Thursday, March 23, 2023

As the issue of Meir Kin, and his decision to refuse Lonna Ralbag a get that she feels comfortable accepting, has been fairly prevalent in the letters to The Jewish Link over the past several weeks (“Agunah as a Blight,” “Free, Free at Last?” August 18, 2022), I believe it is time to publicly express my thoughts.

First, and most importantly: This does not appear to be a typical case of a get refuser, who uses halacha as a weapon out of either anger or greed. Meir Kin appears to be extremely concerned with justifying his position, and specifically with doing so on halachic grounds and based on the views of the gedolim and poskim. Given the effort involved in this justification, it would appear that he honestly believes himself to be acting l’sheim shamayim, and that this belief is what is driving his behavior. As such, typical anti-get-refuser tactics such as penalties and protests are highly unlikely to work; such tactics attempt to sway the refuser’s personal interests toward giving the get, but this will not be effective for someone who is not motivated by his own personal interests.

However, I believe that this same exceptional aspect of this case may also provide alternate means to resolve it. Because Mr. Kin is motivated to do what he believes to be the right thing, any clear psak halacha, from gedolim he accepts, will likely be sufficient to change his behavior. Conversely, if there is a clear consensus among gedolim that the proper approach to address this matter is via other means (e.g., by accepting the legitimacy of the Monsey beit din where he has deposited a get and accepting that deposited get), that too will be sufficient to resolve the issue. It is only due to a lack of clear agreement as to what constitutes a halachically proper solution that the matter is currently irresolvable.

As such, it seems to me that the way forward is for community leaders and rabbanim (I do not know exactly who should take the lead in this matter, but there are likely others who do) to contact the Torah leaders of the various frum communities, and to ask those Torah leaders to meet to discuss the relevant issues and thereby resolve this matter. The leaders chosen should be of sufficient stature that each can respect the Torah knowledge and yirat shamayim of all the others, and have wide enough “coverage” that any consensus that arises from such a discussion will have the acceptance, if not of all frum individuals, at least of all frum communities.

While the topics of such a discussion would to some extent be up to the gedolim taking part, it would likely be best, in order to help avoid politicization, to stick to more abstract topics that bear relevance to this case. It seems to me that the topics most likely to resolve the current issue are:

(a) Under what circumstances should a beit din be considered illegitimate, such that its formal actions (e.g., gittin) are not considered valid?

(b) Under what circumstances should a beit din be considered suspect, such that those who do accept its legitimacy should nevertheless respect and accommodate the view of those who do not?

(c) Under what circumstances, if any, is it acceptable to use someone’s own halachic observance as a weapon against them?

(d) In each of the circumstances where such extreme measures are acceptable, how should that individual do teshuva so that it is no longer appropriate to take such measures?

I believe that, if such a prestigious group discusses these four matters, their mutual respect will ensure that even if there are differences in opinion between them, there will be enough commonality and accommodation of each other’s positions that the resulting answers will provide a way to resolve this agunah issue.

Yitz Kornbluth
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