Agunah, Facebook, and a Proposal


divorceBy Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld

The other night, I watched a YouTube video showing “dueling protestors” confronting one another during a rally called in Brooklyn.  The controversy regarded the recent matter of Agunah and a subsequent Facebook campaign aimed at eliciting a Get for Tamar Friedman of Philadelphia. This is an ongoing controversy, and I will not use this space to comment on this matter in any way. I have little uncontroverted information at my disposal with which to offer any thoughts to Matzav readers. I would like however to talk about Get and Agunah in the context of future deliberations. I believe there is much that has yet to be resolved in how we as a community deal with this matter.

Everyone’s experience is shaped by what they have personally observed. For a number of years in my adult life I have been involved in divorce matters as both a Menahel of a Bais Din and, more recently, as a divorce mediator. I believe there are usually five reasons why a spouse (husband or wife; the cooperation of both is needed for a Get to take place) will not cooperate in the Get process:

1. The spouse is battling mental or emotional issues. In such cases, there is even a halachic question as to whether a get can take place until mental health is established. The family and friends of the affected party (or the ex-spouse himself or herself), need to assure that there is proper therapeutic intervention for the “patient”. This may delay the Get process but it is a tragic situation which rises to the level of “ones” or unintended non-cooperation.

2. There are times where the party whose cooperation is needed is simply feeling the effects of the trauma of a dissolved relationship. They will not withhold the Get indefinitely, but they request additional time to deal with their feelings of being overwhelmed. It is likely that such a situation will need the proper testimony or documentation from mental health practitioners, but the request for more time before one will participate in the Get process, should be viewed with much seriousness by the involved Bais Din.

3. Some parties are simply spiteful. They wish to punish their spouse for the “audacity” of requesting a divorce. It always strikes me during mediations how it is so jarring to see how love for a party can turn, over time, into bitterness and hate. I have little sympathy for such spiteful parties and the Bais Din needs to remind such parties that it is time to “move on” in life. Bitterness and hate will not only consume the other spouse, it will affect the offending party, most of all.  Living with hateful feelings will not make life very enjoyable for the party emitting this hatred. Perhaps this advice of the need to constructively plan for the future can be dispensed by the Bais Din in a manner that can be heard.

4. Some parties are going to use the Get process as a bargaining chip for money. There is nothing I can offer such parties in the way of understanding. This is the ultimate Chilul HaShem and it causes our community much embarrassment.

When I was in yeshiva high school, I had a history teacher who was Jewish but not known to be observant. He always suspected that there was cheating on his exams. His response was simple Before exams, he would remind us that we were yeshiva students. His words ring in my ears: “If you cheat on my test, you will be making a mockery of everything they teach you here in the morning.” There is little else that needs to be said about this category.

5. A party may be prepared to give a Get, but only after all matters in dispute have been resolved. Of late, I have seen many quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein as having been a proponent of such behavior. From my own review of Igros Moshe, I cannot say with definitiveness that was indeed Rav Moshe’s opinion. However, I do know that many Poskim offer such advice to those embroiled in divorce disputes. The only suggestion I would make is that perhaps Batei Din could see whether in such cases a Get could first be written and them kept in escrow until all conditions are met. However, I do not claim any special halachic expertise in this matter and all such questions need to be discussed with local Poskim and /or Batei Din should they arise. No two situations will be alike and these matters require much deliberation.

The above categories may not be all-inclusive, but I believe one can conjecture that more than 95% of Get disputes, fall into one of these categories. One category not covered above is the situation where one party is no longer frum and has little interest in cooperating. When I was a Bais Din Menahel I often advised non-observant Jews that the Get was needed to give them closure on the marital relationship. I was gratified to see how many parties told me afterwards that they believed that the Get process had indeed provided such closure, and they were happy that they had decided to participate fully in this process.

Now on to the Facebook campaign. Some think this was the ultimate “trump card” and some call it the ultimate Chilul HaShem. What can one do, and not do, after a Seruv has been issued and a spouse has been ordered to cooperate in the Get process? A Seruv does not always bring on the intended results of the Bais Din. I would like to make a modest proposal. A Bais Din clearly needs to schedule a hearing on the Get before any Seruv can issue. What happens post-Seruv? My proposal would be to then send the non-participating party a notice of a new Hearing. This hearing will review what actions the aggrieved party may take to publicize the Seruv. A party may not show for a hearing on the Get because s/he does not wish to go to that particular Bais Din. Perhaps they fear a pro-woman, pro-man, etc bias. This decision not to show led to the issuance of a Seruv. However, they should have the right to appear before this Bais Din or, at least, send documentation to the Bais Din, concerning any reasons for their non-compliance before rallies, writing campaigns may begin. If they choose not to appear, the moving party still needs to be guided by Bais Din mandates.

A Bais Din needs to consider that innocent parties may suffer from a Seruv. If a party is non-compliant, a rally outside their home may be halachically appropriate. Should the same apply to rallies before their Rav, their elderly parents, siblings, etc? All this needs to be under the direction of the Bais Din. If Get-related discussions will be reduced to writing, the text of such banners, petitions, should likewise be under the aegis of the Bais Din. It is simply wrong for everyone to shout in unison: “Ready,Fire,Aim”. These matters can harm the safety and well-being of children, family members, rabbanim. etc. Guidance of a Bais Din is absolutely crucial. Rav Yisrael Salanter once stated it succinctly: “Not everything thought has to be said. Not everything said has to be written down.”

The Batei Din are our bulwark against the potential of massive Chilul HaShem. They will guide us in proper halachic behavior. No activity regarding a get should be done without Halachic guidance that is specific and put in writing. The get process will be given a new sense of order and oversight. We will all benefit from this.

One last comment from Rav Yisroel Salanter. He described the person who in rushing to his seat in Shul, bumps into a fellow Jew and does not apologize. Rav Yisroel effectively described this as “Yotza Scharo B’Hefsedo”. (He has lost any gain he might have had.) The application of the above discussion to the YouTube incident described above is., I believe, self-evident. Every situation in family matters is unique. One size does not fit all in these delicate and charged Get matters. May we all be guided by our leaders and teachers

Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld is a divorce mediator and can be contacted at: [email protected]

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  1. This article makes me tremble for us as a community. And if I had married daughters, I would tremble for them, too. The article is basically a list of excuses for why someone who withholds a get should be excused for perpetrating what is a terrible chillul HaShem and the moral equivalent of murder. (That’s not my reading, that’s Chazal’s.) It frightens me terribly that someone with bias claims to be a divorce mediator. Mediating in whose favor?

    We look at our troubles – divorces, kids off the derech, grownups walking away from Yiddishkeit – and we wonder why. Well, we have just provided with one of the reasons. A system which threatens the lives of half its population, in complete defiance of its own hashkafic derech, is not going to keep its young people. The Amish have a dropout rate of at least 10%. We are giving them plenty of competition, and it can only get worse.


  3. Amen and yasher koach to Rabbi Rosenfeld for a wonderful article. I am more familiar with the case of Mrs Friedman than I would like to be due to a family connection and it breaks my heart to hear of issues that need not get out of hand. Our Batei Din are there for a reason, people need to abide and respect that they are literally doing the work that Moshe Rabeinu started so soon after Yitzias Mitzrayim.

  4. This type of thinking is exactly why I will never again marry, because the pain is too great and men will never understand how unbalanced the system is in favor of men and against the women.

  5. When Kamtzah and Bar kamtzah had a private machlokes, one party went to government officials to speak slander of his enemy. The results of that action were devistating to all of Klal Yisroel.This is not a path that can ever lead to shalom.
    Personal matters need to be resolved privately. Public opinion will not bring this issue closer to a resolution.Secular media coverage creates a horrific Chillul Hashem.

  6. It needs, also, to be pointed out that if one party to a marriage insists on receiving a Get, the spouse is not necessarily obligated to give one. Halacha does not support the concept of “Get-on-demand”. If the spouse wishes the marriage to continue, the other spouse cannot insist the marriage end and receive a divorce. Unless there is halachic cause/grounds to demand a Get.

  7. #11 – the decision is with the Beis Din, not the individual. We aren’t hefker. If the Beis Din decides that a get should be given/accepted, then the parties are obligated to do so. What if one spouse is physically abusive to the other spouse or the children? Or is abusive to the children in other ways? What if one spouse has taken on a completely anti-Torah lifestyle or converts to another religion?

    The Beis Din decides. That is why we need judges on the Beis Din who are impartial and go by halachah, not their own prejudices. Rabbi Rosenfeld shows that he is prejudiced in the issue of gittin, so he should not be involved in them. Check your gemara for all the precautions that must be taken by a judge to avoid influence or bias.

  8. regardless of the virtue of Rabbi Rosenfeld’s points i dont think this public venue is the place for this discussion.It would be highly unusual for this site to be a discussion of various options for a serious surgery.These matters should be left to the experts

  9. #13 – Sure, all decisions is in the hand of the beis din. But the point is, that just because someone wants a divorce does not mean they are necessarily entitled to one. And the beis din can, and sometimes does, deny a request for a Get if there is no halachic justification to demand it.

  10. Rabbi Rosenfeld, your article is very well balanced and your points are well taken not knowing the stuationn. I, however, am very much aware of the case you were referring to. The first issue is that the wife began the divorce by kidnapping the couple’s infant daughter and moving out of state without permission of the husband, a Bais Din or even a secular court. The husband tried everything to make Shalom Bayis but the wife did not want. The matter went before the Baltimore Beis Din but the wife was not compliant with the Bais Din and prefered to use the court system. After spending many sessions with the Baltimre Bais Din, the wife walked out of the process and reused to comply. Therefore, the Baltimore Bais Din which was in fact the ONLY Bais Din that heard both sides of the case, did not render a Psak in the matter. Instead of going back to her Bais Din, the wife has involved a radical left wing organization called ORA to hold a public campaign of terorism against the husband, his parents and even his uncle and cousins. They are even tryng to get him fired from his job which is totally not in the intrest of the couple’s child as the father presently pays a generous amount of child support. The “seruv” is not from any Bais Din- these people never sat and heard the case or sent Hazmones. The wife comes from a very, very wealthy family that supports the Yeshivos of some of those signed on. Look at the document and it is obvious that it is not a Bais Din but a compilation of 5 signatures. (Also a Bais Din will usually only ahve 3 signatures on their seruvim) Not one of them sat on the Bais Din in Baltimore who actually heard this case. This is total falsehood- and gangster behavior and should be frowned upon and condemned in our community. Speaking of gangster behavior, Mrs. Friedman and her cohorts are sending numerous postcards to Mr. Friedman’s cousins threatening that they will never get Shidduchim and other obscene things. How can anyone condone threatening these girls in the name of obtaining a get for Tamar Friedman??? What makes Tamar’s situation more important than everyone else’s? Could it be becuase her family is very wealthy???? Tamar has perpetuated her own situation and the media circus she has created and her attempts at even invlving her child’s school where her mother is a prinicpal in protests and attempts to allienate her daughter from her father is despicable. When she learns how to act like a mench, the parties can come and resolve all outstanding issues. Until then, maybe she can seek the help of the gangsters to try to “annul” her marriage. One of the other ladies ORA has helped has done that and is now “remaried” and ready to create mamzerim. Another woman involved with ORA had her husband beaten up by some of the same gangsters who signed Mr. Friedman’s bogus “seruv”. She then “remaried” without a Kosher Get. The Edah HaCharedis Has come out to say thta if she has children, they will be Mamzerim. This woman is actually front and center protesting against Mr. Friedman in Maryland, along side her so called “new husband” who is a rabbi there.

  11. I again thank those who have commented. One point relative to whether Matzav.Com is the best place for such discussions. I choose Matzav because people do read it. My purpose in writing is to inform and to engender conversation. Perhaps someone will read an article, comment on it to their Rav, and begin a dialogue that will be helpful. If one person can benefit from such discussions, I will feel my modest efforts have been worthwhile.
    If readers want to suggest alternative places for meaningful dialogue, I am happy to learn from you. Please contact me off-line at the E-Mail provided.
    Thank you.


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