975 and thereby, Rabbi Hartman writes, not only harmed the all-to-many chained wives but also placed Judaism in suspended animation. Rabbi Soloveitchik was then and is still today considered an accepted authority on Jewish law among Modern Orthodox Jews. He was, of course, entitled to his opinion, and his view should be respected, but should Judaism follow it when it does so much harm? Aren’t Jews today violating the Torah laws of love and respect of others when they fail to act? Can’t a solution be found that complies with halakha?

    Ref: http://www.jewishideas.org/articles/thoughts-agunah-problem

  • getz

    Eliyahu,

    You are sorely mistaken in your belief of divorce-on-demand, whereas as soon as one spouse wishes to be divorced that he or she is automatically entitled to it.

    1) Torah law always allowed a husband to decide he does not want to give a Get to his wife even if she wants one. 2) Rabbeinu Gershom instituted a rabbinic ordinance giving a wife the same right, namely to decide she wishes to decline accepting a Get that her husband wishes to give her.

    So it is established, therefore, that either spouse has the right to decide they do not wish to be divorced and rather wish to remain married. The husband has this right by Torah law and the wife has this right by binding rabbinic ordinance. And this right by definition, obviously, means one spouse wishes to divorce while the other spouse wishes to remain married. And in such a case the spouse that wishes to remain married has that right to remain married (either by Torah law or rabbinic ordinance) despite the other spouse wanting to divorce. He has the right to decide he wants to remain married to her even if she wants out. And, similarly, in the reverse Rabbeinu Gershom gave her the right to decline accepting a Get if she doesn’t want to be divorced, even if he does. Rabbeinu Gershom didn’t give her that right merely as an academic exercise. He gave her that right to actually exercise if she decides she wants to remain married to him even if he wants out.

    If only one party wishes to divorce, they have no right without the other party consenting to it, as per Rabbeinu Gershom. If one party demands a divorce and the other party wishes to continue remaining married, declining a divorce is both within the letter and the spirit of the law and of Rabbeinu Gershom’s cherem. There is nothing wrong about sincerely exercising your legal rights that are explicitly granted to you for this very reason to exercise. Rabbeinu Gershom specifically gave wives the right to decline to be divorced and to insist on remaining married to her husband. There is no reason she should not exercise this rabbinic right of hers if she sincerely wishes to. And the same vice versa regarding the husband.

    If one spouse sincerely wishes to be divorced while the other spouse sincerely wishes that the marriage continue (and there are no severe factors that gives one the halachic right to demand a divorce such as continual physical abuse, refusal of onah or other valid causes that halachicly entitles the other spouse to a divorce), then halacha (per the Torah and per the cherem) allows the spouse who wishes for the marriage to continue, the authority to remain in that marriage even though the other spouse does not wish to remain in the marriage. And Rabbeinu Gershom is explicit in this point with his cherem preventing a husband from divorcing his wife who wishes to remain married to him. He gave wives this same right that the Torah always afforded husbands. My second and third posts above expound this point in greater detail and it would be productive to read them before responding.

    • walt kovacs

      we dont paskin this way

      but thanks

      • getz

        The Reform/Conservative don’t pasken this way. In Orthodoxy what I described above is Basic Shulchan Aruch 101.

    • IH

      You missed, though, that there is a way out for the man,
      but not for the woman: http://vcjewishcenter.org/www1/Holiday/abuse_heter_meah.pdf

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      What are you talking about? I am not suggesting “divorce on demand”. I am suggesting that if they are divorced and they agree to get divorced and he stops living with her as husband he must give the get right away and not hold it hostage for a ransom.

      In this case THEY BOTH WANT A DIVORCE. He is just being a jerk and withholding the get. That’s not wanting to reconcile or working on the marriage. It’s terrorism.

    • guest

      signing a civil divorce is not “sincerely wishes that the marriage continue”

  • IH

    See also the summary of the Agunah Summit earlier this year at http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york-news/agunah-summit-revisits-plan-create-liberal-religious-courts

    Rabbi David Bigman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ma’ale Gilboa – HaKibbutz HaDati, in Israel’s Galilee, said, “There can be an immediate solution which is not comprehensive or a comprehensive solution which is not immediate.” However, “what can we do tomorrow morning that would be significant, would be… the Rackman Court revisited.”

  • IH

    Lastly, see this eye-popping article from a couple of years ago in Hamodia: http://vcjewishcenter.org/www1/Holiday/abuse_heter_meah.pdf

    “Tragic Abuse of Heter Meah Rabbanim”

  • Ben Waxman

    We suffer from overindulging our youth. Illustration: Boys used to
    select a yeshiva based on a Rosh Yeshiva’s shiurim. They selected the
    yeshiva from which they could grow most. The best rosh yeshiva used to
    be synonymous with the best yeshiva. This has been replaced with a new,
    self-centered criterion. Now it is where the “best bochrim” of my type
    go. Boys grow independently, with no guidance, no gardening. So a young
    boy becomes a man de’amar. They no longer ask for guidance in anything.
    And so it continues in married life, with no real kesher to a rebbe.

    Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/11/06/guide-to-the-perplexing-one-point-of-view/#ixzz2jqshUL5k

    this is from the latest cross currents.

    are the chareidi cultures in america and israel diametrically opposed?

    • Baalebus

      Are you suggesting that those that don’t follow the yeshiva crowds dating system end up in happier relationships? Lower divorce rate? Why are you condemning a system that works well 99% of the time because of the 1%?

      • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

        For the millionth time, divorce rates in a given community have much more to do with the stigma attached to divorce in that community than with how satisfied community members are with their marriages.

      • Ben Waxman

        i’m asking a question, i’m not suggesting anything. on this page, in article cited, it has been argued that young chareidim are “babied”, ya’ani parents decide everything. yet a major posek in israel has said exactly the opposite is true, that young men decide everything on their. how is it that completely opposite descriptions are being given? if someone says “that is israel, this is america”, OK that could be. anyone have a suggestion?

        • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

          My guess would be that there are both babied and independent young people in the Chareidi community. Those outside the community, like us, decry the infintalization of (some) young adults. Those inside the community decry the independence of (some) young adults.

          The difference is that a dependent infantile population is the community ideal.

        • kweansmom

          I think he is talking about the decline of the rebbe-talmid relationship, not the lack of parental involvement.
          The young charedi people I know, whether in Israel or in America, don’t do anything in dating without heavy involvement from their parents.
          If they happen to meet someone on their own they will get a shadchan to broker it through the parents.
          Parents get to screen all potential dates. No one makes it to a first date without this vetting process, which can take weeks.

          Parents don’t even necessarily have the freedom to decide if they want to opt out. This is how it’s done; and you can’t just turn to your child and say, “Count me out…deal with this on your own.”

          • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

            Precisely.

    • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

      Independent young men? The horror! :-)

  • judae

    What I find funny about the Mishpachat Weiss website is that it tries very hard to cloud the issue. The family seems to go to great lengths to explain why the Siruv is bad and why Avrohom took his wife to a US court over a Jewish one, and insists that he will or wants to go to a Jewish court but is now bound by US law… whatever. It never once says that he is willing to give a get and continues to cloud the issues in Jewish terms that really are less to the point. That they asked for $350K for a Get tells me everything I need to know. He is hurt, his family was shamed and they will make this young woman pay by making her an older woman one day, still single and alone. Makes the case for the Lakewood “Operation” that gets the Get for a lot less money that $350K..

  • judae

    Rabbi Fink, these matters make people in the religion – hate it. For Rav Reuven Feinstein, an man whom I have known all of my life, respected and revered his father and attended his yeshiva as child, I have no words to describe disappointment here. A Gadol should act greater than the common man – not stoop to our levels of pettiness. Reb Reuven ought to get Avrohom to end this nonsense, stop standing on ceremonies, lick his wounded ego and move on to find the next woman to traumatize with his out-dated misogyny. Few things made me happier than seeing Reb Dovid walk down Grand street with his wife; love, warmth, companionship and respect are always evident. That is the image Reb Reuven should want to promote. These two young people will never do that with one another now, but they still can with others. Maybe the family should focus on that.

  • nvst18

    I, also, at age 20, wanted to break off my engagement because of abuse. I was told not to because I was a ba’alat Teshuvah and my dad’s a Goy and I would “never find anyone better”. Too bad I listened. My ex gave me a get in 2006 after 15 years of abuse. then went to America and said he didn’t have to keep the divorce agreement because he “doesn’t feel like it”. I’m currently strapped with the burden of having to raise $2500 in order to have a lawyer represent me in court in Texas on January 9. My ex owes tens of thousands of dollars in child support, and I owe about half of it in past-due bills. And, it wasn’t the rabbinute of Jerusalem who let him. go. It was davka the secular clerks in Siyua Mishpati who didn’t have him arrested when he was here for a visit in 2010. But, no one cares about women who got a get and their ex’s continue abusing them financially.

  • Jellyface86

    Moron! He’s just being a pothead… Why cause her pain!?

  • malkah

    maybe the guy just loves her. Why not give it another chance

    • guest

      because he signed a civil divorce

  • Michael

    E. Fink, Are you going to write an article bemoaning the hundreds (thousands) of unhappy singles in the upper west side who follow your system, of date for a few years, then date someone else for a few years, and then end up unmarried at the age of 40? No? Why not?

    • MarkSoFla

      I think that’s already been written. Though I can’t find it right now.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      I don’t have a system. I just have commentary.

  • Big Game James

    There are a few problems in particular with Rabbi Fink’s take on this matter.

    1) In general, I agree with Fink’s claim with regard to the issue of the often-undesirable consequences for which the contemporary Jewish-Orthodox communal attitudes on marriage and dating will often be responsible. Namely ,I agree with Fink that, instead of being looked askance upon–as is currently the predominant attitude that prevails in the larger Orthodox community–the concept of waiting until one is truly comfortable with the person he/she has been dating to spend the rest of his/her life with such counterpart should instead be lauded and encouraged.

    Nevertheless, Fink disregards a not-insignificant issue in championing such a cause (CAVEAT: Of all my issues with Fink’s take on the matter, this is undoubtedly the least troublesome). That issue is the inherent limitations Orthodox-Judaism places on the intimacy it is possible for a man and woman to achieve prior to their being halakhically wed.

    In secular circles, physical intimacy is considered an important, if not integral part of the pre-marital relationship. By contrast, in the Orthodox community–more so but not exclusively in the Ultra-Orthodox community–all pre-marital physical intimacy is wholly off limits and decried as a grave violation of Jewish law (I say grave because the punishment, I believe, is Kareth; but I could be wrong). While I acknowledge and respect both sides of any debate on the pros and cons of pre-marital physical intimacy, on a moral as well as other grounds, any such debate does not adequately address the pertinent issue. Moral views on the matter aside, on a purely physiological level, two young persons who are attracted to one another–and in the midst of period of their life considered by many to be one’s sexual “prime”–would face a very difficult challenge to put aside one of the strongest most basic human urges for the multi-year period that courtship usually lasts in the secular world. I believe many young people, whether consciously or subconsciously rush to get married to satisfy a yearning to fulfill the urges of their sexual attraction. I take no position on whether the trade off is worth it nor any moral stance on whether young persons should or shouldn’t exert themselves to exercise the self-control necessary to abstain, but I believe that for those, such as Fink and probably many of his readers, who try to adhere to halakha’s mandates such a trade-off would undoubtedly result. I think overall (obviously not in each and every case) longer dating = more violation of the halakhot of negiah.

    Moreover, Fink ignores the problem of the inherent limitations placed on emotional intimacy by Orthodox Judaism. In the secular world marriage is generally the result, but not the purpose of the relationship leading up to it. People to develop natural relationships and emotional connections with one another and only at a much later point does the possibility of marriage between the two become a realistic consideration. By contrast, in the Orthodox world, people very often begin dating solely for the purpose of marriage. Before they have even met for the first time, the typical Orthodox boy and girl are both likely thinking “Will I or won’t I marry this person?” It should not be terribly difficult to see how beginning a relationship for some purpose other than the relationship itself (in the present context the purpose of marriage), would adversely affect the genuineness of the emotional connection. It seems logical that a marriage which results because “I emotionally connect to you so much THEREFORE we should spend the rest of our life together” would naturally seem to be held together by longer-lasting emotional than a marriage resulting because “I’m looking to get married, THEREFORE you are suitable to satisfy help me acheive that goal which exists independent of you”. Additionally, when you don’t live with someone it is, in my opinion, very difficult to truly predict what living with that person for any extended period of time–let alone the rest of your life–will be like. When you spend 2-3 hours or even 12 hours at a time with a person, it is not terribly difficult for one to hide certain traits and/or tendencies he/she fears the other might find undesirable. And again, because of the independent desire to get married which the Orthodox community breeds in its youth (in my admittedly anecdotal experience this desire seems more prevalent in girls, FWIW), the incentive to attempt to hide such tendencies/traits undoubtedly exists. However, when you live together day after day after day, it is almost inevitable that over an extended period of time much more, and most likely all, will be revealed.

    2) Fink writes: “I don’t care what the supposed justification. I don’t care how terrible of a person the wife might be.I don’t care if she broke Jewish tradition, broke Jewish law, is an adulterer, is a bad mother, I don’t care about any of it. There is no justification for withholding a get.” Though Fink doesn’t say the word never, the article’s tone clearly conveys that he speaks in the absolute. I think speaking in absolute terms is almost always a mistake. We can all conjure up various situations in our mind where there might be a just such a situation. And, so I don’t get lambasted I would like to make absolutely clear that I AM ABSOLUTELY UNEQUIVOCALLY NOT SAYING THE FOLLOWING ARE THE FACTS IN THE DODELSON-WEISS MATTER!!! But, lets imagine that the husband knew for a fact that the wife was sexually abusing the children and he could not prove it in court, but he knew this for a fact (as a lawyer, I’m aware that there are times when the courts get it wrong too). Thus, the court enters a judgment for the mother to have full custody of the children. Assuming that the get was the only leverage the husband had to obtain custody, could we not agree that it might be wise and even commendable to withhold giving the get in order to protect his children.

    The above HYPOTHETICAL is an extreme situation. From what I know nothing like this is occurring in the present case. But, my point is that there are always facts we don’t know. Each side has presented their own version of the facts and usually in such situations the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But, I am near certain that neither version is complete nor without some inaccuracy. A get is not the only type of leverage that one spouse in a dissolving marriage could possibly have over the other. We are all aware that there are divorce cases in which there are a lot of “dirty” tactics used outside the Jewish world. A more plausible hypothetical given the respective versions of the facts put forth by each side–and again I HAVE NO IDEA IF THIS IS/ISN’T THE CASE BETWEEN DODELSON AND WEISS–is that she wants him to submit to the Beth Din of her choice to adjudicate the divorce, support, custody and other related matters, perhaps because they are biased toward her (based on family/friendship-ties or financial support or any other imaginable reason). He refuses. Knowing “Agunah” to be a hot-button issue to which the great majority of the Orthodox community will publicly and outspokenly rally in support of the woman even without knowledge of the facts. She threatens to go public with a story of the facts that makes him look horrible (like the one in the NY Post). He does not submit to her threats and she follows through. And, the public reaction is just as she suspected…).

    I HAVE NO PERSONAL OPINION ON THE DODELSON-WEISS CASE IN PARTICULAR, specifically because it is impossible that I have a full and accurate picture of the matter. Moreover, IF Gital’s side of the story were indeed accurate, I feel awful for her and Weiss is an awful human. Conversely IF Weiss’ side is the one being innocently injured I similarly empathize with him. My point is that we don’t have all the facts and we rarely do, so the public shouldn’t be so quick to judge this man, assail his family, and boycott the employer of his family members until they fire such members of the Weiss family. Maybe Weiss deserves every last bit of venom thrown his way. But, maybe he doesn’t. If he does I will have lost nothing by refraining from assailing him. If he doesn’t all those who contributed to the loss of his supporter’s income/job and the defamation of his character will probably have some serious repentance in order.

    3) I will agree that the circumstances I used in the hypotheticals above were the exception and not the norm. In the great majority of situations in which a man witholds a get, he is committing a heinous and morally irredeemable act. Indeed, it would be, just as Fink describes it, “abusive”. But, is the problem of agunoth not more of a commentary on the greater system of which it is a part?

    Many of the requirements halakha places on its adherents seem to be mostly amoral. If one believes it is personally beneficial to him to abstain from pork and meat-cheese combinations, nobody is bothered. It doesn’t matter whether it seems illogical or outdated, because nobody is being hurt. Indeed, in our liberal society (which in my opinion is a generally a good thing), any such attack would be seen as xenophobic and prejudiced. But, all of the myriad halakihc mandates are really part of the same system. But, system’s outdatedness and incompatibility becomes more apparent when the outdated rules yield a result which shocks our moral consciences.

    I grew up Orthodox, in a large Orthodox community and myself continue to live an Orthodox lifestyle. Thus assuming her version of the facts, I would deeply empathize with Gital’s desire not to abandon her traditions and the risk of being ostracized by pretty much all those whom she knows respects and loves were she to pursue romance with another man without first receiving a get. But, the fact of the matter is that the halakhic system gives the male spouse in a dissolving marriage the leverage to cause such abominable consequences. Almost every choice one makes has various drawbacks and benefits. If one wants to remain adherent to halakha in spite of this terrible injustice the system enables, that is a personal choice that I respect. But, one must realize that the potential for agunoth is nonetheless no less an inherent aspect of halakha–at least with the stagnant approach the Orthodox movement takes toward halakhic development over time (Conservative Judaism is obviously much different in this regard)–than is not being able to eat pork.

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      1. If we all agree not to change the system from 2 months of dating to 6 months and 3 month engagements to 8 months because of your concerns, an extra concerted effort MUST be made to facilitate personal choice, independence, and working through issues as a couple during the minuscule amount of time before marriage. That’s all I am saying. If it’s not going to happen organically because of erva concerns, it must happen synthetically.

      2. Every rule has its exception. But even there I think it’s wrong to withhold the get. Go to family court, prove your case, and rescue the kids. Don’t use the get as leverage. That’s not the intent behind the law requiring the man to give it willingly, and he is exploiting the system.

      3. I had a bit of an epiphany on this issue today. I will write it up as a blog post tomorrow. Stay tuned.

      • Big Game James

        1. I think when dealing with something as qualitatively nuanced as fostering a personal relationship, the synthetic will have a difficult time mimicking the organic. I’m not saying either mode is better or worse. The results of the organic approach (which themselves vary greatly in each particular relationship) are knowable by looking at the the secular world. The results of what you term as the “synthetic” approach are unknowable at this point. Maybe they will be better in some ways, Maybe different in others. But, I have no doubt they will be very different. Point being, it might be a solution to the problem your article above posed, it might not be.

        2.

        a) You say “prove your case in court” if there is abuse. This rings loudly of the false belief of many Americans outside the legal profession that if something can be proven in court it is true and if it cannot be proven in court it is not. This is a big mistake. The court does not even generally purport this to be the case. In most criminal cases it requires one to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. Extinguishing any semblance of reasonable doubt is quite difficult. Failure to do so does not mean that the matter which you had sought to prove is not true. As a religious leader you should know the difference between something being true and provable. If god’s existence were put on trial in a US Court, I have no doubt any case that could possibly be made in favor would fall well short of proving his/her/its existence “beyond a reasonable doubt” or even “by a preponderance of evidence”. And yet, there are many–indeed probably most Orthodox rabbis who would claim they 100% know for a fact that God exists. So whether something can be proven in court is does not always tell us whether it is true. I have kids. If I knew for a fact that they were being abused and I couldn’t prove it in court, I would nonetheless do everything in my power, including withholding a get to protect them.

        b.) You are basically asserting that the use of all other forms of improper leverage and blackmail in a divorce case are less prevalent than withholding a get. Why are all other forms of improper leverage “extreme cases” more so than the withholding of a get itself. My point was that there are many forms of leverage and blackmail that might be held or practiced by either one of the spouses going through a divorce. Though withholding a get is exclusive to the husband, the other forms of leverage certainly are not. For example, as I wrote in my initial comments,–and again I DO NOT KNOW/THINK THAT THIS OCCURRED IN THE DODELSON-WEISS CASE–the wife, knowing agunah to be a “hot-button” issue and that the general public is quick to publicly vilify the husband in such cases without a cursory check of whether the wife’s side of the story is accurate, can easily gain leverage for pretty much any unreasonable life-wrecking demand she may have by threatening to go public with a set of false accusations against the husband. I’m not sure why you think withholding a get in response to such uses of leverage is so much more reprehensible than every other form of leverage/blackmail used by spouses in cases of divorce, especially in the hypothetical where the withholder is using it as leverage to protect himself against blackmail initiated against him.

        3. I’ll wait for your next post.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          1. I agree. That’s the problem.

          2. a) I am a lawyer. I know what I speak of when I talk of court proceedings. Eh. Maybe. Is there an extreme case where abuse is hidden and no one knows about it that could justify withholding a get? Maybe. It’s not worth my time to even entertain such possibilities. b) I think exploiting one’s religion is worse than any other form of leverage. It add a level of sanctimony and a cover of righteousness. Despicable in my opinion.

          3. http://finkorswim.com/2013/11/07/answering-the-most-difficult-question-about-the-agunah-crisis/

        • kweansmom

          If one parent is suspected of being abusive, the standard of proof for them to lose custody is not the same as what is required for a conviction in a criminal court.
          If you report suspected abuse the state will investigate within 24 hours and remove the child from the home immediately if need be. They do not wait for a criminal conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.
          I read recently about a case where one parent was awarded custody but it was suspended until the conclusion of an investigation of allegations of child abuse.
          The only way the threat of withholding the get would help rescue these kids from abuse is if the father says “I won’t give the get unless I get full custody”. How long with that take to be made official? And what if the woman prefers to have her children to having her freedom to remarry?

      • MarkSoFla

        “and he is exploiting the system.”

        What if he is withholding to prevent exploitation of the system? What if he suspects (“knows”) that the minute he grants the get, the woman’s community will quickly marry her off and then present her to the family court as a stable, married woman whose home is clearly best for their children.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          Right right right. Find me a case that this was true and we can talk. Until then it’s just Talmudic pilpul.

  • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink
  • sabapete

    Absolute rubbish. A spoiled little rich girl gets married and is forced to leave her home, her friends and her community. Living on the budget of newlyweds, her formerly extravagant spending habits are stifled. One month after she gives birth, in a fit of postpartum depression, she leaves her husband and home and runs back to mommy. The rest of her “tale” is invented bull, encouraged by her family and now by the many gossip mongering friends who don’t know her real story. How many lives does she have to ruin before she – not he – agrees to end this ordeal?