Monday, January 13, 2014

Attitude toward divorce: Contrast the OU spokesman vs UK divorce judge

OU spokesman Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran  Israel National News
In the past, rather than end an unhappy marriage, a couple – two strangers occupying the same house – often lived a lifetime of misery, imposing that misery on their children even as they tried, with uncertain results, to hide their feelings and behavior from their neighbors and friends.

Such an unhappy life is simply unacceptable in most, if not all, of the Orthodox world today.

Notice, at no point have I suggested a reason for the unhappiness of the unsuccessful marriage.  Whether because the husband was an insufficient provider or because of the stress of a difficult child or any other reason is immaterial.  It really does not matter what the reason is for the failure of a marriage.  What matters is only that, despite an honest attempt by at least one of the partners to make a successful marriage and life, the marriage is untenable.
It was not bashert. 
That realization is a hard blow.  Sometimes the truth that a marriage is unsuccessful takes years to become clear.  Other times, it takes nearly no time for either the husband or wife to discover that the marriage will not work.  “Only three days into the marriage, I knew I had made a terrible mistake.” He is “controlling and belittling.”

... It is a wonder that any marriage survives and succeeds! Yet, most do. Some do not. There needn’t be any shame in that.
UK Divorce Judge Sir Paul Coleridge  Daily Mail
How my family (despite the odd pointed silence) taught me that marriage is worth fighting for. ...
Sometimes you’re happy because you feel as if you are winning, at other times you are depressed because things aren’t going your way. But for much of the time, if you are not careful, you are just rather bored. And being bored in today’s ‘Pass the Partner’ society can all too often lead to discontent and ultimately divorce. Anyone who has ever witnessed the goings-on inside today’s family courts will be aware of the consequences. They are a never-ending carnival of human misery. And what makes this ceaseless river of distress all the more tragic is that in many of the cases there seems to be no solid reason for the divorce to be going ahead.

Some people seem to give up on their marriages simply because their partner has not been attentive towards them or variants on that — their spouse devotes too much time to work, playing golf or is simply said not to be investing enough time in the marriage.<

Such ‘justifications’ would never have been a basis for divorce in the Fifties when the stigma attached to marital breakdown was such that divorcees weren’t allowed in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot (a restriction which, ironically, would exclude many of today’s Royal Family).

But today the process of getting a divorce has become so streamlined that it is a simple form-filling exercise, achievable in six weeks and, if all goes smoothly, at a cost of a few hundred pounds.

It is quicker and easier than getting a driving licence. However, the impact can be devastating and long-lasting, not just for the partners and children involved, but for the wider family, local community and society in general.

Unfortunately, the idea that marriage should be the gold standard is regarded as judgmental and is therefore unpopular with many of the middle-class intelligentsia.

How attitudes have changed even in the four decades since Lisa and I met through mutual friends. When we married in 1973, I was a 23-year-old lawyer, a child bridegroom compared to my 25-year-old wife to be, who was then working as a fashion writer. The differences between us went far beyond our dissimilar fields of work.

In those days I was a party-loving extrovert, while Lisa preferred the company of a few close friends.

As you might expect, we had our disagreements, which tended to result in pointed silences rather than the conflagrations favoured by some couples. But over the years our roles and the sources of tension between us have changed.

If anything it’s me who prefers a quiet night in these days, while Lisa has become steadily more outgoing.

But we have learned to work around and adjust to each other as the years have gone by — though there will always be times when things are not going well.

I think part of the point is that we  took the element of public commitment via our wedding vows  seriously.

Standing up in front of your family and friends to publicly commit to another person gives marriage a psychological stability or glue lacking in other relationships.

This is backed up by evidence that is readily available and will be published by The Marriage Foundation on our website.

The evidence I find overwhelming is that married relationships are more stable and the children of such relationships fare better.

The evidence I find overwhelming is that married relationships are more stable and the children of such relationships fare better.

It is fashionable to argue that none  of this matters, that marriage is simply one of many possible templates for a successful relationship.

But examine the background of almost every child in care or the youth justice system and you will discover a broken home.

Children from such backgrounds are, on every measure of success, less likely to achieve their proper potential and, as their life chances ebb away, the wellbeing of our whole society suffers. Even at the most mundane level, it is estimated that the financial cost to the nation of family breakdown exceeds £44 billion a year: greater than the entire defence budget

I believe that such funds could be far better spent on promoting marriage as an ideal, and in teaching people the art of making it last.<

This is what The Marriage Foundation hopes to achieve and its  remit goes far beyond the younger generations.

In recent years there have been increasing numbers of older couples who have decided to break up once their children have left home.

This may seem to be a victim-less trend, but talk to people in their 20s or 30s whose parents have broken up and you will find that it is still extremely emotionally disturbing not just for them but also for the grandchildren.

To these young minds, it reinforces the idea that marriage is something you can pick up and put down as and when it suits you.

And for these older divorcees, the motivation often seems to be the fantasy that out there somewhere the ‘right’ person is waiting for them and they should grab them while they still have a chance.

We have to rid ourselves of this fantasy that we are going to find  the partner who is perfect in every way: emotionally, physically, intellectually — I’m afraid it’s just a dream. The reality is that, if you are prepared to put in the effort, you will find that the right person for you is right there in front of you — or in Lisa’s case, several purposeful steps ahead of you with a guidebook when we are on holiday.

As we have discovered after many years together, our holidays work best with an agreed division of labour. I tend to be the one who decides where we should go while Lisa does all the planning and detailed research.

That plays to both of our strengths and surely that’s what marriage is about — dancing around each other’s differences and making it work, something far less fashionable than divorce, but infinitely worth the slog.


  1. Oy lanu that the goyim have more chochmah than us nowadays.

  2. No surprise here that British Judge Sir Paul Coleridge is wiser than OU spokesman Dr. Eliyahu Safran.

  3. well both may be right, or wrong, depending on the case.
    I think it is ridiculous to make blanket statements about divorce, when you do not look at the case.
    Certainly the wise British Judge is to be praised for his affirmation of traditional values. But we do not live in the 1950s.
    Next, whilst it is true that therapy might help some couples, therapy cannot and will not help everyone. It is a person's realisation that they require therapy, and motivation to do it that will be an ingredient for success. That is something down to a person's self awareness and choices, or as you would say "free will".
    It may also be a bit of a circular argument. If a couple is made of 2 reasonable and self aware people, who acted in good faith and had a healthy relationship, likelihood is that they can work out how to stay together. On the other hand, if it is 2 psychologically damaged people, who are not self aware and have not been raised with good role models, are in denial, or depression, or have personality disorders such as bipolar; if their relationship it toxic and emotionally or physically abusive, then you can talk about values as much as you like, but it might be a good idea for them to separate. The problem is that many couples might stay together even with these problems and raise the next generation of dysfunctional people.

    1. It is true that every case has its own facts and determinations should be made on an individual basis by each beis din based on the facts of the case. But is also true that the beis din must bring a baseline set of assumptions about marriage divorce that it applies to the individual facts of each case. The question is whether the final word of the gemara in Gittin is the correct baseline on marriage and divorce, or whether beis din should adopt some variant of the radical 1960s counterculture.

    2. The baseline is that divorce is fundamentally harmful to children. Children are generally better off when their parents stay together than when they do not. It is only under exception circumstances such as violence that children are better off when parents divorce. The mere fact that the parents are unhappy in their marriage does not mean the the children are better off if they divorce.

    3. It may be true that some parents in an unhappy marriage are better off if they divorce. It is more true that whatever effort that could be put into making a second marriage work would also make the first marriage work. Sir Coleridge also make this point very well.

      But even if it is the case that parents would be better off getting divorced, that is inherently against the interests of their children. Getting married and having children entails grave responsibilities. Getting divorced without serious cause where there are children involved is the ultimate act of egotism and selfishness.

    4. Eddie,

      You only mention two types of couples.
      1) "If a couple is made of 2 reasonable and self aware people.."
      2) "if it is 2 psychologically damaged people"

      You fail to mention something else.
      Do you believe that women are proportionately more stable than men? 84% of divorces are initiated by women. Which leads to the third type of couple. One made up of two normal human beings, with normative human shortcomings. If we make divorce easy, then a woman, with her normal emotional ups-and-downs, will bolt quite easily. Thats what Dr. Safran is advocating, and that is what Judge Coleridge is advocating against.

  4. No so fast my friendJanuary 14, 2014 at 1:13 AM

    With such attitude, up to 90% + of marriages are headed for disaster, and the proof is in the Pudding. Why in the last few decades has the Divorce rate gone up so drastically? Ma nishtano halaylo hazeh mikol halelilos? Do you think for one moment that ONE spouse's input is sufficient? My dance teacher taught us it takes two to tango. Are all those that get married, really grown up? One that is controlling and or belittling definitely needs some counseling, and so many would have appreciated if they had been pointed out to that, by someone from the outside, and it IS curable with a little will power. Marriage is an art form, not everybody is a born artist, for some it is easier to acquire, some harder with many in between. Some come from homes where they have been spoiled, are used to have everything their way, more so if they come from an affluent background, they tend to think that money can override and step on their spouse. However, Keshem shepartsufehem enom domos, kach deosehem enom shavos, give them a break.

    When the in-laws chas vesholom gang up to support and side with their child, all goes downhill from there. If all the children in our schools would be given up just as easily, we would have a generation of morons and plenty of chaos. BOTH spouses need to invest at least equally and act responsibly, and the source that lacks maturity DOES matter, and how. You do not just throw your hands up and say, Ok we will don on a new pair of socks and shirt. There are lives at stake, and it is EVERYBODY'S responsibility to make it happen. Think of it as Lo ta'amod al dam reacho. You don't seek out RA BANIM, Rackman's style Shachtim that shecht you away beilum shem, and makeh re'ehu beseiser with Epstein Prods and Matir Issurim with declarations of independence "FREE" wholesale, by pulling out a Rabbit from a hat, machsil the public with Eishes Ish and manufacturing mamzerim. Only after all resources have been exhausted, or there is one partner that thinks he/she is G-d's gift to mankind, perfect in every other way and heeds to no piece of advice, and after giving fair notice can you justify to call it quits, still and all according to the SA. According to the Torah, Eesseh lo ezer kenegdo, zocho -ezer, lo zocho - kenegdo, and Torah does not say it is not your BASHERTE and get divorced! Even Shaul hamelech, when he called his son Yonasan, "ben na'avas hamardis", he still did not divorce her for being such. Not so fast my friend.

  5. The posting above is a great illustration of the decline of Torah family values in the Orthodox community, to the extent that pro-family non-Jews are more loyal to Torah values than many of our so-called rabbis.

    Various non-Jewish women are openly admitting that marriages are being unnecessarily destroyed by feminism and unrealistic attitudes of certain women, yet the Orthodox community is completely oblivious to this situation, and is instead focused on proclaiming marriages are over, and then forcing divorces whenever possible.

    "Some women tell me that they realize they were married to a good guy, but divorced because they lacked the skills to have a happy relationship. Sometimes it causes them enormous grief."

  6. Why must we present an argument in this way which is a Chilul Hashem - Oy L'mi Shelomdo Torah?! It isn't really true that the Goyim have statistically better chances of their marriages not ending up in divorce than frum Jews. It is very much the opposite. But of course you can find a Goy who will speak sense about any given subject and a Jew who has things mixed up. It is still the case that most orthodox Rabbis try their best to save a marriage of those who approach them with marital issues, and only as a total last resort, help with the Get process.

  7. Another disappointing post by the blog master.
    My immediate reaction is that you compared apples and oranges here. One writer is discussing the importance of appreciating marriage, while the other is discussing the importance of proper divorce. And Rabbi Dr. Safran himself stated, "[these] are not two sides of the same coin."
    In fact, considering what the man really wrote, I find it odious that you could even post this comparison. Why didn't you quote the conclusion of his essay....

    "But to be a Jew is not to be dictated to by transitory emotion but by the moral and ethical dictates that God has given us, by living the life God expects you to lead, by proving to God, to your fellows and to yourself that despite all the pain, angst and doubts of divorce, you were, still are and will continue to be a mensch."

    With this post, you have sunk to a new low, Reb Doniel.

    1. Huh? So the conclusion is, if you're going to give up on your marriage, make sure you make a commitment to still be a mensch thru the divorce process and after? And that somehow refutes what daastorah posted? Not even close

  8. I throw in my 2 cents that this was an unholy comparison.

    Re. the Ou rep - I'm utterly astounded with his hashkofa. HE knows what is a mensch! HE knows that the true spirit of Torah is to support the dismantlng of a marriage at the drop of a hat. Why not just make an argument for the merits of not making a divorce messy instead of these wild judgment calls about the character of he who dares to question whether a marriage is truly over.

    The arrogance.

  9. This post illustrates a logical fallacy. You have representatives of two communities. One, representing the general community, where divorce is widespread , argues in one direction. The other, speaking for a community in which divorce is far less frequent, argues in another direction.
    I'm afraid this post is way off base.

    1. Ephraim,

      In the MO, OU community that Rabbi Dr. Safran is a spokesperson of, the divorce rate is unfortunately at 30% and climbing. Why is he arguing for divorce?

  10. Daniel S you can shoot the messenger all you like but not the message. All MO organizations favor the women who loses far less than the man if anything upon divorce because they are feminists and frankly despise the Torah laws with respect to divorce.

    1. Stan - it seems you are writing your own message, without having read what Safran actually wrote. He is not saying that the woman should always be favoured, nor that the settlement should disadvantage the man. All he is saying is not torture the (ex) wife by withholding the Get. the example he gives is his own divorce, where he gave the get within 1 week.
      Perhaps he did not have such damaging terms in his divorce - who knows. But you assertion is not related to what this post says.

    2. Stan, please. Read the full article by the "MO" rabbi before you comment. To read a feminist slant into the author's words (who, BTW, is himself divorced and faced the selfsame problems) is completely out of bounds to this discussion.

      I fully stand by my comment.

    3. ikar choser min haseferJanuary 16, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      Where is his trick to make it happen so fast. One week sounds way too fast to give a get, unless there were extraordinary circumstances hamfureshes batorah. Each Get quest is on its own merits, how can you generalize? Not everyone's marriage commitment is expendable. Most people take it very seriously. When children are involved, they need input of both parents how can a partner force a parent to have his child disenfranchised on the drop of a hat. She is not an Aguna, she is a self destructive tsruro almmenus chayus, forcing lebedige yesomim, because she thinks she can do better. No Person in his right mind will ever marry such a sadist who abandons her children or denying the right to have/see the Father. Did the guest poster leave his children with one parent? Exceptions don't make the rule. We have a tfila betachnunim for tsaar gidul bonim, abandoning children is not an option. If Fanguna is so brazen, let's see her HONESTY putting it up front, and find out if ANYONE in their right mind will be willing to marry her. WITHHOLDING a Get is a misnomer, it insinuates as if it is prejustified and being qualified for demanding one. Those that refuse a Get after a Kosher psak din and following protocol, are very few and far in between, and should never be commingled with all the rest, as per ORA YMV.

      I fully stand, support and endorse my comment.

  11. Does anyone here think that Rabbi Dr. Safran got approval from Rav Belsky and Rav Schachter before speaking on behalf of the OU? Neither of these Poskim would have a moment to learn if they had to monitor and pre-approve everything the OU does.

    1. I believe those rabbis are the poskim for UO Kosher. Not for OU in general.

    2. Confused,

      1) As JS mentioned, they are employed by the OU's kosher division.

      2) Now that you chose to mention "Rav Schachter", although no reference to him was made, lets discuss his opinion. He very clearly advocates making divorce easy. That's the point of his whole pre-nuptial that he goes to great lengths to advocate for. Acoording to most poskim, a get produced through such a pre-nup would be invalid.

  12. Doniel and Eddie can shrei all they like. Bottom line is he is guilty not only by association with r belsky and r schachter but by not demanding more effort to save marriages. And the only reason these women want out is because the terms for them have become so wonderful. I stand by what I wrote.

    1. Stan, first, teach me some Yiddish, and what is "shrei"?

      Next, you simply ignored what I wrote - and more importantly, what Safran wrote. So now you say OU is treif - wonderful.
      And if you claim to be a Dayan, then you have just posulled yourself. You are making sweeping statements about all women getting divorced, without paying attention to any of the pertinent facts on a case by case basis. So how can I rely on any of your other statements?

  13. @Stan, you are quite correct that R. Safran's article displays a strong feminist bias - Eddie & Daniel S. are simply in a state of denial about MO's full embrace of feminism.

    Please see the link to R. Safran's full article on Arutz 7. Its appears that R. Safran's article greatly distorts the Talmud when he states:
    "The Talmud (Kiddushin 50a) teaches that if a man refuses to give a woman a divorce, he is forced until he declares, “I am willing.” The Talmud does not accept the notion that a husband can or should refuse to give a Get; if the marriage fails, it must be terminated. Period. No husband has the right to withhold the divorce contract. If he does, the Talmud teaches, “he must be forced until he is willing.”"

    The apparent distortion of Kiddushin 50a by the MO rabbis is most disturbing here. Kiddushin 50a is referring to a situation where the husband has a "mitzvah lishmoa divrei chachamim", ie he is required to obey the words of Torah sages that he relies on. This gemara does not state that the wife's feminist ORA "rabbis" who the husband does not rely upon may order a GET and then the husband is obligated to comply.

    In the Friedman and Weiss cases it seems clear that no Bais Din ordered the husbands to give a GET. The husband's rabbis they rely on did not order them to give a GET to my knowledge. Kiddushin 50a cannot be twisted to say that these men must obey the wife's feminist ORA rabbis who ardently support divorce on demand.

  14. Eddie your your comments are illogical. Safran is generalizing and I am referring to his generalization. Why dont you criticize him for generalizing?

    1. What is he generalising about Stan? He is speaking of cases where the Get is withheld as a cudgel - like a stick. So he is not referring to cases where women go to arkoyos and use the the secular law as a cudgel. He is making a mussar statement, that it is a dignified thing to give the get. He also says he does not blame one side or the other. I am basing this only on what he was written, not about my prejudice for his colleagues at the OU or anywhere else. Would u judge someone less favourably if they came to you and were from an OU/MOYU background?

  15. Charity begins at home. Let him go after rabbis belsky and schschter who are guilry of many violations.

    In virtually all the cases that a get is witheld it has to do with severe violations of halocho by the women. Let him preach against arko"oys which is the real problem.

  16. The different approaches of Lord Coleridge and Rabbi Safran are remarkable.
    Rabbi Safran indicates that if a spouse is unhappy in a marriage, it is not a big deal to leave. And he also indicates that the fact that a spouse may be unhappy in a marriage at a given point in time means that the children will also be miserable if the couple nonetheless stays together. He is saying that there is not, and furthermore, that there should not be an expectation that couples try to make their marriages work even for the sake of their children.
    Lord Coleridge is saying if a spouse is unhappy and miserable in marriage, the spouses generally nonetheless can probably find a way to make the marriage work. Furthermore, they have an obligation to do so. And ending the marriage is generally not going to help things. And absent extreme circumstances, the children are generally much worse off if the marriage ends even if the marriage remains unhappy.

    People who get married and have children are responsible for their own actions. They choose to get married, and they choose to have children and should bear the responsibility that comes with that.

    But all that being said, when you have the "greatest" rabbonim (who are unfortunately given all too much deference) going around spreading the attitude of Rabbi Safran, as opposed to that of Lord Coleridge, it is no wonder that so many in the Orthodox world just walk out of marriages without good reason.

  17. Last December the office advised Sir Paul to take a lower profile after he had protested about the devastating impact of family break-up on children, criticised cohabitation, and called for greater support for marriage.
    Sir Paul, who handles family cases as Mr Justice Coleridge, could have served for another five years and was effectively forced out.

  18. The Orthodox community has begun to throw out the window this bedrock of Jewish tradition in favor of the so-called values of the 1960s counterculture.
    ‘The fact is that the single most vital factor, by far, in the successful development of children is a committed, healthy relationship between their parents.’

  19. There is no reason to believe that the OU or any specific rabbis pre-approved Rabbi Safran's article, but it is nonetheless noteworthy that a rabbi who has worked at the OU for many years and serves as spokesman for the kashrus division would hold these views about marriage.

  20. To say that the OU has had significant governance and management issues over the years would be a huge understatement. But well-run organizations implement various policies to avoid associating the organization with the views of executives where those views do not reflect the views of the organization.
    One policy would be to prohibit executives from taking public positions absent explicit authorization from the organization. Another policy would be to have executives explicitly state that their views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization. At a minimum, the executive would refrain from identifying themselves when expressing their views as an executive of the organization.
    In this case, Rabbi Safran explicitly identifies himself as a spokesman for the OU. This is really bad practice because it could lead someone, not unreasonably, to associate Rabbi Safran's views with those of the OU.

  21. Motsi assirim bekoshoros, Talmud states that partners sit worlds apart, Hakadosh Boruch hu yoshev umezaveg zivugim and pairs them together. Shall we say that in the last several decades Kivyachol lost his grip on shiduchim and zivugim, and we have the Statisics to prove it, therefore, we shall undo it at the drop of a hat making it UNbashert? If so, then YU, OU, MO, R' s, Epstein, Shacters, Belskys, Eliyahu S's our honored guest, and all those that think that Dates should end up in a Fig call on Hashem and tell him, Ribono shel Olam, We need to talk! Your ways and means of pairing is due for an Update. You say "ki lo yechdal heoni mikerev ha'arets", that won't do anymore, it is unacceptable, she is not happy with her lot anymore. Be'zeas apecho tochal lecehem, Tsaar gidul bonim, causes too much stress and much too difficult, we call it quits. If we wake up one morning and decide out, it is immaterial the reason as to why, we will just make it Unbashert any which way, and we have many. Oh' my dear old Father in heaven TIMES HAVE CHANGED. If any ONE partner disagrees, och und vey, ORA has a cache of WMD's -starting- with cattle Prods for the right price, Kidnappings, Abductions, Water boarding, Goon Squads, Black belt Karate experts, Kangaroo Batei Dinim in a blink of an eye, Rackman style Annulments, FREE ORA Declarations (new and improved) or whatever it takes, all the way to -ending- up in Beis Hachayims. Children, not a problem, they are immaterial next to the Happiness of the individual, Happiness iz Ubber Alles, besides, it belongs to kol dealim gvar. Should any partner decide to have things HER/HIS way, uh' uh' no way or HIGHWAY. When Michal bat Shaul, wife of King David belittled him, "Vatomer ma nichbad hayom Melech Yisrael asher niglo hayom leinei amhot avodov kehigolos niglos achad horekim", did he run to Mr. Epstein or Rackman, ORA or any other RA. Lo nora, in space age times we will suffer no more, we want out, at any cost and any price.
    If 'arboim yom kodem yetsirat havlad machrizin bas ploni liploni', and "Only three days into the marriage, I knew I had made a terrible mistake", somebody must not be doing their job right. We then simply take a Shofar, and machriz all over the land, "DROR YIKRO L'VEN UBAS" = FREE, that Date of Tamar is a Fig and TAMAR is FREE.

    However, Father in Heaven, If from now on you are capable to Basher us the Perfect Shiduchim, and perfect zivugim like Alice in Wonderland that lived happily forever after, rich, compliant, without controls, checks and balances, with the perfect nose of course, then we talk.

    My dear Guest, you say, "It is a wonder that any marriage survives and succeeds! Yet, most do." Really? Not at the rate you are going! And we have the statisics to prove it.

    Let me teach you a thing or two.
    It is better by far to teach how to make it DO, rather than how to UNDO, ki lekach notsarto.
    Hashem created the Heavens and Earth and gave it to mankind. Adam leomol yulad, and it is not Manna raining from heaven. You have to toil to make it grow and prosper. Adam leayor pere yivoled, and you have to work on your midos to get along in this world beshalom veshalvo, beahava, veachvo vereus, Sholom Olay Nafshi and throwing in the towel will not cut it. Me'at shnos, me'at tnumos, uvo kimhalech umechasser reshech, and that goes for each and BOTH. That is why Hashem gave us the TORAH UMITSVOT, a guidance as to, HOW, WHAT and WHEN in order to succeed, and NOT to be Shuolim mechablim bakromim. Hafoch bo vehafoch bo, dekulei bo. And last but not least, Motso or Maytsi? Yogato umotsoso Taamin, lo yogato umotsoso al Taamin! Veze kol haTorah kulah al regel achas, veidach zil ugmor.
    Good luck Lieutenant!

    I stand by my words, and endorse everything I said.


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