April 21, 2024
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The BDA and RCA Prenuptial Agreement: Appropriate for Sephardim

The Beth Din of America (BDA) and Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) prenuptial agreement is undoubtedly gaining in popularity and usage. It is has become accepted as a standard part of the wedding preparation for brides and grooms in many segments of the Orthodox community. In 2015, the Beth Din of America reported over 2,000 downloads of the prenuptial agreement from its website in one year alone. Full disclosure: My wife Malca and I proudly signed the BDA/RCA prenuptial before our wedding in 1995, and our daughter Bracha and son-in-law Yisroel Perton happily signed the BDA/RCA prenuptial a few weeks before their wedding in 2018.

The Endorsement of Rav Ovadia Yosef

Is the BDA/RCA agreement appropriate for usage by Sephardic Jews? The answer is a resounding yes. First of all, Chacham Ovadia Yosef endorsed the RCA prenuptial agreement in writing. Rav Ovadia is among the great rabbanim who endorsed the agreement (Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Gedalia Schwartz, Rav Elazar Meyer Teitz, Rav Osher Weiss and Rav Mordechai Willig are among the other great authorities who grant their imprimatur to the prenuptial).

The Rabbinical Council of America in 2006 even issued a resolution declaring that rabbis should not officiate a wedding if a proper prenuptial agreement has not been executed. As a very active practicing mesader gittin (get administrator) for more than 25 years, I most wholeheartedly support this resolution. I have seen much suffering resulting from the failure to sign the BDA/RCA prenuptial and overwhelming success on the part of those who sign it.

Ribi Shalom Messas’ Support of the Moroccan Rabbinate’s Prenuptial Agreement

Moreover, the first seeds of the BDA/RCA agreement were planted in Morocco many decades ago. This fascinating history is recorded by the great Rav Shalom Messas, widely regarded as the leading posek among Moroccan Jews. Rav Messas served as the chief rabbi of Morocco until 1972 when Rav Ovadia Yosef invited Rav Messas to Jerusalem to serve as its Sephardic chief rabbi, a position he served with distinction until his death in 2003. Rav Messas wrote the acclaimed teshuvot (halachic responsa) titled Teshuvot Tevu’ot Shemesh and Shemesh U’Magen.

In Teshuvot Tevuot Shemesh (EH 66) and Teshuvot Shemesh U’Magen (1 EH 11-12 and 2 EH 36), Rav Messas records that the Moroccan rabbinate in 1952 instituted a prenuptial agreement to avoid problems of agunot. Fascinatingly, in 1984 this came to the attention of Rav Gilbert Klaperman, then RCA president, and he invited Rav Messas to address a convention of the members of the RCA about the prenuptial.

Conclusion

So began the road to the eventual adoption of the prenuptial by the RCA, crowned with the approbations of the many aforementioned gedolim. Therefore, an unqualified and enthusiastic yes is the answer to whether the RCA prenuptial agreement is suitable for Sephardic couples. The prenuptial agreement should be part of every couple’s wedding, especially Sephardic couples. After all, the genesis of the prenuptial agreement was in the Sephardic community.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter


Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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