Volume 53 Number 38
                    Produced: Mon Dec 25 18:25:09 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Shoshana L. Boublil]
Aguna Idea
         [Feldhamer, Stuart]
Blunders and discrimination against women
         [Yeshaya Halevi]
Spousal abuse
Women's Tefillah Groups vs Women's Minyans
         [W. Baker]
Working toward solutions - Agunot etc.
         [Perry Zamek]


From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 20:55:19 +0200
Subject: Aguna

I would like to take time out and address the issue of Agunot as it is
called in the popular press.

First of all, an Agunah is a woman with a missing husband - usually, MIA
or at sea, rarely do we have Agunot nowadays b/c the husband managed to
get a new ID and disappear.  In these cases, the resolution can only be
when evidence appears proving the missing husband is now dead.  An
example was unfortunately the psika after 9/11.

Most of the cases discussed are actually Mesoravot Get: The husband is
present and accounted for, but he refuses to grant a GET.

And even that is a simplification.  If the couple can't agree on child
support/division of property etc. and therefore the GET is being delayed
-- is this a case of Mesorevet Get?

If a woman is still married after being separated for 15 years b/c she
never filed for religious divorce - is she Mesorevet GET?  What about if
the reason she hasn't filed is b/c her husband threatened her?

If the court process takes 3-5 years b/c of insufficient number of Batei
Din, is the woman a Mesorevet GET during those years?

What about the couple where the wife got a judgement for Mezonot for a
hefty sum of money, and as she knows that this income will cease upon
divorce, she does everything in her power to prevent the GET.  Is her
husband now a Mesorav GET?

And then you add the complex issue of the differences between Eretz
Yisrael and the Diaspora and you are opening up a whole new list of

To summarize, problems with getting a GET are usually for one or more of
the following reasons:

a) Money arguments. This is true, in Israel, for both men and women.
The variations on the theme are equal to the number of people seeking

Some courts, like the one that was headed by Rav Feinstein in the States
and some Herkevim in Israel will pasken GET and demand that the couple
work out their money troubles afterwards.

With the recent judgement in the Israeli Civil Supreme Court against the
Batei Din's involvement in financial cases post Divorce, this option has
been unfortunately closed down.  The reason I say unfortunately, is b/c
in the past, some Dayanim would force a GET and sort out the finances
afterwards. Until the new laws come into being, this option is
unavailable, making it harder to get a GET in cases where the problems
are financial.

b) Beit Din troubles. Unfortunately, there are Batei Din who will NEVER
pasken for a Chiyuv GET (let alone Kefiya).  The result is that if, for
example, an abused woman appears before them, and manages to prove her
case -- she still won't get a GET until the husband agrees.  BTW, the
husband won't get a heter to remarry either from this court.

This type of Beit Din is actually the bottleneck of the majority of
Mesoravot GET (men and women!) and unfortunately the only solution is to
wish that these Dayanim enjoy a long and healthy retirement -- as soon
as possible.  Hopefully, the future Dayanim sworn in won't be like them.

In Israel, at least, it is possible, though extremely difficult, to try
to transfer your court case to a different Beit Din.

On the other hand I would like to compliment those Dayanim who are truly
Yerei'ei Shamayim and help couples resolve their issues in a timely
fashion.  This would also include cases where women have made Aliyah to
Israel -- and thanks to the tireless work of many of the Dayanim,
managed to obtain a GET that has been denied to them in the Diaspora.

c)Lawyers/To'anim Rabbaniim etc. I'm sorry, but the truth is that not
every lawyer or Toen Rabbani in this field work for mitzvot.  I would
advise women (especially) to make sure that the agreement they have with
their lawyer is such that he gets most of his fee even if he completes
the case fast.  You would be surprised how this shortens the time it
takes to obtain a GET.

There have been cases where the GET is stalled b/c the agreement is such
that if he/she doesn't make at least X number of appearances in court -
the fee is too small to cover the lawyer's expenses.  I know this sounds
harsh, but that's life.  If you want it to go faster - offer a bonus for
early solution.  At least that way you'll know that the problems are b/c
of the courts and not your lawyer...

And now to my last comment, which will probably raise some protests.
Over the years many cases have come past my desk - requests to help
"Agunot" etc.  I am sorry to say that not every case was honestly a
problem case.  Many times the wife who was screaming from the roof tops
of her sad plight, was actually holding up the GET for financial gain;
Other times, bad representation made the current situation virtually
impossible to resolve.

In one classic case, the husband was demanding 1 million dollars.  The
request was for a lawyer to represent the poor woman for free, so that
they could pay the husband (the community had raised funds to help).
When a lawyer offered to obtain the divorce WITHOUT having to pay the
husband -- but that they would have to pay his fee, the lawyer's aid was
turned down.  I'm sorry to say that there are times when the GET is
delayed b/c the woman or man want the issues to be solved ONLY in THEIR

What about practical solutions?

a) If there has been a court judgement in a Beit Din -- press for
sanctions, and then press for implementation of those sanctions.  In
Israel, this includes: fines; taking away the passport and driving
license; forbidding one to have bank account [tricky if you want the guy
to pay child support] and jail.

b) If there has been a resolution in Beit Din - ask for Charamot Rabeinu
Tam - and make sure the local rabbis are aware of the psika, hang them
up on the shul notice board, print them in the local paper.

c) The other types of problems have different solutions.

All the best,



From: Feldhamer, Stuart <Stuart.Feldhamer@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2006 10:42:56 -0500
Subject: Aguna Idea

> I had the following idea that might help the plight of women unable to
> secure a divorce, either because the husband refuses to give the get
> [bill of divorce] for whatever reason, or because the husband has gone
> missing: After the chuppah ceremony, the husband should be required to
> give the wife a conditional get, the condition being that the get
> becomes valid only when a Beis Din declares the wife to be an agunah.
> So, for example, if the husband goes missing, the wife can apply to the
> Beis Din for aguna status.  Once the Beis Din grants her that status,
> the get she was given just after the chuppah becomes valid there and
> then, and she becomes a divorcee.
> Not being knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the relevant halachos,
> are there any problems with this idea?
>Immanuel Burton.

First of all it's unlikely that any of us would come up with a "new"
idea on this issue.

I went to a shiur given by Rav Willig, where he was ostensibly supposed
to talk about the relatively new prenuptial agreement that is being
recommended/endorsed by the RCA. For the first half of the shiur, he
spoke about all of the other methods that people have suggested to
prevent women from becoming agunot, and yours was one of them. I believe
that he said that some poskim believed that such a t'nai could be OK,
but many other poskim disagreed for whatever reason (I don't remember
off the top of my head) and the bottom line was that such a get would
not be accepted normatively.



From: Yeshaya Halevi <c.halevi@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2006 10:40:29 -0600
Subject: Blunders and discrimination against women

Shalom, All:

Daniel Wells, responding to Shani Thon's assertion that 

> I will sit where I want on any bus/taxi/public seat---that is
> everyone's right in this world

leaves himself open to some pointed questions - and a charge of
historical inaccuracy. 

The history blunder (if I may be permitted to first address his ending
point) is that it was not 'Mary' Parks who sparked the great Birmingham
bus ride debacle - it was the very famous **Rosa** Parks. Such an
obvious error trivializes the (wrong) point Mr. Wells wishes to make.

Names aside, I also find fault with Reb Daniel's premise. For instance,
he claims 
>'public seat' means a seat available for a person who abides by the
>rules of the carrier.

Stuff and nonsense in America, and probably in Israel too. A bus company
can NOT discriminate and tell women, Jews, blacks etc. that they aren't
good enough for the front of the bus. Civil rights and equality, ya

I seem to recall that Israel has similar prohibitions against discrimination. 

Mr. Wells also errs, I believe, in saying 

>It does not mean that carrier has to transport a person who say is

The victims here are not drunk, drugged or loud. They just happen to be
female. Last I looked, this was Constitutional and kosher under halacha
as well.

> And if the carrier, or the community, makes a particular rule such as
> separate seating on a particular route, then you don't have a right to
> sit where you want.

I'll leave this one to the lawyers here, but I think things hinge upon
(a) the company's status as a *public* provider, and (b) their
acceptance of govt. subsidies. In both instances, my non-lawyerly brain
thinks they are guilty of discrimination. Some private golf/country
clubs, for instance have gotten away with barring women, but I think
they do so only because they are 100% private. Bus companies, government
agencies etc. are S.O.L. - stam outta luck.

> Simply put, in an halachik environment (and for that matter in any
> judicial system), no person has an absolute right to freedom of action
> or speech.

Just because you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre doesn't mean
you are subject to discrimination.

Lastly, Mr. Wells says 

> The case of Mary {sic} Parks as a black, being forced to sit at the
> back of the bus was racially motivated unlike todays modern religious
> women who are requested to sit at the back out of concerns for
> modesty. 

There are so many juicy ways to argue that this is wrong. For instance,
why should women be modest and men not so? A fool who berates and lays
hands upon a woman is hardly "modest" in any sense of the word. And
because it was not an issue of "modesty" until recent years, one may ask
if previous g'dolay ha'dor (sages of the generation) erred in not trying
to steal civil rights from women. (One answer: those sages had no
problem with basic human dignity for women.)

And lastly: if certain haredi men feel so strongly about this, let THEM
go to the back of the bus. While they're at it, they should wear horse
blinders too, so their eyes don't stray.

Kol Tuv,
Yeshaya (Charles Chi) Halevi


From: <eeh43@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2006 10:10:12 -0500
Subject: Spousal abuse

Akiva Miller wrote
>If anyone can point me to some resources which will show
>me what to look for, I'd appreciate it. (Just keep in mind that I am
>neither a physician nor a mikveh lady, so it is unlikely for me to ever
>see any deliberately-hidden injuries.)

Ths simplest answer is "Project Sarah" funded in the main by a DOJ
grant.  You don't have to be a "physician nor a mikveh lady" to see that
a person is being abused.  The case I saw was of a man who had taken at
least one beating.  It exists, it is not news and it is not going away.
As the alternate lifestyle community becomes more visible their
incidences become more noticed.  Their stats are on the rise but this is
probably due to more reporting.

Elliott Hershkowitz


From: W. Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2006 12:36:50 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Women's Tefillah Groups vs Women's Minyans

Once agian, I must comment on this term "women's minyans," an oxymoron
in orthodox settings.  We women who pray togather do so in tefillah
groups that do not claim to be minyanim.  We do not recite kaddish,
Kedusha or Borchu in the services, although we do read form a sefer
torah.  Please don't use the term, "women's minyan" as it just inflames
those who object to women praying as a group.

> From: Frank Silbermann 
> Instead of organizing women's minyans and such, perhaps Orthodox
> feminists ought to sponsor Akido classes.  I'd love to be able to offer
> my teenage daughters this kind of training.


From: Perry Zamek <perryza@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 19:21:51 +0200
Subject: Working toward solutions - Agunot etc.

Here's a practical step that many of us can take in our own communities.
It's not going to solve specific cases of agunot, unfortunately, but it
may make communities more aware of the halachic issues involved.

Perhaps we can ask our local rabbis or dayanim to explain, in layman's
terms, the issues involved in aguna, conditional get, annulment of
marriage, and the various approaches used in the past and the present
for dealing with agunot (and releasing them). It's important that the
emotional arguments for or against certain approaches be set aside for
the purpose of these shiurim.

These should be text-based shiurim, for both men and women (separately
or together, depending on your community's standards), starting with
Talmudic sources, and moving through the Rishonim and Acharonim, with a
good selection of Responsa literature as well. There are several
responsa in Igrot Moshe dealing with removing impediments to marriage
(including the issues of Aguna, kiddushei ta'ut [marriage entered into
as a result of an error], annulment of marriage, etc.), and Rav Moshe
often gives a good deal of source material as background to his
decisions. However, a range of responsa would be even better.

I'm not talking of a one-off lecture to give an "overview" of the
issues, but a serious, in-depth study of the material, to make us all
more educated.

The message that will be given to the rabbis by this request should be
clear - the problem exists, we need to learn about it, and *you* (as
rabbis) need to know that we are concerned and that we expect action on
your part.

Similar shiurim series on other issues that have been raised in the
recent thread on list priorities may also be instituted.

As a further approach, perhaps some of the Rabbis on our list would be
prepared to (a) prepare source lists for posting on the mail-jewish
website (as a special section) and/or (b) record lectures on this topic
that could be uploaded (in mp3 format) to the website for mail-jewish
subscribers to download and listen to.

I realize that this would require an input of time, and what I would
suggest is that someone (other than Avi) takes on the task of
coordinating topics with the Rabbis who would be willing to participate,
so that we get as broad an overview as possible.

Perry Zamek


End of Volume 53 Issue 38