Volume 23 Number 76
                       Produced: Thu Apr 25  7:36:03 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Forced (or not) Gets
         [Jeremy Nussbaum]
Forcing a Get
         [Avraham Husarsky]


From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1996 07:35:47 -0400
Subject: Administrivia

Hello All,

Just want to mention that I'm a bit behind (mainly in the April 20-24
time frame), so there may be messages received later than ones you may
have sent out earlier that you will see coming out today. I hope to get
through a good deal of the backlog tonight, and move the messages from
my main mailbox to the mail-jewish queue file.

Avi Feldblum


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 96 14:34:02 EDT
Subject: Forced (or not) Gets

> From: Alana Suskin <alanacat@...>
> 	Getting out of hand for whom, is the question. There is
> substantial evidence that gets aren't being forced (or even attempts at
> persuasion made by beitei gittin) often enough! There are hundreds of
> cases (probably actually more: there are hundreds of *documented cases*)
> of women who are not being released from marriages filled with physical
> and sexual abuse of themselves and their children. Why? Frequently their
> words are not being believed, and their evidence refused. Admittedly
> this simply mirrors the problems of the secular world. Indeed, I believe
> is encouraged by secular culture's tolerance of such outrageous
> behavior, but that we should be so influenced by secualr culture to the
> extent that we are willing to allow abuse of half of our people (tacitly
> or overtly) is a horror, particularly when it is defended as a right,
> somehow, of a religious man.

There are a number of real issues here, and it is easy to gloss over
their complexity.  I would like to point out a few of the conflicting
issues and suggest why a comprehensive closed form solution of the
problems cannot be implemented.  This admittedly theoretical
discussion is not directly related to any particular case.  I have no
intention of denying or minimizing the problems and pesonal pain of
the poster.

Before proceeding, I want to acknowledge the real personal pain felt by
people, both men and women, who are in abusive relationships.  In the
best of worlds it is difficult to move out of an abusive relationship,
doing so often requires extra energy and involves an extra degree of
pain and difficulty.  In addition, the pain of not being believed or
listened to is very real, and adds to the pain and suffering of one who
is abused.

In term of personal responsibility, it is clear to me that ideally one
is either in a "healthy" marriage relationship or working towards one,
or else should be seeking a different relationship after gracefully
ending the present one.  Life is really too short, imho, to accept
anything less.  It unfortunately happens at times that one party is
committed to the relationship and the other is not.  If a
reconcilliation cannot be worked out, it is the personal resposibility
to give and receive a get.  However, it is not clear to me that there is
a communal or institutional obligation to see that a get is given and/or
received in such a case.  Under such circumstances, the man has recourse
to remarry, but the woman does not.  I do not know under what
circumstances historically Jewish courts have intervened to enable the
woman to remarry if she refuses to live with her husband.

Another big problem with problem relationships is abuse and allegations
of abuse.  Since such abuse occurs primarily in a private setting, it is
difficult to document.  Before continuing, I want to stress that
physical and sexual abuse occurs even in the observant community, and
that imo there should not be even a hint of condoning such behavior.
Properly documented cases should, imho, be dealt with severely by the
community and by communal institutions, including batei dinim.  The
problem here is how to properly document such cases.  It is possible
that prejudice, lack of exposure to actual abuse cases and lack of
sensitivity plays a role in some or many of the responses to claims of
abuse.  Be that as it may, even the best qualified and most sensitive
person has some difficult and time consuming issues to face in dealing
with allegations of abuse.

Put simply, in the absence of corroborating evidence and witnesses, it
is the word of one person against the other.  One possibility is that
abuse is occuring, and that something needs to be done.  Another
possibility is that no abuse is occuring, and doing something may
actually be detrimental to all of those involved, especially children.
Imho, it is important to note that active "sympathetic" involvement in
cases of alleged abuse has a down side; it can affect perfectly innocent
people unfairly and in ways that can cause long term harm.

In the US in recent years many rules have been changed to facilitate the
reporting of abuse, primarily to facilitate the reporting by women of
abuse by their husbands/boy friends.  While these changes have been made
for the most part with the best of intentions, once they become part of
the system they are open to abuse.  For example, the Mondale act
mandates people in certain positions to report suspicions of child
abuse, and completely shields them from responsibility for any ill
effects of their reporting.  On the one hand, it's good to deal with
real cases of child abuse as quickly as possible.  On the other hand,
when false allegations are made, the affected parent or parents have
little effective recourse against their accuser(s).  A jury trial is not
necessary for a state agency to take action, nor are there firm rules of
evidence (or even any rules of evidence necessarily).  There are horror
stories of abuses of the unconditional shield provided by this law.
Some of those cases involve state agencies, and many of those cases
involve a spouse in a divorce case, typically a wife, where allegations
of abuse can significantly alter the outcome of custody and property
settlements.  Such allegations can be made with impunity, knowing that
there are no legal consequences to suffer for false accusations.

In my current home state of Massachusetts, a woman can obtain a
restraining order against her husband based solely on her allegations or
even fear of future action (even in the absence of any abusive action
ever having been taken) and can have him removed from their home.  This
is a common action in the start of a divorce case, and can be quite
unfair; the wife obtains a restraining order and has it served by a
policeman on her husband, who is then escorted out of the house.  The
husband has limited recourse, and judges are not generally interested in
delving into the details of each case.  This is sometimes extended
further to allegations of child abuse, especially sexual abuse.  In an
ideal world, the truth would come out quickly and expeditiously.
Unfortunately, in our world, at times the truth emerges slowly, and
sometimes only after much pain and suffering.

Again, I am not arguing that abuse does not occur, nor am I condoning it
when it does occur.  I am stating that a third party looking in,
especially an official third party, needs to carefully weigh any action
to take.  I certainly don't have a simple good solution to propose.  The
best that I can say is that congregational rabbis and dayanim should
have good training in both in investaging abuse allegations and in
talking to people in abusive and allegedly abusive relationships.
Hebrew Union College (reform) in NY is running a seminar session or
series for clergy on dealing with domestic violence.  The issue is not a
denominational one, but rather a human one, I think there are areas of
commonality here.

> 	There is, of course, the additional issue of what the problem is
> when there is emotional abuse, which is a legitimate one. Under that
> heading also comes the now infamous problem of kidushei katana. We can
> see that many men are quite unscrupulous about abusing even their
> children simply to get what they want, and frequently what they want is
> to "get even" or simply to make themselves feel better about what they
> perceive as humiliation by humiliating or tormenting in kind. One sees
> this sort of thing all the time, but as observant Jews (of what halachic
> denomination) one would want to encourage rabbis to teach men that if
> they engage in this sort of behavior they are not acting in accordance
> with Judaism. They are certainly not walking humbly n the ways of God.

I certainly agree with teaching men (and women) to walk humbly in the
ways of God, and to do all in one's power to have men and women avoid
humiliating others.  I am not aware that husbands abuse their wives
emotionally more than wives abuse their husbands emotionally.  It is a
problem, albeit of a different nature than physical abuse.  Given the
current structure of relevant laws in the US and the makeup of the
relevant courts, I think on the whole it is easier for a woman to make
her ex's life miserable and to sever his relationship with their kids
than the other way around.  No matter who engages in such behavior, it
is in general morally repugnant.  Unfortunately, it takes time, energy,
money, skill and commitment to accurately research each allegation.  It
does not serve justice and morality to have a knee jerk reaction either
way to allegations of abuse.

There is a difference between what is morally right and what is
actionable.  We cannot enforce all forms of moral behavior, What we do
have is the ability to make a case for doing the right thing and the
ability to set a good example.

> 	Finally, even if the only problem with the marriage is that the
> husband and wife do not love each other, they certainly should not be
> living together. And if the wife does not love her husband, and wants to
> leave, and the husband does not want her to leave, and refuses to give
> her a get, is that an act of love? or one of pettiness and vengefulness?
> If my husband wanted to leave me and no longer loved me, I would be
> heartbroken, but I couldn't ese myself refusing to grant a get. What
> would be the point? WOuld he love me more if I forced him to stay?

Good question.  This is the opinion of R. Akiva, that one may divorce
one's wife even for a petty reason.  I think since under such
circumstances there is no commitment to a relationship that is
appropriate for married life, it is better to move on.  The technical
legal issues involved in forcing him to accept a get if she is no longer
committed to the relationship I leave to those better versed in the
history and intricacies.

When all is said and done, people are human.  We can set up rules and
regulations, moral ideals and goals, and then people do whatever they
do.  I see too many broken relationships around me, with long term pain
for the children involved.  Even when the marriages is not dissolved,
the lack of a real relationship leaves emotional scars on many of the

Imho, the essential issue is not one of rules and regulations.  Once the
rules are fixed, clever people find ways of accomplishing their ends,
for better and for worse.  Better rules can ameliorate some, but not all
of the pain and suffering caused by people.  You can't force people to
be good through laws, even good laws.  It is a choice God has given each
and every one of us, which for better and for worse cannot be taken
away.  The Torah states that God has given us the choice between good
and evil, between life and death.  That choice of evil and death
unfortunately involves other people as well, and no set of laws and
regulations can change that.

The real question is how people see themselves and what they commit
themselves to.  We certainly want to see people committed to the good
and just in the eyes of God.  Imho, Orthodox Judaism, Judaism as a
whole, and people in general would do well to emphasize the divine
essence in each person, and to work to bring that out in all of us,
starting at an early age.  Both in days schools and in synagogue life I
think we could use a lot more work on having people choose to express
the divine spark in themselves for good.  It's harder than teaching
hebrew, chumash and gemara, but ultimately so much more rewarding.

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


From: <hoozy@...> (Avraham Husarsky)
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 96 18:14:08 msd
Subject: Forcing a Get

>From: Heather O. Benjamin <BENJAMIN@...>

>The point about the agunah issue is that gets are so often held over
>women's heads when divorce has been secularly agreed upon, whether it's
>to force her to settle for a smaller settlement than she is entitled to
>- despite the years and years that the wife has serviced her husband,
>provided for his well being at home, produced and reared his
>children. The fact that at the end of a marriage, the husband has this
>power over the woman, and she has nothing with which to defend against
>it, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. "But," I already hear the men
>argue back "she can refuse to accept a get!" But you know what, folks?
>That does not turn HIS future children into mumzarim, as it does
>her's. So please don't tell me it's the same thing.

if it was "secularly agreed upon" there should be no problem arranging a
Get.  if you mean rather "secularly adjudicated", then it is within the
rights of any orthodox jew to have his/her case heard before a beit din
(so much more so in Israel where the batei din are invested with
authority to enforce decisions).  as a matter of fact it is "assur" to
turn to the secular court if there is a readily available beit din in
the city willing to adjuducate.

i agree with all of the sociological points raised in your post.

Name: Avraham Husarsky         
E-mail: <hoozy@...>, ahuz@netvision.net.il


End of Volume 23 Issue 76