Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Weiss-Dodelson: Sorting out the major points of dispute

Guest Post by Kevin in Chicago[update: Added comments]

Dear Rav Eidensohn,
[...] Some readers are misunderstanding your position, to point out that a moral obligation is not necessarily a halakhic obligation, and to make clear your overriding concern that a misunderstanding of halakhah not lead to improper pressure on husbands and questionable gittin. So please accept these comments for what they are worth, and feel free to use or not use any part of them in any way you see fit.

Divorce is an emotionally-charged subject, and it does not help to mix in the antagonism between liberal and conservative wings of Orthodoxy. One can argue with the recent RCA pronouncement, but it is not an endorsement of "get on demand," nor does it purport to be a statement of halakhah -- although this should have been made explicit.

It seems that some commenters are talking past each other. I have no halakhic expertise, but perhaps I can help separate the issues. DT is concerned with the well-being of both parties to this divorce. But more importantly, he is concerned with a serious halakhic issue that extends far beyond this case. I understand this is basic halakhah: a get must be given willingly. If given under duress, it is invalid. If a get is invalid, the wife cannot lawfully remarry and her subsequent children are mamzerim; if the get is of doubtful validity, her subsequent children are safek mamzerim. This is a very serious stigma and disability extending to her children's children down the generations.

If a beit din issues a valid decision that a husband is required to give a get and he refuses, the beit din may authorize "persuasive" measures, although their extent is disputed among poskim. But the precondition is a judgment of a beit din that the husband is obligated to give a get; a civil divorce judgment is not a substitute.

The pressures the Dodelsons have brought to bear have been quite public. If they were not halakhically justified, and R'AMR gives a get appearing to have succumbed to them (although not directly admitting it, which would void the get ab initio), the get would be of doubtful validity or worse. The problem risks being multiplied many times over if it becomes acceptable to similarly pressure a husband to give a get before a beit din has ordered him to do so.

The belief has been spreading in some Orthodox circles that if there is a civil divorce, the husband is obligated to give, and the wife to receive, a kosher get. But absent a halakhically valid agreement, any obligation to give a get following a civil divorce is a moral obligation, not a halakhic one. The two should not be confused. It has long been acknowledged that one can be a "naval bir'shut ha-Torah," that a Jew can act shamefully without actually violating halakhah. The concern is that because of the specific and unusual requirement that a get be given willingly, pressure on the husband to "do the right thing," if the pressure is not in conformity with halakhah, could result in the wife receiving a doubtful or invalid get. This concern has nothing to do with condoning "extortion" by withholding a get. It is a concern that the get, when given, be universally accepted as valid, and avoid the risk of creating mamzerim.

The timing of the RCA's recent pronouncement made it look like a capitulation to pressure from the Dodelson camp and advocates for agunot, and it may have been. But it was not, and did not claim to be, a halakhic ruling. It was a statement of policy and moral exhortation. The RCA stated that,"when the marriage is functionally over and the relationship between the husband and wife has irreversibly ended ... the withholding of a get under such circumstances [is] an exploitation of the halachic process and a manifestation of domestic abuse." "Exploitation of the halachic process" implies something not actually forbidden by halakhah. The assertion that the RCA's statement purports to overturn millennia-old halakhah is mistaken. And in fairness it should also be noted that saying a get should be given and received once "the relationship between the husband and wife has irreversibly ended" (which it clearly has in the present case) is not the same as
requiring a get "on demand."

On the other hand, the "Kol Koreh" authorizing coercive measures against R'AMW and his father and uncle, which clearly DOES purport to be a halakhic ruling, is far more troubling. This proclamation, which DT called "halakhic nonsense" in his November 18 post, purports to be based, not on the judgment of a beit din, but on a seruv that, as "Joseph" explained in his guest post, is invalid and/or moot. I am a "nobody," but as I can't imagine that DT is brazenly ignorant, I can't imagine an explanation for respected rabbis signing off on "halakhic nonsense" that reflects well on them -- or on American Orthodox Judaism.

Update: Three additional thoughts:

Poor Rabbi Greenwald must have been painfully reminded of Mishlei 26:17:  מַחֲזִיק בְּאָזְנֵי־כָלֶב עֹבֵר מִתְעַבֵּר עַל־רִיב לֹּא־לֹו׃ 

Re the "Kol Koreh" -- Should it be understood that the credibility of a rabbinic pronouncement is inversely proportional to the number of rabbis signing it?  How many of the signatories would have individually signed off on teshuvot to the same effect?  Do "shepherds" have a "herd instinct"?  A wolf-pack instinct?  "Lo tihyeh acharei rabb[on]im l'ra`ot"?

At this point, neither member of this couple appears to be a desirable marriage partner.  Perhaps this period in which neither can remarry is a hidden blessing, an opportunity to mature.  When two people have a child together, neither should treat the other as disposable.  IY"H, they will come to the point of asking forgiveness of each other, and if not reconciling as husband and wife, at least treating each other respectfully as co-parents.


  1. I frankly don't have the energy to do justice and destroy many of the myths in this guest post. i will restrict my comments to the following:
    The timing of the RCA's announcement is very deliberate. You are very correct that the RCA's statement is not a halchik ruling. how could it be coming from an organization that when it comes to gittin is very anti-halachik and against anything that comes close to fairness but is simply a knee jerk immature reaction to a very, very serious problem - that of women running to secular courts and doing everything in their power to destroy their estranged husbands lives.

    When has the RCA ever condemned a woman for 1) not going to bais din 2) running to secular court 3) preventing the father from acces sto his children and 4) financially destroyed the well being of the father - thereby acting in the very worst interests of the children.

    Please cut the "novol birshus hatorah" analogy out. In all the well featured tragic cases like Epstein etc out there I have yet to hear of a single case where the woman was acting fairly - just going to bais din and not causing severe trouble for the husband and the husband was using the get to extort anything. A moral argument can only go so far - if the women act in the most despicable fashions to destroy their husbands relationships with their children and to destroy them financially and emotionally and essentially turn them into financial agunim then there is absolute no moral argument whatsoever to give a get and all damages sustained to protect oneself from these women and their supporters can be demanded before any get is given. On the contrary this is what the kol koreh of the true gedolim states:

    "8) Women who turn to a non-Jewish court to force their husbands to divorce them, or to receive money not in accordance with the halacha, such a get is invalid and the money is stolen, and it is forbidden to marry these women. If the woman remarried with this get, children born from the marriage are mamzeirim. Likewise, men who are required according to the Torah to divorce their wives, as ordered by Beis Din, and they refuse to obey the Beis Din in order to render their wives agunos, it is a mitzva to excommunicate them from other Jews and to publicize their names until they listen to Beis Din and divorce their wives."
    9)Women who summon their husbands to a non-Jewish court, it is forbidden to marry them, for they are considered wicked (“reshaim”) who descend to Gehenom and forfeit their share in Olam Haba, and therefore they should remain unmarried for the rest of their lives. Regarding one who does marry such a woman, our Rabbis tell us that the first husband removed a rasha’a from his house and now a second man takes her into his home! If the second husband is worthy, he will divorce her, otherwise, she will become a widow and bury him .

    This is what the halocho says. If the MO Rabbinate and some of the Lakewood Rabbinate don't like this let them form their own religion but don't call it Judaism. Judaism is not Christianity chas v'sholom where if someone is out to annihilate you you turn the other cheeck

  2. An important correction to the guest post. A Beth Din summons a person to Beth Din and he refuses. He can get a Siruv for this. But the Siruv cannot be used to pressure a GET. I heard this from two Beth Dins who had issued siruvs. But the Lakewooders took the Siruv and made it into a permission to coerce a GET, which is completely invalid. The Siruv has only one purpose, to force the person to a Din Torah and it is not a judgment about the person in any other way. Thus, even if the Siruv was valid, coercing a GET with it is invalid. And now there is the issue if the Siruv itself is valid. But the Lakewood rabbis are silent. I approached a signer on the Dodelson letter how he approved of coercion to divorce, and he told me he never approved coercion of divorce, but I checked his signature and it is clear that he called for coercion of the husband at least until he appears in Beth Din. But this coercion of the husband to force a GET is forbidden, by the Beth Din itself that issued the Siruv. But the Lakewood rabbonim can't be bothered with halachic details. Somebody's cousin needs a GET.

    1. Thank you for the clarification. I did not mean to imply that even a valid seruv halakhically justifies the measures called for by the Kol Koreh, only that the seruv appeared to be the only justification given for it.

  3. It seems that the guest post is coming down hard on husbands who don't give their wives a GET when the marriage is over. There is no halachic basis for this. Posek HaDor Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt"l states in a teshuva, with support from rishonim and the words of the Shulchan Aruch, that a wife who finds her husband repulsive cannot force the husband to give a GET and there is no halachic obligation on the husband to do it either. Why should a husband accept divorce and a destroyed child for no halacha reason, because the wife wants her freedom? Why did she marry if she wants freedom? And the gemora frowns on divorces when there are children. And what if the wife is the kind who may after the GET let loose with terror, as some do, is the husband obligated morally to let her destroy him? Where is the source of this popular misconception? It has nothing to do with the Torah. I made the most difficult Agunah Gittin in Monsey years ago, and both times got sick from the exertions. But both sides ended up completely peaceful with no hate. So of course we want to do the right thing and make everyone as happy as possible. But to brand a husband who has strong and legitimate reasons for his stand wicked because the street doesn't like it, has nothing to do with the Torah, unless it is the Torah they teach in Lakewood about helping somebody's rich cousin.

    1. all gedolim, even those who hold that a get cannot be forced, say that a huaband should not refuse the get out of spite.

      Your idea that a marriage can be "saved" through get refusal is, in fact, a promotion of oppression and, ultimately, domestic violence.

      How many women were sent back to their husband by well-meaning, but ignoranr Rabbis like you and suffered violence as a consequence.

      Can you live with that on your conscience?

      Can you live with encouragement of get-extortion on your conscience.

      You should beware what you say. you are naive and chaotic, but what you say is dangerous and can lead to great evil.

    2. Blatamt.
      Even when you defend women and Agunose, try to be honest. I never said that a husband has the right to withhold a GET out of spite. I never said that a marriage can be "saved" through GET refusal. Am I "ignorant" when I quote Reb Elyashev who quotes the Rashbo that is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch and poskim with no disagreement?

  4. The RCA unambiguously does support "Get-on-demand." This is pretty explicit in their statement of last week as well as their many other pronouncements on this topic. And the RCA is unambiguously dead wrong halachicly. When the RCA refers to that a "marriage is functionally over" they inclusively mean when one spouse decides unilaterally that the its over and walks away from the marriage. The RCA thinks that is sufficient reason to mandate a Get even though one spouse wishes to continue the marriage. This point is obvious from their historical statements on this issue.

    In these discussions, and speaking generally -- not of any specific case, it is extremely vital to point out that a husband is NOT necessarily halachicaly (and by definition morally) obligated to give a Get just because his wife wants one. In many circumstances when a wife wants a divorce the husband is within his halachic and moral right according to both the letter and spirit of Halacha, to decline to give a Get and decide he wishes to remain married to his wife and seek Shalom Bayis. And in such a circumstance the wife is obligated to remain married and seek Shalom Bayis. This is explicit, black-and-white, Halacha.

    And morality is exclusively determined by Torah values. Torah values, obviously, includes more than simply the letter of Halacha. Yet Jewish morality is clearly vastly different than the secular and non-Jewish idea of morality, and indeed often our morals are polar opposites of their "morals". Oftentimes what is Jewishly moral is immoral by gentiles and very oftentimes what is moral by gentiles is terribly immoral by Jews.

  5. a) There is no halachic obligation to give a Get prior to the settlement of all end-of-marriage issues. The Get ought to be the LAST step in the end-of-marriage arrangements.

    b) If one of the spouses refuses to comply with their halachic obligations in finalizing the end-of-marriage arrangements, then the other spouse if fully within their rights to delay giving or accepting the Get until all those arrangements are satisfied from a halachic perspective.

  6. There are enough halachot bein adam le chavero that would not allow withholding a get, the most important being "lifney iver al tassim michshol", because who is to say that a women who is will not receive her get will not go with a man regardless, after some time.

    All Rabbanim, in all documents cited on this blog, say that it is wrong to withhold a get out of spite.

    Many commentators and the blog owner stated that get-extortion was OK.

    No, get-extortion is not OK.

    1. כותב זה הוא עם הארץ ופוסק פסקים הבנויים על יסוד הרגשים, זה לשון הרא"ש (כתובות פ"א, סי' ל"ה): "מוטב שבנות ישראל הרעות יוסיפו רעה על רעתן, ואל ירבו ממזרים בישראל", וזה הובא להלכה בטור (סי' ע"ז), ובמהרש"ל (סי' ס"ט), ולא נמצא שום חולק ע"ז, וכותב הזה חושב שמבין יותר לטובת היהדות מן גדולי הפוסקים

    2. Blatant,
      Where did the blog owner say that GET extortion out of spite is permitted?

  7. " And in fairness it should also be noted that saying a get should be given and received once "the relationship between the husband and wife has irreversibly ended" (which it clearly has in the present case) is not the same as
    requiring a get "on demand."

    I came across an article by Allan Katz, on this website, in which the author describes women who file for divorce for inane reasons such as the husband not saying goodbye when he leaves the house. When such a woman decides she will up and leave and take the kids with her, is the relationship then automatically considered "irreversibly ended?" Is this notation of "irreversible ending" arrived at unilaterally when one party decides they've "had enough" (and I'm definitely not talking about cases of abuse!) ? Or is there some other objective or empirical measure to determine this reality? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  8. I see several errors in your statement:
    1) You state that after civil divorce there is a moral obligation to give a get. What is this based on? "because she wants it"? She filed for the divorce without any input or agreement from him. Ever heard of "Irretrievable breakdown" divorce (no-fault) signed into law 6/30/2010? She left and refused to speak to him for several months, and then becomes legally entitled to a civil divorce. That's how it works. Too bad on him.
    You now believe that she becomes morally entitled to a get?!? These are definitely not Torah morals.
    2) Based on #1 above, the RCA is creating a "get on demand" system that allows HER to be in complete control; she has the opportunity to create the circumstances to "require" a get. Is that not what "on demand" means?
    3) The "kol koreh". It cannot be taken at literal meaning. Even someone in true שמתא, complete excommunication, is permitted to work and interact with people to provide his basic needs (יוד שלד:ב). Where does any hetter exist to punish the relatives of only a msarev (we do NOT use true שמתא anymore (אג"מ יו"ד ח"ג סימן קמ"ב אות ב), Only a direct psak from Bais Din can effect one's livelihood (הרמ"א חו"מ סימן כ"ו), and that does not exist. In fact, Bais Din never even spoke about a get at all!!!! The siruv is only about going to court, something that she was guilty of as well. Why should he be considered a meagen? Calling her an agunah doesn't fit with the basic description or the term "agunah" in halacha. He also agreed to a זבל"א, so he isn't a mesarev either. Also, the Chofetz Chaim in shemiras halashon clearly forbids public demonstrations and newspaper articles about something that is clearly a 'domestic dispute' (shalom bayis problem in simpler terms) that should be settled with a Rabbi, therapist, marriage counselor, or in bais din.
    If everyone who signed on the kol koreh would have sat down and thought about it for a bit, they would see that there is something wrong, OR, the letter that they signed was not the same kol koreh that has their name printed on it. This, and many other questions easily justify disqualifying the kol koreh as "halakhic nonsense". This leads to the next issue...
    3) If you don't know how these rabbonim signed the kol koreh, ASK THEM. Many people call these rabbonim with halachik questions or for advice. Why not ask WHY they signed the letter despite its not making any sense (ask with derech eretz, obviously), and if you should do anything based on the kol koreh.
    The only solution to this is for R' AMW and GD to sit down with someone who can push a compromise for their various issues of dispute. Unfortunately, she still, after almost 3 years, will not talk to him directly. Every time it seems that a compromise is almost reached, the Dodelsons back out.(THEIR CONSTANT BACKING OUT IS A CLEAR INDICATION THAT SHE REALLY ISN'T THAT DESPERATE FOR A GET, or she would have already accepted.) R AMW and his father and uncle are now unemployed, while the Dodelsons enjoy their lavish income while steamrolling over the
    Weiss family. The Dodelsons have also given or endorsed statements that are complete kefirah (the 'old laws in need of change') and public humiliation of the Torah (all new articles), and yet suffer NO public pressure or outcry that they retract and accept an agreement. Perhaps some pressure from the Rabbonim that now see what is going on will begin to push the Dodelsons to retract everything, accept an agreement, and end this disgusting mess of their design.

    1. Is it your position that it is valid to use a get as a bargaining chip? ABS

    2. The term "bargaining chip" is confusing. If you walk into a store and want to buy a bottle of milk, you have to pay. Is the store using the milk as a "bargaining chip" for your money? If you want to buy a sefer or mezuzah, is the sofer obligated to give it to you simply because you want to do a mitzvah, and by withholding it from you until you pay him for it, he is using it as a bargaining chip?
      If a Bais Din rules that a woman is entitled to a get, the husband is obligated to give it with 'no strings attached'.
      To protect women, Chazal enacted the kesubah, a financial burden to prevent unnecessary divorce. Is that a woman's "bargaining chip", or a 'protective measure' from a divorce-happy husband?
      If a woman simply decides that she 'wants out', the husband has no halachik obligation to give a get, and if she wants it bad enough, she will have to negotiate or pay her husband to agree to give it (and presumably absolve him from paying her kesubah, since its purpose counters her interests). Her paying for a get is simple logic, and if calling it a 'bargaining chip' helps quantify reality, then YES, he can use a get as a bargaining chip as long as a Bais Din did not require him to give it.
      The above is the Torah's view on gittin. ORA and many other people and organizations do not agree. I hope that those who distort and mock the Torah's view because of their own feelings and interests repent from their ways.

  9. The lawyer's document regarding meditation outlines all the areas Weiss and Dodelson are having their argument about:


    Equitable distribution


    Child Support

    Child's Health Insurance and medical costs

    Life Insurance

    Child's education/tuition expenses

    Legal fees

  10. Thanks for the post. I agree that the issue of "morality", which I'll rephrase as "the right thing to do" needs to be put on the table of the orthodox community's discussion. For many of us, the very suggestion of this discussion causes extreme distress. We want to be told what to do without grappling with messy issues.

  11. Yitz Waxman your fake one sided morality not only causes extreme distress but the deson of many, many men. Just who do you think you are allowing hundreds an hundreds of men being destroyed by their wives in court without a peep from you as to how despicable this really is. This is the true moral isue. There are very few real ag cases where the wife has followed halocho and human decency and the husband still refuses to give a get. You want to be told by the feminist RCA/BDA what men have to do. Why don't yo all make a new law that any unhappy woman has the right to have her husband thrown off the GW bridge rather than putting him into slavery for your fake agunahs out there. I am frankly absolutely disgusted by the MO world. They are rotzchim pshoto ke'mashmo'o

    1. Thanks for validating my point, Mr. "aguda=zionism" who is ashamed to reveal his name.

  12. Yitz thanks for validating all my points. Cant attack or counter the message so attack the messanger. The halocho about women going to arko"oys and wanting to remarry is against you, and ao is the morality. You are not more aidel, refined and more carying than Rav Pam or Rav Shmuel Birenbaum. You are similarly not more carying than Hashem.

    Carry on with the ad hominem personal attacks. Great job supporting a mechaleles sheym shomayim.

  13. A frum man grabs a Jewish woman and attempts to rape her. When she begins to shriek and protest at the top of her lungs, he snarls "Shut Up! If anyone sees a Jewish man trying to commit rape, it will cause a terrible Chilul HaShem!

    Ha Mayvin Yovin

    1. A frum women falsely accused a Jewish man of attempted rape. When he begins to protest his innocence, she snarls "Shut Up! If anyone sees a Jewish woman trying to falsely indict a Jewish man if rape, it will cause a terrible Chilul HaShem!

      Hamayvin Yovin


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