Gital Dodelson received her get this week. It cost her a pretty penny and it took a long time, but she is now a single woman again. Case closed. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Clearly, the message has been heard: The Orthodox Jewish Community will not tolerate recalcitrant husbands who use the get as leverage or a weapon against their wives.
Except, the message has not been heard. A new (not really new, but new to me) case of a young frum woman waiting for her get crossed my desk recently. This case has been ongoing for about three years. It was kept quiet in the hope that the case would be resolved behind closed doors. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed and the couple’s wedding mailing list was informed that a get is being withheld by a young man and his family. The letter asks those who came to celebrate at the wedding six years ago to send a “response card” to the young man’s family demanding that he give the get.
I have heard her side of the story. [EDIT: I have NOW heard both sides of the story. Some facts are disputed, but nothing I heard from the people supporting that I spoke to has any relevance to the substantive point of this post.] According to her supporters, Huvi [redacted] married Duvi [redacted] about six years ago. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis before their wedding but Huvi was kept in the dark. For two and a half years he went to his parents’ house every day to take his shots. Eventually Huvi discovered his condition and realized her entire marriage was built on a lie. A pretty big lie too. After a period of attempting to reconcile this bombshell with her marriage in her own mind, she moved in with her parents about two and a half years ago and has been anxiously awaiting her get this entire time. Speaking on a video posted on YouTube, my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Perr publicly admonished an anonymous person, clearly referring to Duvi’s father, for allegedly saying about Huvi, “she will remain an agun [chained wife] until my son dies.” The video has been subsequently removed from YouTube. Rabbi Perr called this “pure evil.”
There will be time for analysis and discussion about the context of this case. The shidduch system and lying for the purposes of obtaining better marriage prospects are actual problems, just the consequences are not usually this severe.
I admit that I only know one side. More facts (and opinions) will surely come to light in the next few months as the case becomes more public. However, I don’t think it really matters if we are missing some facts.
[March 18, 2014 UPDATE: The get has been given. Duvi is a good guy and did the right thing.]
It is my contention that there no excuse for withholding a get in a marriage that has, for all intents and purposes, already ended. Jewish law requires that the husband give the get willingly. But I believe that using a get for leverage or as a weapon is never acceptable. Never. The husband has all the power and the wife has none. The get creates an imbalance that is completely unfair and using the get in a vindictive or strategic manner should become as abhorrent to Orthodox Jews as eating an eiver min hachai bacon cheeseburger (not cholov yisrael) with lobster sauce on Yom Kippur without saying a bracha as he tattoos a picture of Jesus onto his forehead all while using an unfurled Sefer Torah as a tablecloth and reading the latest from Richard Dawkins. That is, it’s not acceptable under any circumstance and withholding a get is grounds for every possible social sanction at our disposal.
This the best solution we have to fighting the abuse of withholding a get. See also: Answering the Most Difficult Question About the Agunah Crisis
The second best solution is to use the Halachic Prenup. I will be speaking on a panel at UCLA Hillel about the Halachic Prenup following the screening of a film called “Women Unchained.” The event is on February 10 at 7 PM and is open to the public.
The Letter: PDF
— Eliyahu Fink (@efink) February 7, 2014