Friday, November 15, 2013

Giving a Get (Document of Divorce) In Jewish Law

I saw this discussion over on and I felt I needed to comment:

Disappointed in HNNovember 7, 2013 at 1:56 PM DT --
I realize it must be difficult to answer these all day, I should have been more brief and specific in order not to confuse. I read R' Dovid Feinstein's letter, it doesn't answer question -- a very simple question, is it halachically legitimate to use a get as leverage in a divorce proceeding. I.e., "I will not give you this get unless and until I get what I want." I did happen to read your brother's lengthy letter regarding the fact that ma'us u'lai is not a strong enough reason to "force" a get. Again, I refer to R' Sternbuch's teshuva that clearly indicated that the husband "should" give a get in that scenario. But, again, I've been lengthy...

Daas Torah November 7, 2013 at 2:08 PM
I haven't found any teshuva which says that it is not legitimate. Furthermore often the husband is simply trying to gain that which is his according to the halacha - do you consider that illegitimate also? Again the issue is whether it is halachically or morally wrong to use the get as leverage for what you think you deserve. The answer seems to be no. BTW this applies also to a wife refusing to accept a get which Rav Eliashiv doesn't seem to think is immoral

Daas TorahNovember 7, 2013 at 2:35 PM
There should be demands which are unacceptable - but I haven't seen any discussion of what constitutes an unacceptable demand.

Disappointed in HNNovember 7, 2013 at 3:04 PM
My personal feeling, which seems to have some support from halacha, is that any husband who sits down with his to'ein and says ok, let's talk division of assets and custody and when I'm satisfied I'll give her a get, is a pretty bad guy...

---End of discussion---

Now, I think the point that Disappointed makes is a very important one. Can or should a Get ever be used as leverage for a man to receive what he wants, especially when halacha says he should receive it, but the woman won't let him have it? I am clearly no expert, but I have learned Maseches Gittin and hilchos Gittin, so I do feel like I can share my opinion.

The idea that one can use a Get as leverage is clearly a perversion of Judaism, plain and simple. The only time a man can withhold a Get is if he believes the marriage can be saved and he wants to remain married to the woman. Otherwise, halacha dictates that a Get must be given.

For example, if a woman cheats on her husband and there are not two witnesses to convict her, but the husband saw her cheating or knows from some other source, he must give her a Get. Now, one might think he is allowed to withhold a Get in this situation to cause her to suffer like he has because of her cheating, but the Gemara is clear that he must divorce her, aka give her a Get. Once a man is no longer going to live with his wife as man and wife he is supposed to, according to halacha, give her a Get. In a situation where he knows she cheated he is forbidden to live with her as husband and wife and must, therefore, give her a Get.

The question here is not whether we can force him or not and if that forced Get would be kosher or not. That is a technical and ridiculous question. The fact of the matter is, if someone is withholding a Get after a civil divorce where it is clear they will never live as husband and wife again that person is not following halacha. It is as if they are eating non-kosher, desecrating shabbos, having illicit relations, etc... Why do I compare it to the three big sins? Well, these cases where a man is withholding a Get become very public. Therefore, this is a pubic sin, not to mention a Chilul Hashem. We know that if a person is holding a gun to your head in public and says eat that cheeseburger, the Rambam is clear that one must give up his or her life and not eat that cheeseburger. Why? Because we know the reason the gun holder is doing that is specifically to cause the Jew to desecrate the commandments in front of an audience. Here too, the husband is desecrating G-D's name in public. He is transgressing more than just being "bitul an aaseh" (Not doing a positive commandment), but he is causing pain to the woman.

Even if you want to claim that the woman caused him pain, that does not make it ok for the man to cause pain to the woman. There is no revenge claus in the Torah, I am sorry, but there is not. Even if the woman was horrible to the man, the Get is not something that should or even can be used by the husband, according to Jewish law. Only a wicked or misguided person would use a Get as leverage.

Recently, someone wrote a post about withholding a Get if the woman makes false claims against the husband in order to receive full custody of the child. This is a classic case of two wrongs do not make a right. Just because the woman is clearly evil does not mean the man should demean and degrade himself to go down to her level. She obviously does not fear G-D or care about His commandments. However, a G-D fearing man needs to follow halacha and do what is right. One must have faith in G-D and His laws. Should I cheat in business because everyone else is doing it? Should I lie because I will then get what I want? Should I kill because then I will receive benefit? If you answered no to these questions why would you withhold a Get? If you answered yes to these questions you are not really an orthodox Jew, so do what you want.