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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

Leniencies In The Matter Of Agunot

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Leading rabbis in every generation have tried to find solutions, even far-fetched ones, for the distress of agunot – women whose husbands desert them and refuse to give a get, thus preventing them from remarrying.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger helped release an agunah with the explanation that “The time is right to release a Jewish wife from being an agunah, and Jewish women should not be hefker (ownerless victims who are trapped and might be led to sin). Thus we are going to be lenient with an agunah.”

The Maharam of Rotenberg in his responsa goes so far to rescue an agunah by invoking the concept of mekach ta’ut (marriage under false pretenses); had the wife known that her husband was so cruel, she never would have married him. Therefore the act of Kiddushin (marriage) is annulled “l’mafria” (retroactively) using the concept of hefker beis din hefker (what beis din declares null and void is null and void).

These great rabbis were no less God-fearing than the dayanim of today. But they were not afraid to seek solutions for complex questions regarding agunot. Moreover, according to Kabbalah, releasing an agunah brings the Final Redemption closer.

Solving the problem of agunot in a manner consistent with halacha is one of the major rabbinic challenges of our time. Israeli law has authorized the rabbinical courts to imprison a husband who denies his wife a get. However, there are dayanim (rabbinic judges) who oppose such enforcement for fear of a get kafui – a divorce granted under coercion, which is not considered valid. Consequently, many cruel husbands exploit the situation and prolong the abuse of their wives.

This is a complicated issue. On the one hand, a get imposed on a husband against his will is invalid according to halacha. On the other hand, the Rambam rules concerning a husband who refuses to give his wife a get: “He is beaten until he says, ‘I agree.’ ” The Rambam says such a get is valid.

This seeming contradiction is explained by the existence or lack thereof of a decree of beis bin requiring the husband to divorce his wife. Most opinions agree that without such a prior rabbinical court decree, even mild persuasion might threaten the non-coerced requirement of the get.

When, however, a rabbinical court decree requiring the husband to divorce his wife is secured, persuasion, coercion, and even force are considered valid in bringing the husband to comply with the decree of the beis din and give a get of his own free will.

Today’s rabbanim are divided over the types of sanctions that according to halacha can be imposed on husbands who deny their wives a get. The unresolved nature of these differences of rabbinical opinion has led to many wives living as captives to unscrupulous husbands who hold them in chains and blackmail them.

Many rabbinical judges seem to ignore the directive of the great Maharsha in the Talmud Bavli Yevamot: “To free an agunah our rabbis invoked many far-reaching leniencies.”

The Maharsha concludes: “God must grant courage to rabbinical judges so that trapped and captive suffering wives will be blessed with peace and domestic tranquility.”

Murdered Children’s Bodies Return to Ohio

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The bodies of two children murdered by their father just hours after arriving in Israel have been returned to Ohio, where they were living with their mother. The children are to be laid to rest Wednesday morning in Columbus.

The two children had landed in Lod on June 11 for visitation with their father following the couple’s recent divorce. The father turned himself in to police after the murders.

Israel Eliminates ‘Single Parent Family’ in Legal Lexicon

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The Knesset has passed an amendment eliminating the term “single parent family” from the lexicon of the legal system in Israel.

Instead, the One-Parent Family Law of 1992 will now read: “Family headed by an independent parent” to clarify the status of a parent with custody and who is head of household.

The amendment proposed by MK Meir Sheetrit replaced “single” parent with “independent” parent in order to avoid the implication that a lone parent was a widow or widower.

A family with a parent who is divorced or separated, who has custody of a child, cannot be classified as a single parent family under current law since both parents are alive. “Once the mother is defined as a ‘sole parent’ the father is, metaphorically, dead,” according to the bill’s explanatory notes.

Sheetrit told reporters, “This definition skews reality and in effect renders the parenthood of the other parent, usually the father, null and void in perception and in practice – not just in the eyes of the mother and child but in the eyes of society as a whole.”

Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, chairperson of the Committee for Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality, meanwhile, noted Tuesday morning that the committee reviewed the issue and found the amendment to be “only semantic.”

Lavie said the change “does not harm the rights granted to these families by law” and noted the point of the amendment was to “affect legal and public discourse in order to strengthen the perception that even in cases of separation between partners, their child has two parents who want his benefit and contribute to his growth and development.”

The Other Side Of The Mechitzah (Continued)

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Last week I shared the first part of a letter from a divorced man who complained that when it comes to divorce people generally are biased in favor of women. Our letter writer suffered for several years in an untenable marriage. His wife was emotionally ill. She needed constant medication, which she often neglected to take. There were two children involved and they were being damaged by the chaos in the home.

Here is the rest of his letter, followed by my response.

My situation became so unbearable that I realized I no longer had a choice. While I wanted to stay in the marriage because of the children, I also saw the children were suffering terribly, and would continue to whether I stayed or not. My wife’s mood swings left them battered and scarred.

Initially I did not want to burden my parents with my situation but once they became aware of it they encouraged me to leave. After much soul searching I concluded that if I did get a divorce, at least I would be able to take the children to my parents’ home so they might see a normal family and bask in the love of adoring grandparents.

A serious problem was my status as a kohen, which meant my chances for a second marriage would be limited. Yet to go on this way was impossible. I decided I had no option but to get a divorce.

My wife’s parents are wealthy and well respected. They have pull in the community. The get and divorce were accompanied by much stress and the kind of expenses I could ill afford. I did not have money, nor did my parents. I did not have a lucrative job. We lived day to day and depended on my wife’s family’s help. Nevertheless, I forged ahead and do not regret my decision. My children, baruch Hashem, are doing much better. They love Shabbos with their bubbie and zaidie and are thriving in school.

I have tried to date, but once the shadchanim learn I’m a kohen, they usually tell me they’ll do their best but that I should realize the options are very limited. “This lady would be perfect but she cannot marry a kohen” – I’ve heard that mantra again and again. I cannot deny it has been depressing, but despite everything the children are much better off and I have more peace in my life.

A few weeks ago some of my friends who are also divorced told me about the Shabbaton for frum divorced people where you were scheduled to speak. They urged me to join them. “A gathering of divorcees?” I asked dismissively. “For sure I will not find anyone there for me.”

Nevertheless, I was persuaded to go. I went without expectations but had an amazing surprise – your talk. You reminded me of my purpose as a Jew, which is so easy to forget in our tumultuous times. Avraham Avinu was charged by Hashem with an awesome mission – “Be a Blessing.” No matter where life takes you, no matter many how many hardships, no matter how many failures, be a blessing to others.

I am writing this for two reasons. One, to thank you; and two, to make people aware that it’s not only mothers who suffer when a divorce takes place but fathers as well.

I have not given up hope. I know that B’ezrat Hashem I will find my bashert and build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael. I extend my appreciation and berachahs to you, Rebbetzin. May Hashem enable you to continue doing your vital work for many more years. I do not expect a response. I just wanted your readers to know and understand the voice from the other side of the mechitzah.”

…………………………………… My Dear Friend,

Another NY Man Pleads Guilty of Violence against Divorce-Refusers

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Another New York City man has pleaded guilty to being part of a group of men who used violent means in exchange for pay to force Jewish husbands to give their wives religious divorces.

Simcha Bulmash, 30, of Brooklyn pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J., to participating in the extortion ring, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000 when he is sentenced in July. He remains out of jail on bail, which includes a $500,000 bond and GPS monitoring.

At least three other members of the ring have pleaded guilty in recent weeks and face the same punishments.

Several men, including two Orthodox rabbis, were arrested last October as part of an undercover FBI sting operation. The ring charged some $60,000 for its services.

The men allegedly kidnapped and beat up recalcitrant husbands until they agreed to the religious divorce.

Orthodox Jewish women cannot remarry without a get, or writ of divorce, granted by a rabbinical court, which requires the husband’s consent. Some husbands and wives withhold a get in order to gain more favorable terms for alimony or custody of children.

NY Man Pleads Guilty to Violently Forcing Husbands to Free ’Agunot’

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A New York personal trainer has pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of a group of men who used violent means in exchange for pay to force Jewish men to give their wives religious divorces.

David Hellman, 31, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison with a fine of $250,000 at his June 12 sentencing hearing.

Nine other men, including two Orthodox rabbis, were arrested in October 2013 as part of an FBI sting operation. The ring charged some $60,000 for its services. According to a complaint filed in court, the men kidnapped and beat up recalcitrant husbands until they agreed to the religious divorce.

Hellman was charged with “traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion,” and the others were charged with kidnapping, Reuters reported, citing court documents.

Orthodox Jewish women waiting for a divorce, or “get,” granted by a rabbinical court, are known as “chained women” or “agunot” because recalcitrant husbands refuse to sign the divorce documents, although some husbands, and wives, withhold a get in order to gain more favorable terms for alimony or custody of children.

Second Chances

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Last week I shared a letter from a distraught mother who wrote about her family’s nightmarish experience: Two days prior to her daughter’s wedding, the groom sent his rabbi to inform the family he could not go through with the marriage.

Sadly, her situation is not an isolated one. In our troubled society we see such occurrences again and again. After last week’s column appeared, I received a number of letters and e-mails from parents who’d been in similar predicaments.

The following is one of those letters. B’ezrat Hashem I will respond to both letters, last week’s and this week’s, in next week’s column.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

Every week I receive e-mails from Hineni on the parshah and print them out before Shabbos so that my children and guests can read and discuss them during the Shabbos meals. I particularly appreciate the insights of your son Rabbi Jungreis but was jarred when I read his column on Mishpatim, in which the laws of the Hebrew slave are mentioned.

When speaking of a Hebrew slave, the Torah is referring to a common thief who is unable to make restitution for his crime. In ancient Israel there were no jails; instead, a family would take in such a person in order to rehabilitate him and help him live an honorable Torah life. The law demands that he as well as his family be taken in, treated with dignity, and given the wherewithal to start a new life.

The lesson is obvious. If a common criminal must be treated with such dignity and respect, how much more so must we relate with respect to all our fellow men and give everyone another chance?

So what was it that jarred me about that parshah column? It was the concept of a second chance.

A year and half ago my daughter met a man. She fell head over heels for him. She was 28 at the time. Most of her friends were already married. From the time she graduated college she was always the bridesmaid, never the bride, though she’s a beautiful girl who involvers herself with communal tzedakah and chesed activities. So you can imagine how thrilled I was for her when she told me she’d met the man for her.

There was only one problem.

“Mom,” she said, “he was married once before, though briefly. It didn’t work out. They were both very young at the time and thankfully there were no children.”

I was a little surprised, but in today’s world hearing that someone has been divorced does not have the same connotations it did when I was growing up. I told my daughter I believed in second chances but that she should get to know him better before making a long-lasting commitment. She took my advice. There was no rush. Seven months later he proposed and she was ecstatic.

Suddenly, though, I was filled with trepidation. When my good friend called to wish me a mazel tov, I broke down. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I said. “I davened for this, and now that it’s happened I’m so worried.”

My friend told me it was normal to have these feelings and that when the shock wore off I’d be happy and busy planning a wedding. She was right about one of her predictions. I was busy. But I was not happy. Slowly reports started coming in. People who never speak a word of lashon hara were asking me if I really knew the man’s family. Others were telling me to examine his background. I didn’t know what to do.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/second-chances/2014/02/06/

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