|Zvia Gordetsky - an Agunah who has begun a hunger strike|
I cannot understand it at all. It is one of the more perplexing aspects of Halacha.
An Israeli woman by the name of Zvia Gordetsky has been seeking a Get (religious divorce) for 17 years. She is now 53 years old. Which means that she was only 36 when she first sought it. Her child bearing years are over. Why did she seek a divorce? From the Times of Israel:
Gordetsky first asked for a divorce “because of a tragic incident of domestic violence” in which she lost a baby, days before she was due to give birth.
The Beis Din ordered her husband to grant her the Get within 30 days - on penalty of incarceration if he didn’t. He refused. He has been sitting in jail – solitary confinement - since then. Still no Get. The Beis Din has since done everything in its power to pressure her husband to do it. Nothing doing
I cannot fathom the depths of depravity of such a man. This fellow is willing to stay in jail for the rest of his life (it seems) just so that his wife will suffer? What kind of human being does that?
I know that there are always 2 sides to every story. And we haven’t heard his. But anyone who is as evil as this guy is has lost his right to have a side! Unless he was psychotic at the time of the marriage without divulging that to his wife. In which case an annulment would be appropriate since that would surely allow for it Halachicly as a Mekach Taus under the rules of Hafka’as Kedushin . This is where a marriage is considered a mistake having been fooled into marrying someone she would have never married has she known of a major defect. A man who suffers from psychosis at the time of the marriage is plainly in that category.
Mrs. Gordetsky is at her wit’s end and has recently begun a hunger strike to gain attention for her cause. She hopes to get an annulment ruling from the Israeli government that would obviate the need for a Get. Israel hasn’t done it yet.
I’m not sure how or if would work. Hafka’as Kiddushin is a rather obscure method of freeing a chained woman and is rarely used. The last time anything like this was tried on a major scale was when Rabbi Emanuel Rackman determined that an abusive husband qualified for Hafka’as Kedushin. He set up a Beis Din that would grant an annulment to an Agunah that was denied a Get and claimed that the reason they wanted one was because they were physically abused during the marriage. Had they known they would have never married their husbands.
Many Agunos applied and received that annulment from Rabbi Rackman’s associate in this endeavor, Rabbi Moshe Morgenstern. But every Posek in the world, including Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik rejected it as illegitimate. They considered these women to still be married. And any offspring from a subsequent marriage were declared to be Mamzerim – a very serious and problematic status for a Jew to be in. One from which they can never extricate themselves.
Why such a claim is not valid is beyond the scope of this post. All I will say about it is that I personally don’t understand why a claim of abuse is not considered legitimate enough to annul a marriage. But it is beyond my pay-grade to dispute all the venerable Poskim that reject it.
The problem of Agunos is not new. Nor is the existence of recalcitrant husbands unique. Unfortunately there are some very vindictive people out there that don’t mind suffering the consequences as long as they know their recalcitrance will inflict emotional pain on their wives.
That may not indicate a psychosis. But it sure comes close! What to do about them is the question of the day. Mrs. Gordetsky by starting a hunger strike has once again put this issue on the front burner. I hope this new attention will bear some fruit. But I tend to doubt it. Halacha is pretty clear on these matters. And Rabbis are not insensitive to their light. But their hands are tied.
The results aren’t pretty. I just don’t get why women in these situations are made to suffer. It truly tests the limits of ‘Deracheha Darkei Noam’ – ‘The ways (of the Torah) are pleasant ways’. Not for Mrs. Gordetsky, and not for all other Agunos, it seems.