A MAN who, for ten years, refused to free his ‘chained’ former wife from a marriage finally caved in when he told that he won’t be allowed to bury his dead mother unless he grants a get (a Jewish divorce) to the woman.
He agreed to end the marriage after his mother died and Chief Rabbi David Lau, above, backed a ruling preventing him from burying her until he granted the get.
The ruling, and its support from Lau, according to The Jerusalem Post:
Is surprising, given the supreme importance Jewish law ascribes to burying the dead as swiftly as possible.
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (UOR) in New York issued the ruling on Monday (yesterday) to postpone the burial in order to exert pressure the husband.
The mother’s burial casket arrived in Israel from the US during the course of Monday night, and after examining the details of the case, Lau gave backing to the decision.
The matter was made worse by the fast that, five years ago, the man secured a ruling by what the Chief Rabbinate described as “an informal and unrecognised rabbinical court” to take a second wife, meaning he could remarry while continuing to not grant his first wife a divorce.
Describing the man’s behaviour as “the most severe case of an agunah (a ‘chained woman)”, Lau said:
After all other options were exhausted, we were forced to inform the burial society not to bury his mother until a valid bill of divorce was given over to the son (of the couple).
Since the husband is currently in Israel and his wife is in the US, he has pledged to attend a hearing of the US rabbinical court and obey its ruling, and has deposited a monetary guarantee to ensure he adheres to his commitment.
The hard-line, socially conservative Hotam organisation, noted for its campaigns against gay people and LGBTQ rights, praised Lau’s decision, saying that his actions proved that the Chief Rabbinate was:
Doing everything in its power to free agunot.
It added that it showed that women’s rights groups should now cease their activities.
Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha legal aid center and hotline for agunot, Pnina Omer, welcomed the ruling and Lau’s support, although she said that such extreme measures should not be necessary.
The rabbinical court acted correctly and with great bravery. The Chief Rabbi made a very difficult decision, but saw what was best for the agunah.
She added, however, that:
The idea that such extreme measures are needed to liberate a woman is unbelievable.
Omer said that the incident demonstrated the need for practical solutions to the phenomenon of divorce refusal, such as recognising and encouraging couples to sign halachic prenuptial agreements.
Such documents have been used in the US and have been very successful in preventing divorce recalcitrance among those signing such documents. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel currently does not recognise prenuptial agreements.
The time has come to find a foundational solution to the problem of agunot.
The issue of Jewish men refusing their wives a get is becoming increasingly prominent. Earlier this month we reported that Esther Kahan, a London teacher and a “chained woman” for 15 years, was finally granted a get by her ex-husband – after she agreed to pay him £50,000!