I was running late to my wedding some 27 years ago, and it’s tough for me to recall all the rushed moments – but I do remember this one: A distinguished, elderly gentleman embraced me and introduced himself as Zaydy Moshe – my wife-to-be’s beloved grandfather. Within moments, he handed me a document with a pen in hand and turned around so I could use his back to sign it.
The son of an attorney and judge, I instinctively knew never to sign anything without consulting a lawyer. But my dad wasn’t around, and I did recall my wife mentioning the absolute importance of me signing a halachic prenuptial agreement that stipulated that I would never withhold a get from her on pain of financial penalty.
As a fighter, I understood the advantage of having the exclusive right to give or withhold a get should my marriage collapse, G-d forbid. Yet as a fair fighter, I wanted the playing field to be equal.
Marriage is about treating one another with love and respect. I wouldn’t subjugate an animal unnecessarily, so, kal v’chomer, why would I consider subjugating another human being, let alone my wife?
If your wife is a living nightmare, get out and move on, but why withhold someone’s very right to exist freely? To keep your wife chained to you is a form of slavery. If you consider yourself even remotely G-d-fearing and frum, there’s simply no excuse for taking away someone’s ability to live feely.
So, 27 years ago, I comfortably signed my rights away.
But if using one’s strength over another is inherently wrong, why do some men refuse to give their wives a get? Perhaps a mixture of anger, abuse, money, and control. But they should note that their wives won’t be the only ones who suffer. One low-life I read about abused his entire family and refused to give his wife a get all while attending a kollel minyan and living with a woman whose last name wasn’t Horowitz (it was more like Sanchez). The relevant beis din, though, dragged its feet for several years until it finally pushed him into giving her a get. Meanwhile, the entire family abandoned Yiddishkeit, and, honestly, who could blame them? The hypocrisy was too galling.
Recently, a number of campaigns have exposed horrible men who ignore seruvs issued by beis din. Did these “religious” men forget the mishnah warning us to treat all mitzvot equally? Surely, they wouldn’t eat pig or miss tefillin, so how can they blatantly ignore a beis din‘s ruling? Even more perplexing, where are our Jewish leaders when it comes to this gross injustice?
Divorce is horrible and sad. But just like everything else, it comes with rules. Even when we fight, we must play fair. Even during a divorce, the laws of decency and kindness apply. Overpowering another is utterly ungodly and therefore wrong. There’s a reason we are commanded to free our slaves every seven years. G-d doesn’t want men enslaving one another.
And we shouldn’t forget that Chazal have warned us of the pain we will ultimately endure if we cause pain to others in this world. What goes around comes around.
Let me conclude with this: Many years ago, someone wronged me, angering me to the point that I literally had to leave a building if I knew he was in it. I wanted to take revenge, but a wise man introduced me to the concept of being mevater – of nullifying one’s desires and forgiving others who don’t necessarily deserve it.
He said that by consciously refraining from hurting another, we are essentially saying to G-d, “Even though I can handle this my way, I am entrusting you to handle it your way.”
I followed his advice and, suffice it to say, G-d outdid any possible dreams I may have had for this person while teaching me an important lesson about life and emunah along the way.
So rather than exert domination over another by withholding a get, men should find true strength and power by not exerting themselves and being mevater and relinquishing their power to Hashem.
Can you imagine the power of saying, “Hashem, my wife really hurt me and I’m very angry, but rather than use my power against her, I’m turning this one over to you and asking you to bless me”?