Monday, March 01, 2021

“Don’t Forget the Divorced and Widowed” (January 28, 2021) was a very good letter. I wholeheartedly agree with the writer; she has some very valuable points. Her idea of calling attention to the various issues that divorced and widowed women must deal with is particularly important.

1. Conjoining the ‘giving of the get’ with other issues involved in a divorce settlement is a terrible practice in that it keeps the wife locked in. The author states in her letter that after the marriage falls apart, the husband should give the get, just like Havdalah follows automatically right after Shabbat. The mitzvah of get is that when a husband wants to send away his wife, he should do it in the way the Torah specified. He must write a get, and give the get, with all the details involved. Doing it in that way is exactly what the mitzvah is. It is not a timely thing.

On the other hand, let us mention just a few issues. The wife, the “mother of the children,” can wipe him clean. She can demand his money, his business, child support, alimony and, most importantly, child custody. The husband’s only bargaining chip is the get. He is in no rush to give up his chip.

2. The Cohen. The Torah says that it is assur (forbidden) for a Cohen, whether single, married, widowed or divorced, to marry a divorcee, period. It is for that reason that a Cohen should NOT hastily divorce. There is even a special method of writing and sewing a Cohen’s get. Exactly for this reason, to delay the whole process, which will give him some more time to rethink. He may not even remarry his ex-wife.

3. Covering one’s hair. Some women may find that covering their hair can be uncomfortable, whether they are, or were, married. But please understand, just as she would not uncover her hair while she was married, so too she should not uncover her hair after she gets divorced or widowed. Covering the hair is not a sign that the woman is married. It is a tznius issue. Covering the hair is a sign that the woman is no longer a maiden. That includes married, divorced and widowed. The ketubah for a “second-timer” is different from that of a “first-timer” marriage. One of the signs of a first-time kallah is that she goes to the chuppah with her hair uncovered. This writer does not see any way to allow a woman to uncover her hair after she was married.

4. Living without the physical affection is exceedingly difficult. I agree 100 percent. Sad? Maybe. Difficult? Absolutely. Unhealthy? I could understand.

5. No rabbis came up with a halachic provision to allow it. It is a shame. Is this what you refer to as shame? No way; it’s halacha.

6. Regarding rabbinic loopholes, the writer says, “our leadership has creatively found ‘loopholes’” during the pandemic. I think there is a misconception here. We are all familiar with the halacha that in a case of life and death emergency, we must be mechalel Shabbat, to save a life. We can call for help, drive to hospital; if this deathly ill patient is cold, we can turn on the heat; one is even permitted to start a fire, to warm the sick person, or cook for him, when needed, to save a life.

Now, in the beginning of this pandemic, before Pesach and Shavuot, we were hearing about an unknown virus; the fright of the unknown virus; pandemic; and hearing about so many deaths that caused lots of stress and fright. So some rabbis have ruled that in such a situation, where the individual is very stressed, and if without texting they may become suicidal, then they may text even without a sheinui—such as using the other hand. That is not a loophole! It is just defining this situation and connecting it to the old commonly known law of pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbat.

The writer’s suggestion of learning the laws of divorce, just like learning the laws of marriage, is a great idea.

Noson Schechter
New York City