While sonai Yisrael are doing their best to physically destroy us, the husband who will not release the woman he is legally married to, but who emotionally and spiritually is no longer his wife, is undermining the viability of the nation.
In many cases, the husband refuses to give a get simply out of sheer malice, a need to control or to be punitive. Sometimes it is a means of extortion – a bid to “sell” the get for as much as a desperate woman and her family will pay. She still may be breathing, but it is a living death these rodfim are inflicting upon their wives.
I am very aware that there are two sides to the story and that there are husbands who have relatively valid reasons for not initially giving a get. These men are decent, upright individuals who are being tormented and unrealistically maligned and vilified.
For some husbands, then, holding back on giving a get is their “ace in the hole” against an unreasonable or vindictive spouse who, for example, tries to alienate their children against him, emotionally and physically, preventing him from seeing and interacting with them; or who greedily demands an unfair share of their mutual assets.
Spousal abuse is not a one way street – men “fall in” as do women.
I once heard a joke that actually spoke volumes beneath its humor. A man in a cemetery observes another man standing over a grave weeping and repeatedly screaming, “Why did you have to die? Why did you have to die!” The first man, impressed with the level of upsetness shown by the stranger, offered his condolences and said, “He must have been very special to you.” The man stops his howling and says, “No, I never met him.” Shocked and very perplexed, the man asks him, “Why are you crying so hard over his death?”
“Because,” the man answered, “He was my wife’s first husband!”
Women as well as men can be very difficult to live with and stay married to, and when a marriage needs to be terminated (divorce in some cases being the lesser of two evils) a man may not have a choice but to withhold a get and use it as a bargaining tool to obtain fair and reasonable access to his children and/or financial assets.
By denying the get initially, he enhances his chances to get what he rightfully deserves. But eventually, it may be in his best interest to cut the matrimonial bonds that restrict him so that he too can get a second chance in life.
It is truly bewildering and unfortunate that the plight of the agunot – I don’t know how many there are but even one is too many – is not addressed with the same zeal and fervor and eagerness as is the issue of toe- exposure at pre-school pick-up. After all, future worlds are at stake!