Before my husband and I got married, there were certain errands we needed to do for the wedding. We had to choose a menu, hire a band and pick a hall.
We also had to get a halachic prenup.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, a halachic prenuptial agreement seeks to prevent both parties from withholding a get, a Jewish divorce document.
In essence, if either party attempts to withhold the get, they will be hit with financial penalties that will be legally enforceable in a court of law.
The halachic prenup came about as the result of a movement to address the growing agunah crisis in the religious community. An agunah, or a “chained woman,” is a woman who has not received a get from her husband, and thus remains halachically married to him.
She is unable to remarry or move on with her life, and any children she has with someone else would be considered mamzerim (children of a halachically illicit relationship) and have a compromised religious status. While in theory that also stands for the man – he may not remarry if his wife refuses to give him a get – the halachic ramifications are different.
Under strict biblical law, a man may have more than one wife. While that is not currently the case, should a man without a get have children with another woman, his children are considered legitimate. An agunah’s children would not have that same status.
As well, it is highly uncommon for a woman to withhold a get, yet unfortunately not uncommon enough for a man to deny his wife a get. Regardless, under the halachic prenup, women who withhold a get face the same financial penalties as men.
And if all of this reads as some kind of highly impersonal history project, believe me when I tell you that it got very personal.
‘it should be clear that no reason is legitimate – withholding a get is spousal abuse’
After we signed this contract, my husband and I were referenced on the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) Facebook page.
Another group on Facebook, ORA Watch, which has dedicated itself to protesting the halachic prenup, categorizing it as a radical, feminist, man-hating document, posted my picture and my comments and referred to the signing of this halachic prenup as a “new low in Modern Orthodox life.”
Although I knew better than to engage with online trolls, I felt that this merited a response, because I think it’s important for the Orthodox community to see the extent of the vitriol that is sometimes directed at women and those who seek to protect and empower them.
There is literally no logical reason to oppose a halachic prenup. Stating that the prenup is prejudicial to men is inaccurate in both the spirit and the law of the document.
Before the halachic prenup, women had little to no protection from the withholding of a get. It was a tactic that could be employed by recalcitrant husbands for a number of reasons, ranging from wanting to use it as leverage to sheer spite. And it should be clear that no reason is legitimate – withholding a get is spousal abuse.
The halachic prenup is an attempt to level the playing field by providing equal power to each party. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not prejudiced against men simply because it does not elevate them. The fact that ORA Watch views the halachic prenup as anti-men, rather than simply both pro-men and pro-women, speaks to a fundamental truth: equality always feels like oppression to the oppressor.
Theirs is not a question of seeking equality; it is a question of seeking dominance. Their voices are loud but few. Their views belong to a time that is long gone and not coming back. History will view them with derision.
And there is something all of us can do to ensure that these voices remain in the past: If you choose to get married, sign a halachic prenup first.
Arielle Wasserman is a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and is currently articling at a Toronto law firm.