Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Divorce: The Halakhic Perspective


Only a man can give a get, and that get must be given of his free will. A get which is given under duress or coercion (known as a get me’useh, a “forced divorce”) is void. The rabbis derive this rule from the same verse in Deuteronomy quoted above for the principle that a man could divorce his wife unilaterally. Since the husband has the unilateral power to divorce his wife, the rabbis maintain that the act of divorce can occur only if it complies with the husband’s discretion and free will.

The fact that rabbis derive the rule prohibiting the “forced divorce” from the Bible, and not from secular principles of contract, underscores the impact of this rule and distinguishes it from civil rules regarding coercion, force and duress. Because the rule against the forced divorce is attributed to the Bible and to God, the question of whether a husband has agreed to give his wife a get of his own free will is subject to strict scrutiny by rabbis.

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