One Get Case Closed, A New Get Case Opened

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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.
Lock and chain

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

  • > “…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.”

    Supposedly, this is the entrance requirement to become a member of Footsteps.

    • Footsteps does not care if you are Orthodox or observant or otherwise. Plenty of people at Footsteps keep kosher and everything else. You might be thinking of the OTD group on Facebook. They do have a smaller scale version of this as their requirement. 🙂

      • You really need to learn to take a joke.

      • Joe

        I am sure that the Orthodox Jews in the audience at this treif Footsteps dinner really felt welcomed and respected during this speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHDffs9QDoA

        • Hanan

          Wow. Lovely how Footsteps has no standards as to how their speakers speak….especially if it is aimed for everyone. But then again I am not surprised as to the lack of standards in speech once they secularize and become “liberal”ated.

        • milhouse trabajo

          I’m an ortho jew, and i enjoyed this a lot (hearing others use swear words doesnt harm me). u gotta chill.

  • AY Lawrence

    Hey, hey, HEY – Dawkins has a lot of interesting stuff to say if you can get past the anti-religion material…!

  • touchoftheblues

    I would think the best solution is to have halacha recognize women as people who can be in control of their own futures. Isn’t that the real problem here?

    • We have no mechanism to facilitate that.

  • Itchemeyer

    This is rly a poster child case for agunos but in America withholding gittin can be legitimate. If the wife’s family is richer hires better lawyers etc. It’s not open and shut like you lay out. It’s a dirty thing to do but so is using the courts to have your children testify to abuse they ‘witnissed’ to get full custody and all these other horrible things women routinely do. The courts favor women in divorce cases. Even if a woman cheats and then leaves her husband for the guy she cheated with. If a guy did that it would be curtains. All said, it’s wrong to withhold gittin but very hard for me to come out against it without knowing all the details.

    • sarahgray

      Cheating on your husband is not grounds for losing custody.
      If more men were primary parents, more men would get custody. False abuse claims are very, very uncommon.
      There is no excuse to withhold a get.

      • Moe Ginsburg

        Women in the U.S. are routinely and normatively granted custody even when they are working the same full-time hours as the father and the fathers are no less primary parents than she.

        • sarahgray

          Women who work full time generally do more childcare than their partners do. Custody is generally granted to the primary parent. If men want custody, they should be more involved from the get-go.

          • Moe Ginsburg

            You’re making a generalization, which has no bearing. If Parent A does 35 hours of childcare a week while Parent B does 40 hours a week, that is an insufficient basis to give it to the parent who did a bit more time.

            There is zero basis to discriminate against fathers when deciding who should have custody, for the reason being that they are not female.

            • sarahgray

              Well, it’s good that gender does not determine custody, then.
              Most fathers do substantially less childcare than the mothers of their children.

              • Moe Ginsburg

                That is again an incorrect generalization. Especially consider most young women are working full-time these days.

                • sarahgray

                  Yes, most women who work full time do more childcare than their male partners.

                  • Moe Ginsburg

                    And most men who work full time do provide more support for their children than their female partners. So, clearly, the fathers should be favored on this basis.

                    • sarahgray

                      No, child custody is not determined by who makes the most money. It’s not determined by gender, either, but by a number of factors having to do with the best interests of the child. Being the primary caretaker of (a) chilld(ren) is a major, major factor,

              • Avi Shevin

                I fear you have blinders on. In the US, gender plays a greater role than anything in determining who comes out ahead in divorce cases.

                • Moe Ginsburg

                  Bravos. Well said.

                • sarahgray

                  That is completely false. Men who fight for custody win 90%+ of the time.

                • sarahgray

                  That is completely false.

              • DF

                Incredible nerve you have in making that gross stereotype generalization. Have you analyzed every mother and father in the world? How about if I tell you most children of single mothers grow up to become drug addicts, but most children of single fathers (widowers) grow up just fine?
                That’s exactly the type of double standard feminists seem to have no trouble applying. And that is exactly why the court system is horribly biased against men. And that is exactly why men WILL continue to use the get, as an ace in the hole. Not to gain an unfair advantage. But to level the playing field. Unless and until the court system shows some awareness of the imbalance, and makes sincere efforts towards restoring fairness in the process, I cant imagine any reason why any man would simply give a get, just like that.
                You’ve said before that you “think feminism is great.” So you probably cant see this point, no matter how many people notice it. People cannot see beyond their own paradigms without shifting them.

                • sarahgray

                  The system simply is not biased against men. It’s only bias is to children and their primary caregivers.
                  Most children of single mothers *do not* become addicts, and mist single father are not widowers.

      • Avi Shevin

        I know of a case in which a Get was given basically unconditionally, and the ex-wife still claimed abuse in order to get full custody. Thankfully the court did not buy it, as the ex had a history of making unsubstantiated police reports.

        • sarahgray

          One case is not “routine”. A get should not be used as leverage to prevent a woman from getting custody.
          It’s not as if she claimed abuse *because* he gave her a get.

  • If the details are as presented, I could see this being a case where the marriage could be annulled on the grounds of “meqach ta’us — a transaction made in error”. This was a pre-existing condition which you say was willfully withheld from the bride. If we had a man with a backbone like Rav Moshe Feinstein’s (c.f. IM EhE 4:13), I would be more confident of a positive outcome.

    • Guest

      Micha,

      If you have such confidence, you surely will have no trouble producing a teshuva from the voluminous Igros Moshe’s producing a ruling you advocate here in a similar case.

      Maare Makom?

    • Moe Ginsburg

      Micha, If you have such confidence, you surely will have no trouble producing a teshuva from the voluminous Igros Moshe’s producing a ruling you advocate here in a similar case. Maare Makom? Citing invalidating a reform wedding is nowhere close to declaring a mekach taos.

      • Mike_S2500

        In Even HaEzer 1:90 Rav Moshe has a case of a husband whose family concealed a history of severe mental illness, and permits the woman to remarry without a get, if the local Rav can’t get a Kosher get

  • Moe Ginsburg

    “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.”

    You got the message all wrong, Eliyahu. She had to capitulate to her husband’s demands before she got a Get. The message was that a Get will not be given unconditionally upon demand.

    • David Sadek

      I personally met with a Rav who seemingly was supporting a man who was withholding a GET. I asked him under what circumstances does he believe a man has the right to do so. His answer, and I quote almost verbatim “this is the way it’s been done for a few thousand years. The Kesubah is a contract. If a woman wants to break that contact, she needs to negotiate for it. Therefore a man can withhold for money, custody and etc. “As long as we have “Rabbonim” who believe this is the right way
      (and he’s not the only one who thinks this way), we are doomed.

      • ednastvincent

        IMHO, an intelligent woman would not sign such a contract (or allow her representatives to sign such a contract). Maybe we should forgo kosher weddings until the contracts improve. If women refused to engage in marriage until the contracts changed, change would come quickly. After all, there is no mitzvah for women to get married nor to procreate.

        • MarkSoFla

          If this were to occur, the rabbis would very quickly remedy the situation by declaring such women sinners because they are preventing the great mitzvah of procreation. Important things get addresses by the rabbis very quickly.

      • Benignuman

        That is absurd reasoning. If she is “breaching” the contract, she can’t lose more than what she is entitled under the contract. Where in a halacha do we find that if the other party breaches a contract you have a wholesale license to do whatever you want to them?

        • Moe Ginsburg

          Benignuman:

          It is never an issue of a wife breaching a kesuba contract (where you are arguing she could at most lose the kesuba money.) The husband’s right to maintain the marriage (even against his wife’s wishes) is not granted to him in the kesuba. It is granted to him directly by Torah Law. Therefore he needn’t divorce her, even if she wants a divorce, when Torah Law states he has no obligation to divorce her.

          So it is not a matter of “a wholesale license to do whatever you want to them” due to a contractual breach, it is a matter of exercising a right specifically granted by the Torah.

  • mortonjack

    sounds like a mekach taos. I dont know why she needs a get. this sounds like a case straight out the gemorah

  • saul

    What if the woman was making outlandish accusations about the father molesting his children??? We can agree that if it was true then the guy is awful for more than one reason. But if it was not true and she was making that up??? Is that not the worst thing ever??? Does that not add a second thought regarding this whole situation? Is that not crossing lines that are beyond?? Think about being the father knowing someone is making up such claims about their children. It would be awful. It is hard to judge these situations unless knowing all facts. Signs went around saying “a get is not a weapon”. Neither are children!

  • Teritories are bad la la la

    Putting your two recent posts together, you are the Oxfam dolt in this situation. You are clutching your mantra like a blankie and it won’t get you anywhere outside of the ORA crowd that already thinks like you or that doesn’t know the story (including the willfully deaf).

    So, while territories may be bad, a factory built in Area C that employs locals at a higher wage is not something to go to PR war over. And while Agunos should be granted a get, this story has not developed to the point that a BD (including R Perr) has declared her an aguna. There’s more info that would balance out the story but I’m not in the business of posting personal information on a webblog.

    • No one said she’s been declared an agunah. That’s irrelevant.

      • Moe Ginsburg

        I am challenging your unsupported quotation of Rav Perr. I don’t believe he was referring to this case, which you admit he wasn’t specific about, in his now unsourced quote attributed to an allegedly deleted video.

        • Everyone I spoke to that knows about the case is certain he was talking about this case. There was context that made it obvious.

          • Moe Ginsburg

            From all the “Everyone I spoke to”, how many actual folks can you name here that can come to this thread and substantiate that they share your opinion that he was referring to this case even though he never specifically said so? (And the video was deleted.)

            • I prefer not to summon people I spoke to on the phone or via email in private correspondence. The context was that R’ Perr was talking about someone he had dealt with personally who R’ Perr claims aggrieved him as well. I prefer not to mention the specifics because it’s pure gossip and irrelevant. The details of those specifics made it clear.

              • Moe Ginsburg

                This is a new wrinkle you are now adding implying, implicitly but without any support whatsoever, that R. Perr is somehow directly involved in this specific case. If you cannot or will not corroborate your opinion that he was specifically referring to this case on this deleted video that no one other that yourself professes to have seen, even though it is said to have been on YouTube and deleted for unknown reasons, at the very least you should corroborate your new point that R. Perr is involved in this case.

                Otherwise I don’t see how you can expect myself and others to take your interpretations on all this at face value.

  • yep

    mekach toes when there are children is that allowed?

  • yoy

    so she realizes he has a degenerative disease and wants to leave him after having children with him sounds like a real gem of a girl.Its good religious ppl do not take vows as it seems she failed on the “IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH” so help her GOD kick a guy when he is down taken to a whole new level and the gem lawyer conviently left it out of the letter that she was looking to leave her DYING husband great ppl all around

    • ednastvincent

      Jews do not take vows to support each other in sickness and in health. Open your siddur and check. A wedding is a contractual relationship and you are not allowed to withhold information relevant to the other party in the contract. This man did not contract his disease after marriage, he hid it before marriage. If the situation were reversed, he could divorce her and no one would stop him. It’s not like these two people fell in love and devoted themselves to each other and then one was struck by a challenging disease. Their marriage was arranged by others, they met each other a few times and had some brief conversation. One of the rules of this system is that serious background checks take the place of things like getting to know each other over a period of months or years. The background checks failed.

      http://www.come-and-hear.com/kethuboth/kethuboth_77.html

      No one is arguing that this is a lovely thing for her to do and surely her husband would prefer a wife who loves him and wants to remain with him and care for him. Indeed, he deserves such as wife. This is why he should divorce his current wife and seek a kind and noble woman like that who loves him. The woman he is married clearly does not love him and wishes to leave him. Why would anyone try to compel her to stay?

      • yoy

        I said “ts good religious ppl do not take vows” reading comprehension is important when you respond to comments.

    • JBDestiny

      You’re clearly in the grip of strong emotions, so I don’t expect anything to make a dent on you, but:

      Huvi didn’t fail Duvi or kick him when he was down; he did that to her. He and his family deliberately concealed his health condition and continued this deception through the engagement and into the marriage, solely to benefit them, without any regard for her. (I’m sure they told themselves and each other that she didn’t need to know, it was better for her this way, and other lies to ease their guilt.)

      “In sickness and in health” never includes “even if one of you is hiding a major health issue from the other right now because it’s likely a deal-killer.” Just like “for richer or for poorer” doesn’t include “I’m letting you believe that I’ve got plenty in the bank when really I’m up to my ears in debt.” Major deceit is grounds for divorce in secular law, Christian law and yes, Jewish law. Marriage is serious; we don’t allow one person to take advantage of the other’s ignorance to make his own life better.

      Also, he’s not DYING, as you put it. Educate yourself. MS is a chronic condition; people live for many, many years with it. It absolutely affects quality of life when symptoms hit. MS requires medicine, therapy and lifestyle controls to manage, even at times when the symptoms are in remission. It takes genuine commitment from your spouse to deal with the stress both remission and relapse bring to a marriage. That’s not something that everyone can handle, and you don’t discover whether you can handle it until you’re actually dealing with it. And that’s when your spouse has been open with you about his condition.

      I’m not surprised reconciliation failed. What kind of marriage can stand up to a deliberate lie about major health issues? More, what kind of father wants to deprive his son of a loving wife who can be there for him in his illness?

  • Devora

    Beautiful post and truly tragic. I just want to mention something that bothers me from following these stories: I understand that is horrible and wrong to withhold a get and we don’t have to be dan l’kaf zechus that “maybe he had a good reason” because yes, it’s never okay to withhold a get. There is a different kind of dan l’kaf zechus though that I feel is in order and woefully lacking. Please don’t assume that a guy is a monster or a horrible person for withholding a get. Yes, he is doing something terrible and it’s not okay, but don’t forget that it’s often coming from a place of pain and not of wickedness. I have watched a sweet young man torn to shreds by an aggressive and vindictive ex and her PR campaign. My friend was wrong and we told him so, but he’s not the monster he’s painted as. Really. Let’s do what we have to do to convince him (I’m talking in general here, no specific case in mind) to give the get, without believing every piece of character assassination we are fed.

  • Not a Harry

    Balance of the beast is that in court the wife has a advantage, in beis din, the husband.

    Delve in to the custody arrangements she wants and you may find yourself agreeing with him that he has no alternative but to stick it out until reason catches up.

    Very sad.

    • So only Orthodox Jews have fair divorces?

      • Bob

        Orthodox Jews have the ability to right things when the secular courts are allowing a woman to unfairly run over a husband.

        • MarkSoFla

          Now you’re finally getting it, the whole issue with aguna and why we so strongly protest it … it’s the husband unfairly running over his ex-wife.

          • Bob

            No, the secular courts have a strong tendency to allow a wife to run over her husband on matters such as child custody/visitation/child support, alimony, asset distribution, etc.

            A second and equally valid point as the first point is that secular courts utilize secular law which is different than Jewish law. And Jewish law must prevail.

  • Benignuman

    This case sounds like a very strong candidate for bittul kiddushin as a mekach taus.