Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Jameel has a post this morning about how the Israeli Rabbinate is cracking down on men who won't grant their wives religious divorces.

(It pains me to post the following, but we were left with no alternative*. The Rabbinate's aggressive new approach hasn not been mentioned yet on Cross(Loving)Currents or YWNoodleheads. This is because Mencken, Safrin, and the Pecksniffian YWE prefer bashing other Jewish sects (and, in the case of Cross Currents, propping up discredited Christian ministers, and defending child molesters) to helping Jewish women.)

Though I support the Rabbinate, I think they are ignoring the elephant in the room.

Per the Torah, a man has the right to withhold a divorce from his wife. It's a right often abused, but there's no question that it exists in halacha, and without qualification. If you accept the divine wisdom of the Torah, you must also accept that men have been divinely granted this power. To recognize that there is an aguna crises in Orthodox Judaism is to recognize that the Torah's law is inappropriate to current circumstances. To recognize the aguna crises is to recognize a mismatch between the Torah's law and modern practices and sensibilities.

We all see the problem, but we say we can't solve it. Why? Because the law is divine, and therefore inalterable. But if the law is divine why do we have an aguna crises? Why don't we pat the women on the head and say, "Sorry darlings, we can't help you. This is Judaism. God wants your husband to be able to control you this way. Instead of fighting it, we advise you to submit to the heavenly wisdom." We don't say this because we recognize the law is absurd, and that the power it gives men is unjust. Shouldn't it follow from this recognition that the law can't be divine? And if it isn't divine, why are we reluctant to fix it?

Jewish divorce laws were established with a different society in mind. Society has changed. As a result the divorce laws no longer work. When this sort of thing happens, the solution is not more aggressive policing. The solution is to change the law.

*Sarcasm. Click the link if you don't understand.

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