Pledge of Compassion and Dignity

27/06/2017
Every Jewish woman who is married is in danger of becoming an aguna-- a woman anchored to her Jewish marriage with no ability to obtain a get, a Jewish bill of divorce. Even when a couple is getting along and in love, a tragic event can catapult a woman into a state of aginut from which she will not be able to break free. For example, if her husband is suddenly injured in the head as a result of an accident or illness, or if he suffers from a mental illness, she will be unable to divorce from him since he lacks the capacity to deliver a get to her. As such, she will be prevented from marrying another person and getting on with her life.

In recent years, many couples have turned to the Center for Women's Justice to find out if there is a way to avoid such situations in advance. Just as we buy insurance for our homes, our health, and on our lives in order to better protect ouselves and our loved ones in case of unexpected and tragic emergencies, and just as many couples sign prenuptial agreements before marriage, so too are married people in happy relationships seeking to find ways to prevent aginut.

Since it is a basic rule in Jewish laws that a woman can be released from her marriage only when her husband delivers a get to her --or dies-- it is clear that the solution must focus on the get. The solution that we propose and think that every couple should adopt is a "Power of Attorney to Grant a Get". The meaning of such a power of attorney is that the husband appoints other persons as his agent to deliver a get to his wife in case he himself is unable to do so. A similar solution was proposed at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the IDF. Out of concern for the wives of soldiers, Rabbi Goren drafted an order calling on every married soldier to sign such a power of attorney before going into battle. The idea was that if a soldier did not return from the battle but was absent or captured, a man's agents would write a get and deliver it to his wife in his stead. 

The Power of Attorney drafted by the Center for Women's Justice, which we call a "Bill of Aginut Insurance" (in Hebrew) or "Pledge of Compassion and Dignity" (in English) permits a rabbinic court to grant a get to a woman, if necessary, instead of her husband. This is not an actual get. Nor is it a conditional get. It is an appointment of an agent by the husband to act on his behalf. The document was drafted by the Center for Women's Justice under the tutelage, encouragements, and direction of halachic authorities: Rabbi David Bigman, Rosh Yeshiva of Maale Gilboa; Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig, (Past) Rosh Yeshiva Shvut Yisrael of Efrat, Congregational Rabbi in Beit Shemesh, and educator at Midreshet Lindenbaum; and Malka Piotrkowsky, from Ein Prat Yeshiva, Misdreshet Lindenbaum, Beit Midrash Migdal Oz , all of whom endorse the Center's Bill of Aginut Insurance.

 

Do the rabbis who sit on the official Israeli Rabbinical Courts also endorse the Center's Bill of Aginut Insurance as a solution to the problem of aginut? As of yet, we have not been able to get the express consent of these rabbis to the Center's Bill of Aginut Insurance. However, from our experience, and because the solution is halakhic, we believe that when an actual tragic and severe case of agunot comes before the court --and note, not a case of divorce refusal-- the rabbis will adopt every halachic measure available to them in order to help the woman. However, if the rabbis do not have documents available to them such as the one proposed, the halakhic possibilities of the court are limited. Therefore, it is advisable to all couples to adopt whatever preemptive measures are available to them to prevent aginut.

Signing the Power of Attorney is very simple. Print the attached document and have the husband sign it before two competent witnesses who will also sign it. The witnesses must be kosher in terms of halakhah -- men who observe the mitzvot and who are not related one to the other, and are not related to any of the spouses). The document should be kept at home, perhaps in the place where the ketuba or other important documents are stored. And then you can forget about it.

Our goal is to help every couple. But the ultimate goal of the Center for Women's Justice is to immunize all the population of Jewish women from the tragedy of aginut.

Sign! Sign! Sign! Every man and woman who is married according to the law of Moses and Israel and wants to protect a woman from the undesired and unavoidable consequences of an unexpected tragedy must sign.

And we pray that you will never need it.

 

 * A file with the text of the Power of Attorney is attached below, as well as the halakhic explanation of the POA written by Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig, for those interested in understanding the halakhic implications in depth. You are welcome to contact us for questions: 02-5664390

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