It's worth reading about the Tzohar Rabbis: they are trying to put a more open and modern face on the Rabbinical Establishment in Israel. I applaud their efforts to compete with the monopoly that the Rabbanut holds on marriage and divorce in this country.

Still, I worry that the Tzohar Rabbis may remain squarely Orthodox (and more important orthodox- with a lower case "o") in their halakhic thinking. And I wonder if they will have the gall to uproot some of the systematic inequities that lead to the problems of mesorovot get, as described in this creative article.

Painting by Cricket Diane C Phillips
The recent Air France plane crash has halakhic consequences for one women whose husband was on the flight. While she and her family had a natural reaction to plan a memorial ceremony after the coast guard began finding the awful remains of the plane and its passengers, the Rabbis were debating her status as a married woman, an agunah, or a widow.

If a woman's husband disappears, she must remain in limbo, awaiting the facts of his absence. The talmud says, if a man drowns in a Yam Shayin lo sof, a sea that has no end (a very large one), then the Rabbis free her on the assumption that we have enough (if not 100%) proof that he died.

I don't want to add my own comments today,  for this issue feels like a Sea of tears with no end, for the widow, for agunot of all types of cases, and for mesoravot get.

I do have to say the comments on this recent article intrigued me.  While I disagreed with a few, overall I was glad to see a civil public debate on the topic. 

Recent invitation to rally for an aguna.
I recently came across an energetic invitation on-line to a rally against a man who is refusing to give his wife a get, a Jewish Divorce. The strategy of helping such women by complicating a man’s comfort in his community- taking away his right to be called up to the Torah or boycotting his business – is quite an old idea. Trying to convince but not force a husband to give his wife a get has been the preoccupation of Jewish leaders since the Talmud. Softer than the Rambam’s plan to beat offending men until they said “yes I want to give this get,” most Rabbis today sanction using community and consumer pressure as a way to right the wrong.

I was glad to come across the invitation for this specific rally and am always glad to hear of people who are dedicated enough to the cause to take to the streets and yell about it. However I still have to admit that these individual rallies fall short of my dreams of an ultimate end to the problem. By exerting so much energy on fighting each man on his turf, we simply continue the status quo, which places all the key to unlock marriage entirely in man’s hand, a basic power differential that will always lead to manipulations and abuses of the divorce process.

The invitation to this rally earnestly wanted to persuade people to participate and so it read: “Come out to protect your daughters!” Unfortunately this very well meant call to action reeks of paternalism. Do they only expect men to show up at the rally? Maybe, maybe not. But the underlying point is clear: women need men’s help. A grown woman, who may be a professional, a mother, and clearly a wife, is transformed back into a child, a daughter of the community. However successful this rally may be, the woman’s status in the community will always be in need of protection until the very structure of marriage is equalized.


I never though Rabbi Herschel Shachter of YU would be called a Feminist!
Apparently ORA and the Rabbis at a recent rally for agunot are doing a good job. If the charedi world is ranting about you on their blogs  - you are probably making them anxious and making a dent. More power to you.


This post - about a rally that included Modern Orthodox Rabbis pressuring other Rabbis to treat women in the divorce process with more respect - is refreshing. If only we had a few Rabbis here in Israel who were brave enough to stand up and and target specific Rabbis who abuse their power.