Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
Torah and Family Issues When Considering Divorce















Divorce is considered a tragedy in Jewish law. It is basically only justified by something that is breach of what marriage in Torah law is supposed to be. Therefore, a discussion of grounds for terminating a Jewish marriage should include some basics of what marriage requires, as well as violence or blatant violations of marital treatment rules, to give the readers a frame of reference for judging when valid grounds for divorce are present.

I'll start with a brief summary of marital obligations for husbands and wives, so that any breach can indicate possible grounds for complaint or a shaala [Jewish law question] for a rov or dayan.

We do not run right to divorce in most cases [unless there is a major and inexcusable violation such as adultery, violence or abandonment of any Torah observance, as will be discussed further on]. At the start, we examine the nature and validity of possible grounds for divorce. We proceed in all cases slowly, we deliberate carefully, and we obtain proof to validate claims - all done in the light of halacha.

Marriage is a "package" of roles, obligations, responsibilities and functioning. Each owes the other. The Jew has no mentality of "my rights," "my entitlements." Your partner has rights and entitlements...from you.

A man may not diminish provision of all the food, clothes and affection that his wife needs (Exodus 21:10). He must provide financial support (standard kesuba), even if this requires hard or foul-smelling work (Pesachim 113a) or going to the field to farm (Yevamos 63a). He should share the benefits of his life and not cause her pain (Kesubos 61a). She must not cause him pain [Evven HaEzzer 119]. He must never be angry or frightening; he must promote her feeling joyous; and as his financial or social station rises, he must give her more money and status accordingly (Rambam, Hilchos Ishus). He should love her as much as himself and honor her more than himself (Yevamos 62b), give tangible expressions of honor such as jewels and ornaments (Sanhedrin 76b). Relative to what he can afford, he should eat and drink less that he can afford, dress himself according to what he can afford, and honor his wife and children with more than he can afford (Chulin 84b). He lets her be in charge of household matters; he must be careful with her honor; and is to never cause her to cry, to hurt or to curse him (Bava Metzia 59a). He must fully acknowledge and appreciate her for all which he accomplishes as a consequence of her support, encouragement or assistance (Kesubos 62b). He must give his wife compassion and protection (Hakdoma, Tur Evven Ho'Ezzer). He must take care of her needs before his own (Beraishis Raba 39:15). He must nurture a relationship of love and closeness with his wife (Iggeress HaKodesh, attributed to Ramban). During the first year of marriage, he may not leave his wife overnight, so she may grow secure with his love for her (Chinuch #582). He must take time to speak with her, and obtain and respect her opinions (Letter by Rabbi Akiva Aiger).

The wife must cook food and provide clothing (Yevamos 63a). She is obligated to serve him, revere him like a king and honor him exceedingly much (Rambam, Hilchos Ishus), tend to matters of the home and practical daily life (Bava Metzia 59a), obey him and do his will (Nedarim 66b). Where her honor and his are in conflict, she is to defer to him (Kidushin 31a). If she hits or refuses to go to mikva, she can be subject to divorce without kesuba payment (Shulchan Oruch, Evven Ho'Ezzer). When he is angry, she should calm him; when he is hurt, she should soothe him; when he has been done bad to, she should comfort him; when he is worried, she should restore him; when he is pressured, she should minimize requests; and cancel her will for her husband (Shlaw HaKodesh). She should diminish his sadness, his worry or anything which is hard on his heart (Shaivet Mussar). She should raise her man up and she is responsible for her duties (Kesubos 61a).

One of the causes of marital trouble; with its complexity, misery and hostility; is the non-authoritative misrepresentation of mitzvos, halachos and Torah principles. Consider: since people bring to rabbis and batay din emotional and selfish (rather than halachic and authentic) agendas and claims, the cases must either be reconstituted to accord with halachic criteria for get proceedings, or the cases must be commensurately convoluted and mired (as a halachic matter) making solution and conclusive action difficult to impossible. The Torah is precise, objective and serious about divorce because marriage is holy.

Let me share with the readership some basics about grounds for divorce and how a husband's unjustifiably withholding a halachicly required get truly separates him from halacha.

A woman cannot claim that she is an "Agunah" unless her case was duly heard by a competent bais din of yoray Shomayim and expert dayanim who poskined (ruled) that the marriage is over, that the man is required in halacha to give his wife a get and he refuses to give the get ordered by that bais din. "Agunah" is a halachic status and cannot be declared by a wife unhappy with her marriage, no more than she can declare herself a prophet or rabbi or declare that a pig is kosher or that a Tuesday is shabos, just because she feels that way.

Generally, a woman cannot demand a get nor can she say it is a mitzva for her husband to give her one by claiming her marriage is dead. There is no mitzva to give a get. The only mitzva in the Torah is for a man to use the get as the exclusive means for divorcing his wife when the man wants to divorce her (Chinuch, Rambam). Technically, divorcing generally depends upon the man wanting to.

However, it is much more complex than that. There are dozens of Torah principles and requirements incumbent upon a man who can no longer live as a husband with his wife, so the woman is not discounted or abandoned by the Torah.

The gemora (Kesubos 61a) says that MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE AND NOT FOR PAIN. By definition, when a marriage is painful, it is not a Torah marriage.

The Torah requires never paining a widow or orphan, and G-d becomes furious at and viciously punitive towards a perpetrator [Exodus 22:21]. Rashi says this is not limited to a widow or orphan; rather, it means NEVER PAINING ANYONE who is DEFENSELESS, WEAK OR VULNERABLE. Rambam (Hilchos Dayos) says that this must be fulfilled by giving such weak, vulnerable or needy individuals "rachmanuss yesaira (active and extraordinary compassion)." Since a wife is dependent upon a husband WHEN SHE IS ENTITLED IN HALACHA to a get, she is defenseless and vulnerable insofar as ending her married status is concerned. The one who is callous to her evokes G-d's fury. Chazal tell us that the way we treat another is the way G-d treats us, "measure for measure" (Sota 8b). Heaven gives compassion to each person who gives compassion to people; and Heaven withholds compassion from each person who withholds compassion from people (Shabos 151b).

The saintly Chafetz Chayim [Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, 1838-1933; in a classic work, "Ahavas Chesed (The Love Of Kindness)"], wrote, "If a person in his lifetime habitually failed to forego anything of his own for another, failed to have pity on others, he reinforces the attribute of stern and strict justice in Heaven towards him. So, after he leaves this world and he is in need of such benefits [e.g. kindness, pity, etc.], Heaven pays him back with his own characteristics. G-d deals with him the same way that he dealt with people."

Torah violations for handling or terminating a marriage center around high interpersonal standards and rules imposed by the Torah upon any Jew towards another; such as prohibitions of causing physical or emotional pain, destroying another's life, being vengeful or cruel or strict at the expense of another, etc. These are rules and mitzvos that apply between any Jews. Never forget that the application of the Torah's standard interpersonal requirements totally includes Jews who are married to one another!

In the halachos relating to marriage [Evven HaEzzer 119 and 154 in Tur, Shulchan Aruch and Aruch HaShulchan] grounds for divorce are discussed. This is a brief representative summary with some classic samples. For practical law as applicable to an individual situation, contact a known and respected rov who is an expert in the laws of Evven HaEzzer and who has experience as a dayan.

In Jewish law, raising a hand in anger (even without hitting!) is evil (Sanhedrin 58b). Needless to say, hitting is NEVER an option...whether the victim would be your spouse or anyone else (except in self-defense or if provoked in certain ways). Hitting, especially if with any regularity, can be grounds for immediate divorce (Evven HaEzzer 154:3, Ramoh). If the man hit, he would be obligated to give an immediate "get" (divorce) and to pay the kesuba (marriage contract payment). If the woman hit, he would give her an immediate "get" and she will have forfeited her kesuba money. Failure to fulfill essential spousal responsibilities can be grounds for a get.

A woman can demand a get if her husband develops an unbearable odor or a repulsive illness or injury, if he abandons Torah, if he does not feed or support her, if he has an angry temper, or if he withholds requisite intimate attention.

A first wife should be divorced if she has been adulterous or immodest, refused to go to mikva without Torah justification, violated any major element of Torah or if both mutually want to end the marriage. A man should never be quick to divorce. A man only divorces when he wants the divorce. Among Ashkenazim, the woman ordinarily also has to want it. If the couple does not have a child for ten years, or if one or both spouses cause pain to the other, such is grounds for considering, but not running to, divorce.

In cases where the wife was adulterous, immodest or became unreligious (even if in only one aspect of Jewish law), it is a mitzva for the husband to divorce her. This is the only case where it is a mitzva to divorce. If he gives her a get in such a case and he cannot pay a kesuba (marriage contract payment) or nedunia (dowry), he can give a get without any payment to her and she can then take him to bais din for any payment that she claims he owes her [Tshuvos haRosh]. Otherwise, if he gives her a get, he generally must pay the kesuba.

There are certain demands for divorce which halacha says to ignore unless and until there are certain proofs or conditions. You may not assume, therefore, that a bais din is callous, aloof or "in the clouds" if it does not run to accept one spouse's claim that the other did something which is grounds for divorce. A competent bais din is compelled by halachah to ascertain, substantiate and verify that any demand for a get complies with the halachic system of justifying a get with clear proof.

The rules for ending a SECOND marriage become more lenient (there are more grounds for divorce for a SECOND marriage e.g. they are no longer attracted to each other or he can't stand her cooking).

The laws of and grounds for divorce are not simple and the Torah does not take termination of a marriage - especially a first marriage - lightly. The Torah position is to stay at any marriage and do all you can to make the marriage work, and to give enormous consideration - with objective professional and rabbinic guidance - to the impact on any children of splitting up. Whenever there are children, the couple must do all that is possible to preserve the marriage and to not harm the children psychologically or otherwise. It is a huge mitzva for the couple or others to do all they can to bring the marriage back to peace and bring their family life to normality.



If two gun enthusiasts talk eagerly and excitedly about interesting models of guns - and they fail to deal with how deadly guns can be - they miss the main point and can be the cause of much killing. Likewise, when people talk excitedly about how some men do not give a get and there must be remedies and alternatives for captive "agunah" wives - if people fail to deal with the seriousness and inescapability of the get - they miss a central point and this can be very destructive. Therefore, here is a segment that is designed to keep a proper view of the get, so that we are never distracted from its role and seriousness. This will help us to keep perspective and to realize that the Torah chiyuv (obligation) of get is a serious issue which must be dealt with on its own terms. Blending the two subjects ("agunas" and get) into one can cause "watering down" and blurring of either or both.

When a Jewish married couple decides that they are no longer able to live together as husband and wife, Jewish law requires that they separate from each other promptly and, in a reasonably period of time, terminate the marriage with a document of divorce, called in Hebrew, a "get." This applies whenever a Jewish man and Jewish woman have entered into marriage with each other.

Some people do not realize that their marriage remains fully in tact as long as there is no get. A get is mandatory and inescapable to end a Jewish marriage. The Torah makes very clear that once a Jewish marriage has been created, only a kosher get, executed by a kosher bais din [Torah court], can undo it. The Torah refers to the get as the husband giving a "document of cutting off." The choice of words teaches 1. that the marriage is not at all terminated until this document is given by the man to the woman as the conclusion of the divorce procedure and 2. by the Torah's not using the literal name of the document ["get"], we should strive to refrain from ending a marriage [i.e. avoid coming to a get, just as the Torah avoids saying the word "get"] and we should consider it painfully sad when a marriage has to die and divorce has to come.

This is something which is not affected at all by a person's religious affiliation, philosophy, observance-level or marital-strife level. A civil divorce or agreement to be unmarried is not enough. Without a kosher get, executed by an authorized bais din, there has been no removal at all of the marriage status.

It is imperative that a get only be executed by an authoritative and authorized Torah court. A kosher get is a very complicated document. It must be constructed with many intricate laws and rules by experts. There are even rules about the intentions that the bais din's scribe must have in his mind while writing the document for it to be valid. The entire procedure must be conducted with prescribed reverence for Heaven. If any of the requisite rules are not fulfilled, the get is invalid and the marriage remains fully in tact. We say that a food which is 99% kosher is 100% traif. Similarly, if a divorce is 99% kosher, it is 100% traif; and the marriage remains fully.

I have one dedicated neighbor, who goes around to separated unreligious couples to influence them to make a kosher get in a kosher bais din. He helps them find a bais din in their locale, calls the dayonim [Torah judges] to recruit them to help, and even pays for the gets. There is an organization in Brooklyn called "Kayama" which helps all Jewish people in need to obtain kosher gets. It is a crucial mitzva to help Jews who can no longer live together as man and wife to obtain a kosher get, especially if they wouldn't on their own. In all cases, speak to a Torah authority for rabbinical guidance for all practical individual questions and cases.

It is of particular concern in our time that many Jews, whether religious or not, do not know about - or they make light of - the get. They do not realize how serious and real it is. In my work as a rabbi, and from consultation with other rabbis, there are too often serious questions and issues which arise stemming from the existence or validity of a get.

If a woman is separated from her husband, or has a secularly legal divorce, she might MISTAKENLY consider herself free to have a relationship with a man other than the husband with whom she had a Jewish marriage. However, THIS WOMAN IS NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER WOMAN MARRIED UNDER JEWISH LAW and her involvement on any level with any other man is adulterous. She may not be alone with another man, may not have physical contact with him, may not be without her body covered thoroughly by modest clothing or without her hair covered when in his presence, and she certainly may NOT have any intimate relations. A child born from such a union is a "momzer" which is an uncorrectable taint and distortion (on the soul of the child born from this union), which will be continued and passed on in all offspring through all generations. A "momzer" may not marry a "regular Jew," and his or her descendants will never be able to marry a "regular Jew" till the end of time.

"Momzer" is sometimes [incorrectly] translated as "illegitimate." This is not true. In English, an unmarried woman's child is called "illegitimate." In the Torah, it is an embarrassing out-of-wedlock child, but not necessarily a momzer. A momzer specifically is a child born from a union of people who the Torah says may not marry each other; for example, the child of certain relatives or of a married woman who had relations with a man other than the man who is her husband in Torah law. Being a momzer also stains the soul and imbues the offspring with repulsive traits, such as insolence and cruelty.

In Jewish law, a man is prohibited from being involved with a woman other than his wife, but his being married does not confer momzer status on a child from a woman other than his wife. He would be considered an immoral outcast and a low-life, to be sure. It would be a sin as much as any violation of Torah law would be. A husband's child, however, would only be a momzer if the child came from him and a woman married to another man or from him and a family member who Torah law would not allow him to marry in the first place (e.g. mother, sister, daughter and many others).

If you know someone whose religious commitment is not strong, or who is not religious; whose marriage is essentially over but the couple is without a get, it is crucial that you bring to bear any influence or assistance to have the couple execute a KOSHER GET FROM AN AUTHORIZED ORTHODOX BAIS DIN WHICH IS UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED BY TORAH LAW AUTHORITIES. Generations are at stake - not just the couple. A Jewish marriage is holy and is in "rumos shel olam (the heights of creation)." Its violation; no matter how antagonistic or alienated the relationship is; is serious and treasonous trampling on the sacrosanct, is punished by premature death and is, in many ways, "playing with fire."

Just as everything else in life is, the ending of a marriage between two Jews is governed in detail by Torah law. Even though divorce can be one of the most jolting, traumatizing and unfortunate events in life; it has to be conducted with seichel and kedusha [intellect and holiness]. When divorce is necessary, the laws of the get must be fulfilled perfectly in a bais din by Torah experts, in the presence of two valid witnesses. Only if everything is proper will the marriage be terminated effectively. Commensurate with how serious this matter is, it is a great mitzva to assure that a divorce is done correctly, whether for yourself or when you influence or help any other Jews.

If you yourself are, Heaven forbid, in a marital dispute or separation, you should keep in mind that you may not consider yourself available to the opposite gender as long as you have not had a kosher get from an authorized Torah bais din. Even if the separation is lengthy or bitter, or you feel in need of a relationship in your life already, or you don't understand what is so important, Jews have no option in this. It is vitally you and to all descendants who will ever come from you.



Some people make the mistake of referring to the 579th commandment of the Torah as being: to give one's wife a get upon the ending of marriage.

If a one knows to refer to the issue of get as the 579th commandment, they should also know that this is from Sefer HaChinuch, in whose enumeration of the mitzvos, the issue of get comes out as mitzvah number 579. However, these people erroneously and repeatedly state that the mitzvah is to give a wife a get upon the death of the marriage. This is altogether not true. If you know to count get as the 579th mitzva (as per Sefer HaChinuch), you must also know that Sefer HaChinuch explains each mitzvah very thoroughly, based on relevant Chazals. One cannot divorce (please pardon pun) the written Torah from the oral Torah. The Chumash is like a skeleton or code which the Oral Torah fills in. You cannot be certain that you understand halacha from Chumash without Chazal, you cannot be certain that you understand Chazal without Rishonim; and you cannot poskin halacha without studying each law with its mesorah through Chumash, Chazal, Rishonim, the Shulchan Aruch, Acharonim and poskim. To quote a verse in Chumash and say that it is a commandment to give a wife a get is not accurate nor halachic. You can see for yourself in any authoritative compilation of the mitzvos (e.g. Chinuch, Rambam) that the mitzvah specifically and exclusively is: WHEN A MAN WANTS TO DIVORCE HIS WIFE, HE MUST DO SO WITH A GET. I must emphasize: when a man WANTS. The get is HOW to divorce, not any obligation to divorce. Approaching a recalcitrant husband by claiming mitzva #579 only discredits the claimant and his/her untrue knowledge of Torah. So what about the lady who wants a get who is caught in the middle of this halachicly technical squabbling?

If a bais din poskins that a marriage is dead and instructs the husband to give a get, and then he refuses, the husband might be in violation of SEVERAL DOZEN Torah violations and may be a low-life. But it is not correct to quote a posuk or two in Devarim and say that there is any mitzva to give the get. If one reads the Chinuch enough to know that get is mitzva 579, one must read ALL THE REST OF WHAT THE CHINUCH WRITES about the laws, details and root of the mitzva. The mitzva is for the man who WANTS to give a get and it tells him to exclusively use the get as the Jewish mechanism for undoing his marriage.

I have written at length on many occasions how the Torah does not abandon the woman or condone making a wife an Agunah, by any means. However, the "Agunah-maker's" failings are not in the 579th commandment. They are in many of the basic Torah obligations of bain-odom lechavairo and mussar. The rectification is in heightening public awareness of interpersonal and mussar education, raising the general populations standards and sensitivity to interpersonal and mussar obligations in the Torah (which are often very weak these days), create a heightened and widespread sense of value in enforcing interpersonal and mussar requirements and to coalesce the population into a unified body which will not tolerate the abuse of power by vile husbands who have selfish contempt for Torah behavior and obligations.

Try to create shiurim and groups to work on such interpersonal and sensitizing projects as loshon hora, midos, chesed, derech eretz, and study of interpersonal mitzvos and their halachos (e.g. laws of visiting sick, comforting mourners, hospitality to guests, charity, lending money, midos development, marriage behavior, coexisting with neighbors peacefully, etc.); with a heavy accent on internalization, reinforcement and application. The fact that people become familiar with these laws will sensitize Jews to other Jews as well as to THE FACT THAT TORAH GOVERNS ALL ASPECTS OF INTERPERSONAL-RELATING, LIVING TORAH IS BASED ON LAW AND ITS BEING OBEYED. Obeying bais din will be natural to a population accustomed to "rule of law" in Torah life. A Jewish society well-trained in Torah requirements, standards and heightened sensitivity will never allow it to even enter into anyone's mind that we can accept a husband ordered by bais din who refuses for a minute to give his wife a get. No abuse of any kind would be tolerated e.g. monetary cheating, spousal abuse, ignoring someone seriously ill or in financial collapse.

No rational, fair-minded, Torah-loyal Jew wants any Jew to be subject to suffering, harm or injustice. But, we must be accurate about the precise infractions involved. A major term in serious learning is "nafka amina (different practical outcome)." What something in halacha is has precise and practical implications for how to handle or poskin that issue. The same way that traveling on the wrong road will bring you to the wrong destination, traveling on the wrong halachic path will bring you to the wrong conclusion. How you approach halachic questions determines the "destination" to which a course will bring you. There are serious practical differences to approaching a halachic question one way or another. Torah must be precise. It is G-d's instruction. Heaven help the person who is not qualified and makes halachic pronouncements - and anyone who listens to him or her. The answer to the agunah dilemma is not in misrepresenting halacha - two wrongs never make a right. The Mishnah (Avos) speaks very strongly, referring to anyone who states any halacha which is not according to halacha as "idiotic, arrogant and evil." We must proceed with seriousness and in unison, raising our "madraiga (spiritual level)" and lowering tolerance for bain odom lechavairo transgressions. It is Jewish society which will make all interpersonal violations impossible to enter the Jewish mind, heart, soul and, most important, actions.



When a couple divorces, "even the altar cries tears because of it [Gittin 90b]." Divorce is trauma and makes those concerned cry. There once was a bond and any normal person is torn when his/her marriage bond is torn. But why does the gemora add that "EVEN THE ALTAR CRIES TEARS BECAUSE OF [DIVORCE]?"

The altar was used for sacrifices in the Holy Temple, where dumb animals were brought as gifts for Hashem or for atonement of sins. A divorce is using the altar for the SACRIFICING OF THE CHILDREN. WHEN YOU USE IT FOR THE SLAUGHTER OF YOUR INNOCENT CHILDREN, YOU MAKE G-D'S ALTAR CRY!

I know a divorced woman who had a bitter marriage and divorce. However, her children emerged psychologically in-tact because she diligently shielded them WITH SELF-SACRIFICE from the viciousness of the break-up. They were still fairly young at the time. She basically explained, in a way that the children could understand and assimilate, that she and tatti were not able to be happy together. All of the fighting, bickering and anger were kept away from the children (e.g. in bais din, on private after hour phone calls and by venting frustrations in counseling). She did all she could to assure that the children saw normal life, except that tatti moved and they saw him twice a week at his new location. She received less of a financial settlement than she might have with a desperate "tooth and nail" battle. However, having myself seen those kids grow up to be normal, over the last 16 years since the split-up, I have to state that her unselfish and wise self-sacrifice constitutes greater good in the long-run than what she lost 16 years ago. To her, "human wreckage" was not worth monetary advantage; "human good" was worth more than "monetary good."

I see troubled and terminal marriages in my marriage counseling work. I receive shailos as a rabbi. I co-consult with dayanim. I see the cases described on the Agunah Page. I hear what is going around. It is vicious out there. Either party can escalate or be a cause of their own troubles or disadvantage in their situation, with no one to blame but him or her self. A recurring and destructive part of the steadily worsening divorce scene is the harm done to the children. The parents think nothing of using the children for spite, punishment or malicious brainwashing; or as a pawn in court cases.

I've written about how the Torah prohibits harming any other Jew and requires guarding against causing any harm that one may be capable of inflicting. This applies to all forms of harm: bodily, psychological, hurt to feelings or reputation, intangibles such as wasting someone's time or CHILDREN NOT STEADILY SEEING THEIR FATHER because their mother wants a more ZOFTIG [fat] financial settlement or more control over divorce arrangements. Any form of harm IS NOT AN OPTION (I am not talking about a VERY OCCASIONAL violent or unstable parent from whom a child JUSTIFIABLY must be protected). My conclusion in the question of harm done to children, when parents break-up their marriage, is that it is a Torah duty to do all that is necessary, no matter what the sacrifice or cost, to guard and save the children from any and all harm.

This is not a matter of which of the parents is right or wrong. It is a matter of: IF YOU HARM A CHILD, YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY WRONG! You might be right in other aspects of the case. But once you harm, deprive or diminish a child - even psychologically or morally - you switch from being right to being wrong. You are a mazik (damager), and, in Torah law, one who damages is automatically and entirely wrong and accountable. It is entirely possible for there to be two people who are wrong in a break-up which damages that couple's child.

When a dysfunctional generation produces a second dysfunctional generation, the second generation has less of a psychological and ethical foundation from which to build. Therefore, troubled families can be severely disadvantaged in attempts to nurture and guide children to form healthy personality and attitudes; strong morals, character and relationships. Children can grow up angry, resentful, irresponsible, defensive, antagonistic, cruel, unstable, depressed, nervous, uncommunicative, rebellious, etc. In other words, parts of them can be psychologically deadened or crippled. This means that there will be more decline as the dysfunction snowballs into a subsequent generation. This makes society as a whole decline further, pulls us all down, drains our resources and energy, causes progressively more harm and destruction - and further decline as time goes on.


When a Jewish divorce case ends up in secular court, there are many problems. If the case did not go to court with the consent of a bais din, the partner who brought the case could be "in chairem" (halachic outcast of the Jewish people) and may lose the right to bring the case to bais din if this ever subsequently is wanted, the case can be a public chillul Hashem (profanation of G-d, for which one may never have atonement) or may provoke anti-semitism or scoffing, the child can be made a pawn or used as a weapon by one of the parents and become psychologically broken or distorted by the evil process, the woman may never achieve her get from the husband who she wants to separate from, or she may impede her ability to obtain a get settlement until she re-establishes a relationship between the father and each of his children.

People get caught up in their arguments, passions, demands and excuses. They lose sight of the impact they have on others, especially those who they allege to love. You will be slaughtering your children for your aims and desires. WHEN YOU ARE WILLING TO MAKE A SACRIFICE OF YOUR CHILDREN FOR SELFISH AIMS OR TO CONTROL OUTCOMES, CLAIMS OF LOVE FOR THEM IS A LIE. YOU YOURSELF ARE A CHILD AND THE ONLY CHILD WHO YOU LOVE.

The impact of how you dissolve a marriage can continue for generations. When a Jew marries, it is "kidaas Moshe ViYisroel (according to Torah law and Jewish religion)." All aspects of a Jew's marriage are governed - including, rachmana litzlan, how to terminate that marriage, if necessary. The Jew must approach termination of marriage in a mature, responsible, "mentshlach" and long-run manner; with reason, halacha and two-sidedness.

If you are past getting counseling on how to save your marriage, get CONSTRUCTIVE counseling on HOW TO SAVE ITS TERMINATION. Many more issues than you realize can be negotiated amicably and settled without antagonism or outside arbitrators. Clearing those issues out of the way can make resolving the remaining (or larger) issues much simpler and calmer when resorting to bais din. For example, rather than a wife fighting for tutor-money from the father, the father should learn with his son; or jointly and voluntary working out custody and visitation arrangements in which the mother parts with the child according to their schedule and the father financially maintains the child.

Make the safety and well-being of your children an uncompromisable and non-negotiable priority. If you break a stranger's window and G-d says you have to pay in full for all damages; if you break your own children, how much moreso will He require you to pay in full for all damages!



One of the most tragic casualties of a bad or dissolved marriage can be the children. They are innocent of the failings or incompatibility of the parents. Yet, they can be among the most harshly and lastingly penalized. The fighting, accusing, condemning by one parent against the other can result in psychological crippling that not only impacts them, but their marriages and offspring for generations to come. They will be hurt themselves and will hurt the people they marry, people who they relate to in any number of arenas of life and their descendants. They may very well choose unhealthy marriage partners who play into their neuroses or unhealthy emotional needs. Their role models and influence for marital conduct will be destructive and perverse. So how is a couple to save their children from being psychologically, spiritually and morally harmed by marital break-up?

It is imperative that parents, no matter how warlike their feelings may be for each other, shield the children from their animosity or any negative impact of their break up. Make it clear that the parents cannot be happy with each other (in a way that enables both parents to appear to the children to be good). MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE CHILDREN HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG, ARE NOT AT FAULT, ARE VALID AND GOOD BOYS AND GIRLS AND THAT BOTH PARENTS LOVE THEM AND WANT TO STAY CONTINUOUSLY IN A CLOSE AND WARM RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM. Never make them take sides. Never fight nor condemn the other parent in their presence. Keep the children out of and altogether apart from your fight or angry emotions. YOU MUST SACRIFICE YOUR IMPULSES, NOT YOUR CHILDREN. In front of them always be calm, positive and rational. To do otherwise may give a fleeting emotional satisfaction or sense of victory, but you can destroy a fundamental part of children that may never be brought back to life. That is more cruel and injurious than your spouse will ever be. The damage will last much longer than any damage which your spouse might ever perpetrate. That fleeting glee or conquest is not worth being a psychological murderer. All children need love, security and nurturance - even into young adulthood. If parents, chass vichalila, split up, if anything, they have to band together more (where their children are concerned) and go further than usual to fulfill their responsibilities as parents to raise healthy, spiritual and wholesome children. The parents have to compensate extra for the lack of marital peace in their children's upbringing and experience, and for the lack of a normal and secure home and environment. Go so far as to say good things about the other parent (remember: the other spouse is your children's other parent!). A major component of any negotiations and arrangements must be the children's long-run best interests. Personal negative feelings must be left out. The other parent should not be precluded from ample necessary and sound interaction with the children (unless the other parent is in some way genuinely destructive or dangerous). A frustrated, hostile, vengeful, defensive or subjective person cannot make decisions in such a subject area alone. A frum counselor and a rabbi should be part of any discussions and planning. Objectivity and competent guidance must be assured and maintained the entire time.

Keep life for your children as normal as possible. Be emotionally nurturing. Spend quality time with them, in activities that will assure them that they have what other children have. Make them know solidly that they have two parents, even though those parents can't have a marriage with each other. The separation of the parents should never send a message that the children are separated from the parents. Even if the non-custodial parent moves a distance away geographically, (s)he should never move away mentally. Stay in touch. Keep a regular schedule of phone and in-person contact. Send the message that the parent-child relationship is undiminished. By backing that message up steadily, you will be showing a great act of love which will create short-run benefits for your children as well as long-run benefits FOR THEM AND THEIR CHILDREN.



Divorce is a matter of utmost seriousness in all respects, such as conduct by the couple, impact on the children and all applicable Torah laws necessary to achieve a kosher get (document that establishes genuine termination of the marriage). In Jewish law, only an authorized, knowledgeable and G-d fearing bais din (Torah court) is capable of achieving a valid divorce. Without a kosher get, the marriage has not been ended and the rules of marriage are all fully in force for that couple. If a bais din uses methods unauthorized by the Torah and not sanctioned by the gedolai hador (Torah leaders of the generation), they have achieved nothing good. They achieve only evil including the deception and robbery of desperate and emotional people who are tormented by their failed marriage and therefore vulnerable, chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d), michshol (causing others to stumble in error, harm and sin), the creation of an irreparable split of the Jewish people into two camps by the creation of a population of adulterers whose descendants forever will be momzerim (illegitimate and spiritually defective who are a seperate category of people, in Torah law, from the rest of the Jewish population) - with a fantasy in their minds of legitimization.

There is a so called bais din the proclaims it can give annulments that terminate marriages without a get. Women, whose husbands do not give a get to terminate dead marriages, have been using this phony bais din in the United States and England. These women are told their marriages are over and these women think they are unmarried and available to other men. The gedolim have unanimously declared this "annulment bais din" to be incapable of ending marriages. Their annulments are worthless, the "dayanim" are villains, the women are deceived and the whole matter of this "annulment bais din" is erroneous, evil and unacceptable to the Torah.

Let us analyze how such a dreadful evil can come about and be rationalized.

The Torah tells us how ten of the twelve spies (who went to look at Israel for 40 days) brought back an evil report of the land and discouraged the nation from believing in G-d and from wanting to enter. Michtav Me'Eliyahu explains that they had self-interests and preconceived notions and they bent the data to fit with these. One sheeta in Chazal is that they even intended to keep the Jewish nation in the desert for frum (religious) reasons. In the desert they were fed manna so no one would have to work and everyone could learn Torah full time. When they saw numerous funerals (which Hashem made to keep them from being discovered and captured) and the huge fruit of the land, they "force fed" their pre-determined conclusions into the data and constructed the report that the land would kill the Jewish people. The Michtav says that their sin was to basically make their decision first and then manipulate the data to fit the decision which they made before they even started their journey; instead of collecting data, analyzing it, and making an objective report based on the results of that information. They had their conclusion before they started.

The gemora says that Parshas HaChodesh (in honor of the first day of Nisan) should come before Parshas Para (2nd of Nisan). The Para (red heifer which removes tumas mais) symbolizes tahara (spiritual purity) and the removal of tuma (spiritual impurity). Even though putting Parshas Para first reverses chronological order, Para comes before HaChodesh in our calendar, because tahara must come before renewal. The red heifer must be burned with cedar and hyssop. These represent the largest and smallest in vegetation, corresponding with the largest and smallest in midos: arrogance and humility; and the largest and smallest in spiritual distance from G-d: tuma representing the largest distance from G-d and tahara representing optimum closeness to G-d. Tuma originated with death, from Adam. He brought sin into the world, which originated from arrogance (I can choose what I want over what G-d wants). The ashes of the red heifer remove the tuma of death. We have the merit for the red heifer from Avrohom's saying, "Anochi ofor vi'aifer (I am dust and ashes)" showing that he had extreme humility.

The person who does the ritual of the red heifer, which is burned with hyssop and cedar, must make himself transition from big to small; this purifies tumas mais. This is something the Torah does not allow us to understand. It is a chok (Torah rule above human comprehension). Doing G-d's will without understanding is the paragon of humility and it is this which makes Hashem love the Jew as a father loves his child. Being humble is considered the same as one who did all the sacrifices of the Torah. We merit being the children of G-d because of "naaseh vinishma": we do G-d's will. Understanding G-d's infinite logic is not our priority. G-d will not let our commitment to His will bring us hurt because what He tells us is what a loving father tells His child to do for the child's good. All which G-d does is for ultimate good.

An aguna is a woman whose husband disappears without a trace so that she has neither the benefit of marriage or of divorce. Unless the husband turns up alive, she is stuck and can not remarry unless kosher testimony establishes that the husband is known to have died. When a bais din declares that a marriage is finished and then the husband refuses to give a get, a woman is said to be an aguna. She is stuck and can not remarry. This applies only if a kosher bais din declares that the marriage is over. A woman cannot claim herself to be an aguna. She is no aguna if her husband does not give a get when, for example,

* a woman says she is fed up with the marriage and unilaterally demands a divorce,

* she sets up a situation which provokes the husband into refraining from giving a get (e.g. she wants to fight her husband for unreasonable child custody terms or demands an unjustifiably large amount of money),

* she takes her divorce case to a secular court or

* she falsely accuses the husband of a crime to invent a police case against him for her own advantage.

She only has the status of aguna if an authorized bais din rules that, in Torah law, she is an aguna.

Things which happen to a person (including when a woman is an agunah) are from a blend of Heavenly sources: tests, individual Providence and measure for measure response from Heaven to one's deeds. We have to deal with whatever situation G-d sends according to Torah, according to mesorah (time honored tradition) and our great leaders.

If any mortal decides that finding annulments is compassion for the agunah, even with "frum" reasons (to save oppressed agunas), this is the mistake of the meraglim (spies) who estabished a goal, with good intentions, sought data that could be subjectively forced into the preconceived goal and brought destruction. From the spies we have Tisha B'Av, the burning down of the two Batay Mikdosh, the Inquisition, 1900 years of exile and persecution. This is not Torah. This is treason against tradition and our sages, this is arrogance, spiritual impurity and putting one's own will and intellect before G-d's. The result of sin, like with Adam, is death, tuma and distancing from G-d. The results include such serious violations aishess ish (adultery), irrepparable momzairus for all resulting children and unjustifiably breaking klall Yisroel into two camps.

There is a law that in any matter that comes from the Torah and is in doubt, we must be strict (suffaik de'oraisa lechumra). Divorce is a matter from the Torah. If there is the least doubt about any annulment, we must take the stringent view and consider the women who have been to the annulment bais din to still be fully married to their original husband. The annulment has no halachic reality. Men who consider involvement with such women are "playing with fire." Women who relied on this bais din were decieved and have nothing from it. That is NOT compassion.

The only course is for those of the "annulment camp" to make themselves small and humble like Avrohom our father, do tshuva; return to Torah, tahara, closeness to G-d. Pirkei Avos says to do His will that HaShem do your will, that only groups who are leshaim Shomayim (purely for the sake of Heaven) will have lasting impact and that the ONLY goal of halacha learning is G-D'S truth. One who is shona halachos (diligently and honesty studies Torah law every day) will have true results in this world and will obtain olam habo (eternity). Only from G-d is compassion that is real, kosher and lasting. Tahara must come before renewal.

One of the greatest sources of happiness for a psychologically normal woman is to be secure with the abiding love and respect of a good husband. The Talmud tells us that a woman's nature is to prefer a less than perfect marriage than to being alone. This still applies today. However, this refers to a normal marriage that functions sanely. A woman wouldn't want a marriage today if it is selfish, abnormal and dysfunctional. For the "annulment bais din" to say in print that the gemora does not apply today is distortion, sacrilege and subjectivity. This alone proves they are not valid spokesmen for Torah. People today do not behave in marriages the way they did in the days of Chazal. Take it from a Talmudic marriage counselor!

Matters of divorce are extremely serious and must only be handled by a bais din which is universally recognized throughout the Torah camp.

If all of our approaches and actions accord with the will of G-d, and are purely for the sake of Heaven, He will enlighten and help us to valid, satisfactory and long-run agunah remedies. In the merit of Jewry all living with Torah-true lifestyles, thinking and marriages; may all of the cruelty, sin and insanity of the agunah dilemma be remedied soon and effectively, and with the universal approval of our Torah leaders.



Two well known bits of conventional wisdom tell us that pressure can sometimes work to prevail on an "agunah-making husband" to give a get and that the "agunah maker" at times is a person with a poor self-image. He has no solid sense of any person's importance, well-being or happiness. Occasionally, these factors have formed the basis for strategy in attempting to help a woman to receive her get from a stubborn, spiteful, malicious, boorish or maladjusted fellow. However, the approaches have often backfired (e.g. causing him to flee or to stubbornly dig his heels in more than ever), depending on a combination of factors such as circumstances, his midos, his psychological condition and history, and his individual marriage relationship. To be clear, we must state that agunah is a halachic state and it is only legitimate to use the term with the consent of a competent bais din which poskined that the man must give a get, and he refused to obey the din/verdict. A "certified rasha" or a lunatic may have to be approached with a tough "hardball" approach, as a practical matter.

However, there are some men who will be better approached by cleverly increasing the amount of esteem, kavod and approval in their lives in a way that creates a greater stake in giving his wife a get. If he can be made to recognize human worth in himself, he can be made to see some in his wife. For example, if his rabbi can give him more honor, approval or responsibility in shul (not less, as some might think), some men will start to feel a greater sense of importance, self-respect and contentment as a human being. After a while, the rabbi will be in a position to speak to the man from the vantage point of how such an esteemed man cannot act towards his wife in such an inappropriate and hurtful manner. By his self-concept being built up, he can better empathize with his impact on his wife, her feelings and the harm he is doing to his children and his neshama.

Frum business associates who can be reached may try a comperable strategy. For example, they can praise him as a great businessman, supplier, customer or worker. Friends and neighbors can enlist the person into community projects. The point in all of this is to find ways to change the husband's mental frame of reference (in cases with potential application). A related technique I use in marriage counselling is to change a quarreling spouse's negative expectations from the partner. For example, if a couple has been warring intensely for a long period of time, one or both are conditioned to be defensive, to expect rejection or anger or attack or criticism. The person jumps into a "fight mode." I try to "short circuit" the pattern by re-training the other to behave better. This gradually invalidates the expectation of rejection, argument or hurt. Fighting no longer works because the other is learning not to attack or sting. The person has to finally deal with the need not to behave in an irrational and warring manner.

Also, when a person is trained to acquire self-esteem, a new experience of fulfillment, comfort with life and maturing can set in.

By combining these two concepts (invalidating negative "snap reactions" and developing a grasp of positive feelings), some people can start to attribute weight to proper behavior towards others as they come to realize that people can and should feel well about life - and that they have responsbility to not negatively impact these wholesome feelings in anyone else.

With prudent handing, patience, and the unified cooperation of mentchlach people in the husband's personal, religious, business and/or communal life; an entire world of opportunities can open up for those agunahs who can enlist positive strategic aid to influence the husband.