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An Agunah Day Message To A Jewish Grandmother



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You are the mother of a me’agen – a young man who has turned his wife into an agunah.

Sometimes a person in your situation can get so caught up in defending her position or her son’s position that she fails to realize there is no longer a battle. She takes no notice that the oft-repeated justifications are irrelevant after all the issues have been settled – all the issues, that is, aside from the giving of a get.

Most significantly, she does not lift her eyes to take note of the effect her actions will have on her family members.

For the entire family, immediate and extended, is affected when a man refuses to give his wife a get. His mother may naturally stand behind her son to a certain point. After all, he is her son. But that is just the point – she is in a unique position of authority to tell him what to do.

A son, no matter how adult-like in years or independent in disposition, listens to his mother. The true support a mother should give her offspring is one that protects him from ruining his own life. And if she feels she has no right to interfere in his life, she is mistaken. For her son’s ongoing get-refusal will continue to ruin her life. She has a complete and moral right, as a mother and as a grandmother, to demand that her son give his wife a get.

The tannaitic sage Rabbi Shimon was asked by his teacher (Pirkei Avot 2:9), “What is the straight or honest way a man should follow?” He replied, ” He who sees what is yet to come.” Rabbi Ovadiah MeBartanura explains: “He foresees…what will come to be in the future and…calculates the loss incurred of a mitzvah as opposed to its reward, and the reward of a transgression as opposed to its incurred loss.”

Put in today’s terms – before taking action one should calculate the gain and loss incurred by that action before proceeding.

Examine your role not only as a mother but also as a grandmother and calculate the gain/loss ratio of your actions in the ongoing saga of your son’s get-refusal. For your granddaughter – the one who calls you Bubbie – is still quite young. At this point in time she relates to you as a young grandchild should, with love and trust that you truly look out for her welfare.

The fact is, however, that your son is refusing to give a get to her mother. In a short period of time she will begin to comprehend what this means. She will sense that your family hurt her mother.

In another few years your clever granddaughter will begin to use the Internet. Before you know it, she will, out of curiosity, search for her name, her parents’ names and yes, even your name, online. Toward the end of elementary school days, having studied Hebrew and some Jewish law, she will enter the word “agunah” in a search engine. Hundreds if not thousands of links will be displayed on her computer screen. Your granddaughter will be exposed to what the Jewish media wrote, explicated and shouted about the actions of your son. Her father.

Moreover, when your bright granddaughter enters her teens, it will dawn on her that it is not only her father who is actively involved in battling her mother. There is an entire family constellation at play. She will examine her Bubbie’s role in this preventable tragedy. The very same Bubbie who professed her love for the granddaughter and who, as a matriarch, is entrusted with a granddaughter’s welfare.

In fact, she will be so sharp that in her search for the word “agunah” she will notice that this very publication published many articles about agunot. Your teenaged (or even younger) granddaughter will find this very article you are reading – this article where the call is on you, as the mother of the me’agen and as the grandmother of the agunah’s daughter, to compel your son to give his wife a get.

You can do it! It is within your power! You have a moral standing to do so. For your granddaughter will note that this article was published in February 2013, right before International Agunah Day (Taanit Esther), and look back. Was there a get given two weeks after publication? If there was, then you will have done your part to see to your granddaughter’s welfare. You will have allowed a healthy relationship to develop between the two of you. You will have actively let your granddaughter know she can trust you with her secrets, her dreams and her love. You will not have allowed your son to ruin your chances of dancing at your granddaughter’s wedding. Your granddaughter will understand all of this sooner than you think – because she will read these words and recognize the truth.

Dr. Rachel Levmore

About the Author: Rachel Levmore (Ph.D. in Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University) is a rabbinical court advocate; director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency (iyim.org.il); member of the Israel State Commission for the Appointment of Dayanim; and author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of Get-refusal.


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