Sunday, August 20, 2023

If a husband doesn't give a Get does he transgress Lifnei Ivair if his wife commits adultery?

The claim was made recently that Tamar's husband is transgressing the prohibition of lifnei ivair (putting a stumbling block before the blind) by not giving Tamar a Get when she is committing adultery with her second husband. The claim seems ridiculous but what evidence is there in this matter?

The first point is what exactly does the prohibition (Vayikra 19:14) include? The verse is understood to mean to not give something to another person who will sin with it.  (If the person would be able to commit the sin anyway it is not the Torah prohibition of lifnei ivair - but it is prohibited by rabbinic decree.) Thus a nazir should not be given wine. If the person is not going to say a beracha -do not give him food (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 169:2). If he is a drug addict - don't give him money that will enable him to buy drugs. It also includes a prohibition about doing something which causes a sin as a reaction - such as a parent hitting an adult child when there is a possibility the child will react by hitting the parent. Finally there is a prohibition of giving bad advice.

Second points is - what if there is a loss by not giving the person the object. For example, if your business partner comes to your house and asks for food but you know he will not say a beracha or wash on bread(Chullin 107b). While the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 169:2) says not to give food - however Rav Moshe Feinstein (OC 5 13) says that if you stand to lose money because of not giving him food - there is no prohibition against giving it. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says that if it causes hatred - then the food should be given. Rav Moshe also permits it if not giving causes a chilul hashem. Clearly we see in a normal situation that if it causes a loss by not giving it to the sinner - then it is permitted to give. Other example include: If someone steals your car - there is no obligation to give him the car to prevent him from sinning. If a person says that he will eat a ham sandwich if he isn't allowed to cut off someone arm - there is obviously absolutely no obligation to save him from sin at that price.

Third point: In the literature about divorce, I haven't found anyone who says that there is an obligation to give a divorce in a case where the wife threatens to commit adultery. There are clearly rabbonim who are worried about that happening - but this is not expressed as a concern that there will be a violation of lifnei ivair. Similarly if someone threatens to violate Shabbos if he isn't given an expensive present - there is no requirement to give in to the extortion to prevent sin.

Bottom line, I have not found any examples in the literature that lifnei ivair is invoked to require someone  to suffer a loss in order to prevent another person from sinning. If someone has such a case - please let me know. Rav Moshe Feinstein compares it to tochacha. One does not have to be beaten up or even be yelled at in order to prevent someone from sinning - and surely you do not have to suffer financial loss.

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