Sunday, August 13, 2023

Rav Sternbuch:Forcing Husband to divorce Wife

This should be read together with these other teshuvos of Rav Sternbuch

Teshuvos v'Hanhagos (1:389): Question: A woman has suffered for a number of years from her husband who refuses to divorce her - how can he be forced to give a get?  

Answer: It is an established halacha that if the wife refuses to live with her husband because she claims he is disgusting to her (ma'os alei) that it is impossible to force him to divorce her. This is explicitly stated by the Rema (E.H. 77:3). And even if it has been a number of years that they have separated and he is being spiteful and cruel in refusing to divorce her it is clearly stated by the Teshuvos haRosh (43:6) that if we force him to give the get there is the concern that it is a get me'usa and therefore invalid and it only serves to increase mamzerim. However while it is stated in the Rema (E.H. 154:21) that nidoi (cherem) is considered force and is prohibited, nevertheless he says it is permitted to decree that no Jew should do him a favor or should do business with him or even to circumcize his sons or to bury them - until he divorces his wife. But the Pischei Teshuva (E.H. 154:30) says there these shunnings (harhakos) are equivalent to nidoi (cherem) and are not permitted to be imposed today and the only recourse is to tell him that it is permitted to call him a sinner  and he says it is best to be strict according to this opinion. This is agreed to by the Chazon Ish (E.H. 105:12). He concludes in the name of the Rashba that it is not permitted to humiliate the husband or to torment him - examine this well.

However it appears that what is prohibited is to humiliate him and to shun him in a manner similar to cherem - i.e, not to do business with him and not to do him a favor - and that is not done today. (Chazon Ish understands the Pischei Teshuva differently). But when he is not actively humiliated but that he is only not given honors for example he is notified that he will not receive an aliyah in his shul or any other shul and that he will not be allowed to be the shliach tzibor - then this is not like cherem at all even though it causes some humiliation. The only pressure permitted is that he should know that the community does not approve of his conduct of being cruel to his wife - but this is not called force at all.

I recall witnessing an incident involving Rav Yechiel Weinberg (Seridei Aish) concerning a husband who spitefully refused to divorce his wife after a number of years and he directed that it be known and publicized that this husband was not to get an aliya in the shul. That is in accord with what I have written that this type of pressure is not called force. It is also done here in Yerushalayim to publicize notices in the street that a particular person is a sinner and has made his wife an aguna. In my opinion 1) if she has solid justification for her desire to be divorced then it would be possible and appropriate to force him  actively with humiliations to give her a get. We learn from Kesubos (71a) if it is clear that he hates her then he is obligated to divorce her. 2) On the other hand if there is no apparent reason for her being repelled by him we can distance him.  I am inclined to permit humiliation in such cases but it is necessary for beis din first to be very careful and thorough in evaluating the situation as to whether it is appropriate. Similarly one should not spare any efforts to encourage that she live with him when she requests a divorce and there is no clear reason except she says she doesn't like him. 3) But if there is a clear reason - then even if we don't force him with a beating we are accustomed to be lenient to pressure him with notices  in shuls as I mentioned above.

This that the wife creates pressure with the claim that he is tormenting her and she can not stand the situation any more and that she is ready to go to "rabbis" who are lenient in divorce - that is still not justification for us to make rulings against the Torah. The ways of G-d are hidden and some suffer physically while other suffering financially and some suffer in their marriage. We need to hope to G-d that the end of suffering has arrived and that he will divorce her. On the other hand, to force him with high payments for food or to humiliate him when it is not permitted - it doesn't help because this pressure only produces a get me'usa - G-d forbid - which has no validity. But concerning cruelty and spite which is characteristic of Sedom - only Heaven can punish him.


  1. Rashba wrote in the middle ages -- I have a feeling "humiliating" and "tormenting" in those times was qualitatively more painful than mere demonstrations and petition-signing drives. And ORA is not saying people should refuse to circumcize his sons or do him any favors, so I doubt it rises to the level of cherem. It may be "active" rather than "passive" but it does not approach the level of cherem. (Though interestingly I read somewhere that one of the rabbis who set up a beit din to annul marriages to solve the aguna problem was ostracized at the time by some in his community.)

    "The only pressure permitted is that he should know that the community does not approve of his conduct of being cruel to his wife - but this is not called force at all."

    I would say this is precisely what a demonstration or petition intends on doing -- letting him know that the community does not approve.

    But he says this is the only pressure permitted without explaining why or exactly what he means. Have other rabbis throughout the ages ruled on what pressure is permitted, other than who he cites?

    1. I agree 100%. In middle ages having the option to move to another city is a hundred times harder than nowadays changing your name and moving to another city.

  2. another teshuva by HaRav ShternbuchApril 12, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    What about the translation of the second part, which is actually Rav Shternbuch's own psak (ruling)?

    לע"ד אם יש לה אמתלא ראוי לכוף אותן גם בבזיונות
    אבל כשאין שום סיבה ומאיס עליה
    יש להתרחק ממנו,..

    אבל מצדד אני אם להתיר גם בזה לבזותן והבית דין חייבין לשקול היטב
    ..., וכשיש סיבה אף שאין כופין בשוטים, נהגו להקל לכוף בפרסום בבתי כנסיות כהנ"ל

    According to Rav Shternbuch:
    1) If there is an appropriate reason for her refusal to live with him, one is permitted (and it's "rauy"- appropriate) to coerce with humiliation.

    2) If there is no appropriate reason...I'm inclined to permit to humiliate them, but Beis Din is obliged to seriously deliberate.

    3) and if there is a reason...the custom is to permit coercion by publicizing it in synagogues.

  3. Halacha specifies that if a wife likes another man and wishes to marry him, and as a result declares maos alei/disgusted about her husband for the purposes of forcing him to issue her a Get (so she can marry the other guy), he would be fully justified in refusing her a Get, and can have beis din order her to perform her duties for him as his wife and to live with him.

    Perhaps you can cite the maare makom for this, as it is entirely relevant to this discussion. It clearly demonstrates that under halacha a wife cannot get away with untruthfully invoking maos alei.

    1. See the teshuva of Rav Obvadia Yosef

  4. the problem with ORA's methodology is that they enjoy embarrassing, humiliating "third parties" such as parents of the men, Aunt and uncles etc... I dont believe that Chazal gave permission to humiliate his family?????????????????????

    1. another teshuva by HaRav ShternbuchApril 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM

      This is not related to the questions of "get meusseh". In addition since this does not relate to "issuy"; then if any party assists in bringing tzaar and inuy to a person, why should they not be called upon for their aiding this unbelievable tzaar to a person?

  5. another teshuva by HaRav ShternbuchApril 12, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    When you translated this part "But it is necessary for beis din to be very careful in weighing the situation as to whether it is also permitted to humiliate him", you omitted the first part where he states אבל מצדד אני אם להתיר גם בזה לבזותן which means that Rav Shternbuch is inclined to permit this humiliation (with the caution that they "deliberate strongly" and he did not write "whether it is also permitted" for he is inclined that it is permitted ; he wrote והבית דין חייבין לשקול היטב, probably meant that it requires shikul daat if it is appropriate).

    1. thanks for the correction. I will correct my translation

  6. another teshuva by HaRav ShternbuchApril 12, 2012 at 6:32 AM

    שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חלק יז סימן נא

    לכן בהמשך להחלטתנו מתאריך י"ד טבת הנ"ל אנו אומרים לבעל את האמור באה"ע סימן קנ"ד סעיף כ"א: "חכמים חייבוך להוציא ואם לא תוציא מותר לקרותך עבריין".

    ובעקבות זה אנו פונים לכל בר ובת ישראל בכל מקום שהם לבוא לעזרת הבת ישראל הזאת המעוגנת מעלה אשר מסרב לשמוע לקול בית דין לשחררה מכבלי העיגון ולפטור אותה בג"פ, על ידי כן שימנעו מלעשות לו שום טובה או לישא וליתן עמו עד שיגרש, כפסק הרמ"א באה"ע שם, וכאשר גוזר אומר על כגון דא, וכל כיוצ"ב, כאשר ניכר שסיבת דרישת האשה לג"פ הוא בגלל אשמתו של הבעל, בספר הישר לרבינו תם ז"ל בחלק התשובות סי' כ"ד ובזה"ל: "תגזרו באלה חמורה על כל איש ואשה מזרע בית ישראל הנלוים אליכם, שלא יהו רשאין לדבר עמו ולישא וליתן עמו להאריחו ולהאכילו ולהשקותו וללוותו ולבקרו בחלותו, ועוד יוסיפו חומר ברצונם על כל אדם, אם לא יגרש ויתיר אותו האיש את הילדה הזאת, שבזה אין כפיה עליו, שאם ירצה מקיים, והוא לא ילקה בגופו מתוך נידוי זה, אך אני נתפרד מעליו, וכל שיהא זכור בגזרתם וגזרתנו ישמור אותה, ואם יעבור שוגג לא תחול על השוגג".

    וכל זה הוא אפילו כשהבעל איננו מאותן שכופין אותו להוציא כדיעו"ש, ו

    שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חלק יז סימן נא

    אליעזר יהודה וולדינברג

    Also chacham Ovadayah in that Pssak Din (togerther with Tzitz Eliezer) wrote about harchakot derabeynooh Tam

    שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חלק יז סימן נא

    הן אמת כי המהריב"ל ח"ב סימן י"ח כתב, שאף שהסמ"ג והמהר"י קולון הסכימו ג"כ לעשות הרחקה דרבינו תם, ולא מצינו להדיא מי שיחלוק עליהם, מ"מ לא ראינו לרבני דורנו שנהגו בכך ואדרבה כשנועצו לב יחדיו רוב החכמים וחשבו לעשות הרחקה דר"ת, עמד רב גדול ומובהק ומיחה בדבר, ואפשר דס"ל שיותר קשה ההרחקה דר"ת מדין נידוי, ואם הנידוי נחשב כפיה כ"ש הרחקה זו ואף על פי שזה ימים רבים פסקתי מא' מהפסקים שלי לעשות הרחקה דר"ת, מ"מ אותו נידון לא דמי לענ"ד, וגם אז לא נעשה מעשה עכת"ד, והובא בשו"ת לחם רב סימן ל"א, וכתב ע"ז, שמכל מקום אם יסכימו עמי הרבנים המובהקים לעשות הרחקה דר"ת כנ"ד אהיה נגרר אחריהם להקל בזה למעשה ע"ש.

    גם בשו"ת צל הכסף ח"א סימן ה' וסימן ו' האריך למעניתו בזה והעלה להל' דשפיר סמכינן לעשות הרחקה דר"ת, וע"ע בספר פחד יצחק מערכת ס' דף י"ח ע"ש.

    And Rav Kulitz wrote in that pssak that he concurs with the words of the Tzitz Eliezer:

    שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חלק יז סימן נא

    גם אני מצטרף לדבריו ומסקנתו של עמיתנו הגרא"י וולדינברג שליט"א, מאחר ואשר הם כהמשך לפסק הדין שניתן על ידנו ביום י"ד טבת תשמ"ה, ולדעתי אין לגרוע ואין להוסיף על הדברים, כי ברורים הם וכך היא ההלכה, וכך יש לנהוג למעשה.
    ...כל. יצחק קוליץ

  7. I do not understand R' Shternbuch's comment that

    "and there is no clear reason except she says she doesn't like him"

    If a wife is not in love with her husband, is her husband allowed to live with her and vice versa? These things don't just happen over night, although we know that in the case when they have not really known each other, that it most certainly can happen. Marriage is certainly a process, but if something fails, it fails, surely?

    1. ma'os alei doesn't simply mean that she doesn't love him but that she finds him repulsive. If they hate each other then that is addressed by Rav Sternbuch But if she is simply bored with him - the husband doesn't need to divorce her. Please note the 3 types addressed by Rav Sternbuch in this teshuva.

  8. So we have an easy solution: when he withholds the get, it is to spite her, so he hates her, so he is obliged to divorce her.

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