Monday, March 01, 2021

In the letter to the editor by Noson Schechter titled “Revisiting the Divorced and Widowed” (February 11, 2021), his first argument takes issue with the argument that a get should be given right away, without delay. Mr. Schechter, however, takes issue with this because “the wife can wipe him clean, demand his money, his business, child support, alimony and, most importantly, child custody. The husband’s only bargaining chip is the get.” (Emphasis added.)

This is an appalling statement on so many levels. The most egregious is the use of a get as a weapon to extract a better deal. This is patently unfair and unequal. Weaponizing the get makes a mockery of Torah. As it says in Pirkei Avot 4:7, “... he that puts the crown of Torah to his own use shall perish.” A get should never ever be used to “bargain” with. This is extortion and such an attempt must be condemned in the strongest of terms.

A secondary issue with Mr. Schechter’s words is his framing that the money and business are all the husband’s. Never mind for a moment that many women make more money than their husbands do. The issue is seeing money and business as his. It seems a traditional male breadwinner and stay-at-home mother is what Mr. Schechter is referring to. The Torah provided gender roles with an understanding that each is equal. In Mr. Schechter’s framing, the wife’s work and role in Judaism is not equal, and she is therefore not entitled to half of everything. This is deeply problematic and runs counter to the Torah’s valuing both men and women.

Finally, words like those of Mr. Schechter remind us of how important it is that every married couple have the Rabbinical Council of America’s prenuptial agreement. It is rabbinic malpractice for a mesader kiddushin to officiate at a wedding without having one signed. This agreement essentially ensures that the get cannot be used as blackmail to extort the wife for a “better deal,” or to keep her chained as an agunah in a dead marriage with no recourse.

I would dare say that every shul should make it a requirement of membership to submit the RCA prenup. For those who inadvertently never did it, the RCA has a postnuptial document that functions similarly. Shuls should have yearly “postnup” parties and require that every member have these documents on file. Only then can we root out the awful chillul Hashem of recalcitrant husbands creating agunot in ways Chazal never would have permitted.

Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum