Last week, an eight-year saga involving a sex-crazed and homeless Orthodox Jew in Israel who refused to divorce his wife and thus kept her “chained” to their marriage under Jewish law, finally came to an end.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the man had been told eight years ago by a rabbinic court that he must give his wife the divorce she sought because of his unnatural sexual proclivities. The husband demanded sex from his wife three to four times a day, every day, including on Yom Kippur and when she was menstruating – times when Jewish law prohibits intercourse. The man refused to grant the divorce, and went into hiding.
Under Halacha, or Jewish law, a woman is an adulteress if she remarries without her husband’s permission for a divorce, and her children are mamzerim, or bastards, a label which lays on their heads for generations. As a result, for the last eight years, this woman was considered an aguna, or chained woman, unable to remarry and move on with her life.
The Post reports that hundreds, if not thousands of Jewish women have been trapped as a result of this antiquated and unjust Jewish law, and halachic scholars have sought a resolution to this problem for centuries.
Last week British academics at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester announced that they had devised a comprehensive “road map” to addressing the problem of agunot. The academics examined religious texts for solutions and made several recommendations (conditional on rabbinic approval) including:
- modification of betrothal procedures;
- special counseling for couples getting engaged;
- conditional marriage;
- advance get, or religious divorce, and annulment;
- outlawing the possibility of using get-denial as an instrument of extortion; and
- setting up a worldwide record of the halachic attitudes of different communities, to be maintained by an independent body.
The academics also recommended that once the new program would become accepted and more widespread, there should be a meeting of rabbinic leaders to make the recommendations standard by enacting a takana, or edict.
The Centre for Jewish Studies has not yet posted the full research report on their website, but interested persons should visit that site in the upcoming weeks to read the recommendations in full.