Friday, October 9, 2015

Kiddushei Ta'us (annulment) Rav Moshe' Feinstein's view - by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Rav Moshe Feinstein's Extraordinary Ruling

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, E.H. 1:79) disagrees will all of the aforementioned authorities and argues that if a woman discovers a severe defect in her husband, she does not require a get. Rav Moshe writes that one should make all efforts to obtain a get, but a lenient ruling may be given ifthese efforts fail. He reasons that some defects are so severe that, clearly, no woman would have married this man.7 For example, Rav Moshe takes issue with Rav Yitzchak Elchanan and argues that no woman would marry an impotent man. Thus, just as a man who mistakenly marries an ailonit does not require a get, so too a woman who marries an impotent man does not require a get. Rav Moshe takes this exceedingly bold argument8 one step further, asserting that even Rabbeinu Tam would not require a get for a woman to remarry upon discovering a severe preexisting defect in her husband. As we have mentioned above, Rabbeinu Tam rules demands a get to dissolve the marriage if a man discovers that his wife is an ailonit. Rav Moshe argues that only a man might agree to marry a woman with a severe defect, because his ability to give a get assures him a relatively easy halachic exit from the marriage. However, it is obvious to all, Rav Moshe claims, that no woman would marry a man with a severe defect. She would never risk being unable to tolerate the man's problem, Kidushei Taut because she knows that she has no simple halachic mechanism to escape from the marriage. 

Limitations on Rav Moshe's Ruling

Rav Moshe suggested applying this ruling in five actual cases. They involved an impotent man (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, E.H. 1:79), a man who concealed that he had been institutionalized prior to the marriage (E.H. 1:80), a man who concealed that he vehemently opposed having children and later forced his wife to abort a fetus (E.H. 4:13),9 a man who concealed that he was a practicing homosexual prior to the marriage (E.H. 4:113), and a man who concealed that he converted to another religion (E.H. 4:83). In the last case, however, Rav Moshe hesitated to permit the woman to remarry without a get, as she did not observe Torah law. It must be clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that the woman never would have married such a man. However, since this woman did not practice Judaism seriously, Rav Moshe questioned whether we can assume that she would never marry an apostate. 

Similarly, Rav Yitzchak Herzog (Teshuvot Heichal Yizchak, E.H. 2:25) appears to fundamentally accept Rav Moshe's premise. Nonetheless, Rav Herzog did not permit a Sephardic sixteen-year-old girl to remarry without a get after she married a man in his forties whom she thought was significantly younger. Although the girl had been deceived, Rav Herzog explained that one could not state unequivocally that a sixteen-year-old girl in such a community would never marry a man in his forties.

Rav Moshe issued his ruling about an impotent husband in 1951 and his ruling about an institutionalized husband in 1955. The present availability of psychiatric drugs allows for treating many psychiatric illnesses and casts  doubt upon whether he would have ruled this way today. Similarly, impotence can be treated and cured in most cases today. It is thus unclear if a woman today would undoubtedly refuse to marry a man with either of these ailments. Even some homosexuals, with the help of psychotherapy, can lead a healthy married life.

Moreover, Rav Moshe did not rely on the woman's testimony alone to verify the husband's impotence and mental illness. Rather, the rabbis involved in the case examined the medical records of the husbands, and the doctors even testified that they unsuccessfully tried to cure one husband's impotence. In today's society, it is highly unlikely that such information would be forthcoming from medical officials.


It is extremely difficult to permit either partner in a marriage to remarry solely based upon kiddushei ta'ut. Every effort should be made to obtain a get even when major defects are discovered in either spouse. For a defect to be considered as grounds for kiddushei ta'ut, it must be clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that virtually no one would marry a person with the defect. Moreover, the defect must already be in existence  before the marriage


  1. In today's society, homosexuality is not necessarily a social defect. Definitely not politically correct.

  2. The million dollar question here is did Rav Moshe ever, in practice in real life, permit a previously married woman to remarry without a Get. In other words, other than the hypothetical question, did any of the above mentioned cases involve a woman who in fact DID remarry after not having obtained a Get?


  3. Regarding homosexuality, today it is socially acceptable. Might not be an argument in certain circles.


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