Volume 54 Number 88
                    Produced: Sun Jun 10  8:56:12 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Fiat Libellus Repudii (4)
         [Shimon Lebowitz, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, Chana Luntz,
Bernard Raab]
Jay ("Yaakov") Shachter's Post
         [Joseph Kaplan]


From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2007 12:08:11 +0200
Subject: Re: Fiat Libellus Repudii

This was a very interesting article, but maybe we could add translating
Latin to the rule of translating Hebrew? :-)

I thought I recognized psukim (verses) from Bereishit, in Latin form,
and tried to follow the discussion based on my memory of the Hebrew. But
the subject line is still not clear to me. "Fiat" was only explained as
an English word, is that the Latin meaning here too? And what does the
rest of it mean? Sorry... my Latin is really pretty limited to things
like "i.e." and E Pluribus Unum.

On another subject, can you explain why the Rambam would not allow that
lovesick man to MARRY, legally with Chuppa and Kiddushin, the unmarried
object of his love?  Wouldn't that be the best solution? And before
marrying here, don't Chazal (the Jewish sages) *require* that he SEE
her, at least once?

Or is there some unwritten assumption here, that if lovesickness is
behind his desire for her, it will deteriorate as soon as he is actually


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2007 05:09:48 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Fiat Libellus Repudii

From: Jay F (Yaakov) Shachter <jay@...>
> The person to whose post I am responding is apparently convinced that
> the minds that can find 150 ways to declare a bug ritually pure can
> surely find 1 way to break the marriage bonds of an abandoned wife.
> But, in fact, there are not 150 ways for an intellectually honest mind
> to declare a bug ritually pure.  There are not 48 ways.  There is not
> even half a way.  The only way you can declare a bug ritually pure is by
> deciding beforehand that you want to declare the bug ritually pure, and
> then by developing the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to
> perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if
> they are inimical to your predetermined conclusion, and of being bored
> or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a
> contrary direction.  It also needs a sort of athleticism of mind, an
> ability at one moment to make the most delicate use of logic and at the
> next to be unconscious of the crudest logical errors.

I remember reading that the "150 reasons to declare a sheretz tahor and
150 reasons to declare a sheretz tamei" as a requirement for being on
the Sanhedrin was *not* that the candidate had to come up with
*legitimate* reasons.  He had to show that he could argue effectively
and convincingly on both sides.  However, he also had to keep in mind
the only real reason that a sheretz is tamei, that the Torah declares
that it is.  I remember a story about the Steipler (?) giving a shiur on
chametz in which he asked why chametz was asur on Pesach.  He was able
to disprove all the great philosophical and mystical reasons that his
students proposed.  Finally , in said just, "the Torah says so".

Another example are the health reasons that some people give for the
rules of kashrus.

We have to remember with all of our halachos, no matter what that the
only real reason is that Hashem commanded it.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water

From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2007 11:45:13 +0100
Subject: Fiat Libellus Repudii

Jay F (Yaakov) Shachter wrote:

> This can be illustrated by noting a third category of woman that is
> also often wrongly styled an `Aguna, a category that has not been
> mentioned yet.  A Moredet is the opposite of a Msorevet L'Get.  A
> Msorevet L'Get is a woman who wants to be married, but her husband
> refuses to cohabit with her.  A Moredet is a woman who refuses to
> cohabit with her husband, but her husband wants to be married to her.

While there may be a lot of truth in much of what you wrote, this above
is, IMHO, misleading and unfair.  A Msorevet L'Get is a woman who wants
a get and whose husband is refusing to give one in circumstances where
he ought to be giving one.  A Moredet (as set out in Even Haezer Siman
77 si'if 2) is a woman who refuses to have sexual relations (let us not
beat about the bush here, cohabit is not exactly clear) with her husband
in circumstances where she is doing this to cause him pain [tzar] or as
a revenge tactic for something.  However she is not a moredes if her her
reason for not wanting to have relations is genuinely because she finds
him repulsive.  In the case where she is doing this because she
genuinely finds him repulsive he is in fact required to give her a get,
and if he does not do so, then she is a msorevet l'get, whether or not
he wishes to be married to her.  Indeed, a Moredet does not, as a
general rule, seek a get, and it is misleading to suggest that she does.
Rather she is interested and involved in a power play regarding his
sexual needs, something that the halacha does not condone.  Note also
that the ultimate sanction for a Moredet is that she is given a get
(albeit without ketuba and after 12 months - see Even HaEzer siman 77
si'f 2).  It is in that regard that she is indeed dimetrically opposed
to a Msorevet L'Get who wants one and can't get one, as she may get one
without wanting one.

> For polemical purposes, some people classify the Moredet together with
> the `Aguna, whom she does not resemble, and the Msorevet L'Get, to
> whom she is diametrically opposed, and call them all `Agunot.

I do not think this is accurate either.  The logic behind using the term
Aguna for both a true Aguna and a Msorevet L'Get is because of the root
word, chained, in the meaning of Aguna.  Both of these are chained to
people to whom they no longer wish to be tied.  A Moredet may well not
want a get, she is locked in some sort of war with her husband and is
using the witholding of sexual relations as a weapon in that war.  She
is thus not legitimately called chained.  The one case which somewhat
lies between two is the case of the woman who wants a get because she
has become involved with somebody else.  Of course, if she has had
relations with somebody else, then again a get is required (yes there is
scope for the husband not to believe her if it is just her word for it,
but let us for the moment assume that it can be evidenced).  But
assuming that no relations have taken place, then you may have a
situation where modern mores may see her as illegitimately chained to
the husband, while if she then refuses to keep sleeping with her
husband, the halacha sees her as a Moredes and not require an immediate

But getting back to your primary point about language, if anything, I
think, the greater sense of injustice is stirred in people in response
to the Msorevet Haget.  The Aguna is, in general, the subject of an Act
of G-d, and is thus the subject of pity.  The Msorevet Haget is the
subject of the maliciousness of a particular man who is walking amongst
us, whom, it can be agreed, is not doing the morally or halachically
correct thing, and hence the case tends to stir a sense of righteous

But, IMHO, the real issue revolves not around this, but around how one
deals with malcreants.  To marry another recent thread on Mail Jewish,
the response of the Rambam in the case of a Msrovet haget is, in a word,
torture.  His view is, a Jew deep down really wants to do the right
thing, so that if the yetzer hora gets in his way, then the correct
thing to do is to torture him until he agrees to give the get (ie says
Rotze ani) - and, to put it somewhat anachronistically, to hell with the
Geneva convention.

Tosphos, however, holds that a coerced get is not worth the parchment it
is written on.  That is, a get extracted by means of torture is no get
at all.  And since the Torah says that in order for the marriage to be
dissolved, he (ie the husband) has to write a bill of divorce for her,
and one extracted by torture is no get at all, the woman still remains

Of course, the point at which actions cease being torture and turn into
legitimate pressure is a difficult question debated by legal minds in
all ages.  Many legal systems do regard bribery as, in extreme
circumstances, legitimate.  For example, while I am sure that under any
legal system, if one has any information regarding the kidnap of a small
girl from her hotel room, one has a legal obligation to come forward
with that information, not withstanding this, most legal systems allow
for the State, and for individuals, to offer rewards to incentivise
people to do the right thing And I doubt there is a legal system that
does not regard moral sanction and public oppbrium as being legitimate.
Other situatuons are more grey.  The various UN Charters attempt to set
out what is considered legitimate responses to illegal activity, and
what is not, but obviously that is just one stab amongst many.  But I
think it is important to understand that at root, this is one of thr key
questions underlying the issue regarding the Msorevet l'Get.



From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2007 01:02:31 -0400
Subject: RE: Fiat Libellus Repudii

>If our posqim had failed to find an answer to the question, "what
>positive number, multiplied by itself, is equal to 1764?" it would be
>reasonable to say that our posqim have not tried hard enough.  But the
>problem confronting our posqim might not be at all like finding the
>positive number whose square is 1764.  It might be more like finding
>the positive number whose square is -1, and a lack of motivation to
>solve the problem might not be the reason why they have failed to solve
>it.  Our posqim are not cowards, or I should say more precisely, they
>are not all cowards, and there are among them those who dare do all
>that may become a poseq; who dares do more, is none.

I was struck by this analogy in this impressive essay, and believe it
can be extended to further understanding. In mathematics, the square
roots of neg numbers were thought not to exist. Then, in the 16th
century, an inventive thinker suggested the concept of "imaginary"
numbers (an unfortunate choice of word), two of which, when multiplied
together, would result in a negative number. Since, in a sense, all
numbers are imaginary in that they exist only in our imaginations (think
on that for a while), was it really such a stretch to define this new
class of number? Many mathemeticians apparently thought it was. And
then, a few centuries later, physicists found that "imaginary" numbers
could be really useful in describing some physical processes, and are
now routinely used by physicists and electrical engineers.

So what does this have to do with the Aguna/Msorevet l'get/etc. problem?
Perhaps it suggests that the solution, if there is to be one, lies not
in a rejection of halacha, but in an inventive and imaginative
extrapolation of the commonly accepted halacha. The real problem,
needless to say, is that such an extrapolation is bound to be viewed
with hostility by most poskim, and the usual agent of change in halacha,
i.e., acceptance by the observant lay community, is almost completely
powerless in this case since marriage is so closely controlled by the
Rabbinate. But over time, if it proves to have real practical utility
and gains strong public support, who knows?

--Bernie R.


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2007 15:01:34 -0400
Subject: Jay ("Yaakov") Shachter's Post

I have the following comments on Jay ("Yaakov") Shachter's post.

1.  I admit that because my lack of knowledge of Latin, I did not
understand parts of the post.  (Indeed, that's why I use the subject
line I do and not his original subject line; I don't want to write
something I don't understand.) I also do not understand why he didn't
give us translations; does he really think so many of us are that
conversant in Latin?  I suspect there were other reasons, but they are
only tangential to my comments, so I'll leave them for another day or
another forum.

2.  He claims that people who use the term "agunot" to describe what he
calls "msorevet l'get" are using the term "with deliberate intent to
deceive."  That slur should not be left unchallenged.  I have been
following debates about these matters for almost 40 years and I first
heard the term msorevet l'get used by anyone on any side of the issue
about 5 years ago.  All sides -- those attacking the rabbis and those
defending them -- used the term "agunah."  Did those defending the
rabbis' actions (or inactions) on this issue also deliberately intend to
deceive by using that term?  That was (and in large part still is) the
common parlance, and to turn that into a charge that it was done
intentionally to deceive is a charge that I think deserves at least a
retraction if not an apology.

The more interesting question in this regard is why did the term
msorevet l'get suddenly begin appearing in this context? No one
defending the rabbis had any great difficulty in such defense because
the terminology used was agunah and not msorevet l'get.  And although I
have certain suspicions about that, since I lack hard evidence, I will
leave them unstated because I do not want to be guilty of the same error
with which I charged Mr. Shachter.

3.  My main comment is a question of tone.  Recently, I heard a major
Rosh Yeshiva, who has been actively involved in agunah/msorevet l'get
issues for many years, speak about another topic.  In the midst of that
presentation, he told of his experience with a case of an Israeli woman,
married to a homosexual, who was seeking a get.  The husband was willing
to give one for a million dollars. This rosh yeshiva was called in to
try to find a way to annul the marriage without a get, but he said he
was unable to do so.  (From the context of his remarks, I don't think
that was true, but that requires a much lengthier discussion.)  And so,
he concluded his story by saying that he could not annul the marriage
but that the woman was able to get her get by paying her husband a sum
of money which, luckily, turned out to be significantly less than a
million dollars.

I had many problems with this story, but a major one was a problem with
its tone.  The words, the voice, the expression, the language used all
said: no big deal, she got out of the marriage and it cost her some
money (and she came from a rich family).  Case closed; see, halacha
works.  There was no sorrow that a woman had to be put through not only
the bitterness of a marriage destroyed because of a husband who lied and
cheated, but SHE was the one who then had to pay through the nose to get
out of it.  There was no regret that only extortion, and not halacha,
could help this poor woman.  There was no heartbreak for the woman's
heartbreak.  It was simply business as usual; indeed, the feeling
conveyed was that this was a "good" result because the woman did get her

Unfortunately, I sensed the same tone in Mr. Shachter's post.  Very
erudite, very learned, very complex, very detailed.  But no compassion,
no sorrow, no despair, no heartbreak for, and I'll use his terminology
because I really don't think it matters a great deal of difference,
those msorevet l'gets (sorry, I don't know the proper plural), who sit
alone without a spouse and love and with their lives ticking away,
because of evil men who are misusing halacha in a way the rabbis say
they cannot stop.  Perhaps instead of using all the Latin, he could have
used some sensitivity.

Joseph C. Kaplan


End of Volume 54 Issue 88