Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn/2 Phyllis Terrace/Monsey, NY 10952/1-845-578-1917
The Washington Rabbinate and Mr. Aharon Friedman
Some Washington rabbis and their spiritual leader Rabbi Herschel Schachter are trying to force Mr. Aharon Friedman to divorce his wife Tamar with a GET. I have told Mr. Friedman that he is not to give a GET as long as the coercion is active or even viable, because such a GET will be invalid, and the children born from it possible mamzerim. A Washington rabbi said he doesn’t know why I am involved in this, because a GET is a local matter. But I say that a child in Washington who is a mamzer may come to New York to marry. So it is my business.
I am also writing this so the rabbis in Washington will realize that there is a war now about GET MEUSO. Those who are lenient are going to be labeled, and their GITTIN suspect. Posek Hador Reb Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l told me that he removes the authority of any Beth Din that is overly lenient in forcing husbands to give a GET. If some Washington rabbis continue to abide by the overly lenient rulings of certain people, they are hereby warned. My position on this is based upon intense discussion with the greatest Gittin experts in the world, including Rav Elyashev zt”l, who gave his name for my Beth Din in Gittin.
There are three stages of coercing a GET. Level one is when the husband is married to a woman who is forbidden to him, such as a Cohen who marries a divorced woman. Then full coercion is permitted. Level two is when the Talmud demands a GET, but does not mention coercion. In that case, limited and passive coercion such as ostracizing is permitted by some sages and forbidden by others. (EH 154:21 Ramo, Gro permit and Shach at the end of Gevuras Anoshim forbids as does the Chazon Ish Gittin 108:12)
The vast majority of divorce cases are not of these two levels, but of a third level when the wife simply says she cannot tolerate living with such a husband. In such a case no coercion is permitted, not even passive ostracizing, and nobody may tell the husband that he has to give a GET. The Shulchan Aruch in Even Hoezer 77 discusses about a woman who does not want her husband, and nobody permits coercions. The Ramo states clearly in paragraph 3 that we don’t coerce him. The Vilna Gaon there brings the source from a Rosh, but it is also stated in the Rashbo in a Teshuva VII, 412: “A woman who claims that her husband is repulsive to her…we do not force the husband to divorce. Rather if he wants to divorce he may divorce, and if he does not wish to divorce he does not have to divorce.” Nobody says that if the wife leaves the house we coerce the husband. In fact no coercion is permitted, not ostracizing, not even telling the husband that he must divorce. Again, coercion is reserved for EH 154 and only for those instructed by the Talmud to divorce.
Mr. Aharon Friedman has been publicly humiliated by a New York organization called ORA, the organization of resolution of Agunoth, because he won’t give his wife a GET at this time. Great efforts were made to have him fired. Not long ago he was attacked and beaten in Philadelphia when he returned his daughter from Washington. The attempted kidnapping by the hoodlums who beat him was foiled. The attackers were probably going to kidnap him and torture him until he gave a GET. I told Aharon that he may not give a GET under pressure because a coerced GET is invalid. Furthermore, once someone threatens a husband who continues to fear them, even if they don’t beat him or humiliate him for a while, the GET is still invalid. This is because the husband still fears that they can return to their old ways at any time. Until the fear of the coercers ends, no GET may be given, until a senior Beth Din clarifies that he really wants a GET. (מוהרי”ק-ס”ג, רדב”ז-2095)
Some rabbis in Washington, D.C. encourage people to pressure Mr. Friedman to divorce his wife in ways forbidden by normative halacha. Many Washington rabbis as well as the organization ORA look to Rabbi Herschel Schachter of Yeshiva University for halachic guidance in this matter. Rabbi Schachter produced audio and video recordings of his teaching that once a marriage is over a husband must give a GET and if he refuses he may be beaten with a baseball bat until he gives the GET or dies. (Audio - Options for Helping Agunoth 13:19). I protest this criminal and evil effort. I cannot understand why some Washington rabbis accept Rabbi Schachter as their rebbe. He once advised murdering the Prime Minister of Israel because of his settlements policy. An article in the Jewish Week contains other proofs of Rabbi Schachter’s limitations (http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new_york/leading_yu_rabbi_shocksthen_apologizes).
ORA has now celebrated its 180th forcing of a GET. All of these GETs are probably invalid and children born from them may be mamzerim.
Why is Rabbi Schachter wrong? If the marriage is over, can’t we force a GET to help the wife?
- Rabbeinu Tam, in his famous Teshuva about helping an Agunah, goes to great length to find a path to save a woman from being an Agunah when the husband refuses a GET. Why doesn’t Rabbeinu Tam simply suggest that she leave the house and break the marriage and live with relatives or friends until the rabbis beat up the husband and get a GET? Obviously, this idea did not enter the picture because it is wrong. (Sefer HaYoshor tesh 24)
- The Shita Mikubetses in Kesubose54A (ד”ה וכתב רבינו יונה )regarding a woman who finds her husband repulsive and wants a GET, says in the name of Rabbeinu Tam that a Beth Din is forbidden to tell the husband who refuses to divorce his wife that it is a mitzvah to divorce her. That constitutes coercion. Why does Rabbeinu Tam not specify that if the marriage is over and the wife is out of the house that the husband should be coerced even with beatings or at least is to be told that it is a mitzvah to give a GET? Because he is not to be coerced, obviously.
- Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says in Igeres Moshe that even if a marriage is broken we do not coerce the husband. (EH III:44)
- The Maharshal Rabbi Shlomo Luria, at least as great as the Ramo, has a teshuva about a woman who demands a GET but the husband refuses to give it. Marshal says that she can stay in her father’s house but nothing can be done to coerce the husband to divorce. But according to Rabbi Schachter every woman who leaves her husband’s house can force a GET with any coercion including beatings, etc. But Maharshal disagrees and forbids coercion even though she lives in her father’s house not with her husband. (Teshuvas Maharshal #41)
- The Maharshal there (tesh #41)says that even if the husband has grave faults such as being irreligious we don’t coerce a GET, and he brings proofs from earlier poskim.
- Rashbam in Bovo Basa 48A states that women who hate their husbands leave them. If so, we can assume that at least the majority of women who claim that their husbands are repulsive do leave the husbands and the marriage is broken. And yet, Ramo in EH 77:3 says that no coercion is permitted.
- Forcing a husband to divorce even when it is permitted such as Level 1 and Level 2 above, is valid only when it is clear that the Torah demands a GET, such as a Cohen who marries a Gerusha. Then the husband knows that the Torah demands a GET and if coercion is applied he resigns himself to do what the Torah commands because he is Jewish and wants to do the right thing. But coercing Mr. Aharon Friedman will not produce a kosher GET because he knows that the halacha according to normative Judaism is that he is not to be coerced. I told him he may not be coerced and so did other Gittin rabbis. Therefore, if he is coerced the GET is not valid and the children born from it are mamzerim.
- The Chasam Sofer says that even if there is a difference of opinion about coercing a husband, the GET is definitely invalid and the children are mamzerim, because the husband accepts the opinion that he is not to be coerced. Therefore, all of those coerced by ORA who are told by their rabbis they are not to be coerced, may produce invalid GIttin and the children may be mamzerim. (Teshuvose EH I:28,115)
- It is forbidden to coerce the husband with humiliation. (Rashbo VII:414, Radvaz IV:118, Beth Yosef 154 D”H kosuv, Chazon Ish EH Gittin 108:12) This applies to all cases except level one where the husband is told by the Talmud explicitly to divorce or be coerced.
- It is forbidden to coerce a husband with fiscal pressure. (Rashbo Tesh. IV:40 in name of Rabbeinu Chananal, Moharik 63, Ramo Choshen Mishpot 205:7 see Gro and Rebbe Akiva Eiger there.)
- I conclude with a plea to the Washington rabbinate. Cleanse yourself of your connection to those who bend the Torah to help ladies who want a GET. Don’t make generations of mamzerim.
Dovid E. Eidensohn