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Unchained Melody

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Purim Party with ImaBima and FrumeSarah!

Under Persian law, it was not permissable for one to enter the King’s chambers without first being granted an audience. The text is very clear that this law was known to everyone in the land and was applied equally to all. No exceptions. Not even the Queen. The text goes on to say that Queen Esther fasted for three days in preparation to go before the King without a summons. She asked Mordechai to have the Jews fast and pray on her behalf.

Since that time, the day before Purim (which falls on the 13th of Adar) has been known as Taanit Esther — the Fast of Esther. It is the only day that commemorates the power of a single woman to change the course of Jewish history. Pretty amazing.

In modern times, the observance of this fast day is not so widespread. To be honest, I’m not so sure the observance of Purim proper is so widespread — with the obvious exception of school-aged children. And if the fun part isn’t being observed, you can bet that the hard, mournful aspect is being chucked too!

And so….

Taanit Esther has been designated as International Agunah Day.

An agunah is a woman who is chained to her marriage either because her husband has taken a powder or because he refuses to grant her a divorce.

What more appropriate way to recognize Esther’s heroism than by fighting for the rights and freedoms of other Jewish women.

The International Coalition for Agunah Rights has scheduled a variety of events in order to publicizie this very real violation of human rights. They have published a booklet in Hebrew “Solutions in Halacha to Get recalcitrance – sources to learn together” including a suggested lesson plan. Contact the ICAR offices for a copy. An environmentally friendly tote bags with the slogan “Marriage is not a Life Sentence” were made by people with disabilities in a factory in southern Israel and can be purchased at COMME-IL-FAUT stores. And there is information and resources available at the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

Finally, you can add your name to the petition denouncing get recalcitrance

Creator of heaven and earth, may it be Your will to free the captive wives of Israel when love and sanctity have fled the home, but their husbands bind them in the tatters of their ketubot. Remove the bitter burden from these agunot and soften the hearts of their misguided captors. Liberate Your faithful daughters from their anguish. Enable them to establish new homes and raise up children in peace.

Grant wisdom to the judges of Israel; teach them to recognize oppression and rule against it. Infuse our rabbis with the courage to use their power for good alone.

Blessed are you, Creator of heaven and earth, who frees the captives.

English Tefillah by Shelley Frier List. Hebrew Translation by Devorah Ross and Esther Israel. From the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) website.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Dadgiraffe permalink
    Wednesday, 19 March 2008 11:37 pm

    Thanks for bringing this petition to my attention. This is a matter that has pained me for a long time. I signed the petition, and hope many will join me.

  2. Mordechai HaYehudi permalink
    Friday, 21 March 2008 2:23 pm

    I think I would be much more open to signing on if your text were to include a plea for men whose wives refuse to accept a Get as well. This is a huge problem as there are many women who for various reasons refuse to do so. It might be their deep anger at their husbands for initiating a divorce (refusing to accept the Get prohibits the husband from moving forward in his life as well) or as simple as the desire to stay on the husbands health insurance policy. It’s extremely ironic when it was the woman who initiated the divorce and then refuses to take the Get! I recently heard the M’nahal of a major Bais Din in a major American city speak. He said that while the issue at hand is widely publicized when it comes to women, in his 25 years of experience facilitating hundreds of Jewish Halachic divorces, he has seen almost as many women being uncooperative as he has seen men! I’m all for human rights which is how I indeed do see this issue, but not when one group portrays themselves as the lone victims while others are also suffering. Let’s get real and demand respect EQUAL rights for all of our families that have had to endure the emotional upheaval, the huge disappointments and not to mention the incredible costs that comes with the ending of a marriage. When there is a new text posted which asks both women and men to act like mentchen during a difficult period you will have my support.

  3. Frume Sarah permalink
    Friday, 21 March 2008 5:34 pm

    DadGiraffe — thanks for signing!

    Mordechai — I really appreciate your position. I agree that both men and women should act appropriately and grant (or accept) the Get and women who refuse to accept the Get are in the wrong as well.

    That being said, unless you are working to help create a document that asks both men and women to behave properly, I am not certain what benefit comes from you witholding your support. You are right that a truly EQUAL document would incorporate both genders. So I hope that you use your considerable passion to forward that cause.

    In the meantime, you might choose to sign the petition as a first step.

  4. WebGirl permalink
    Tuesday, 25 March 2008 1:37 pm

    When women withhold a get, their husbands have halachic alternatives. Their husbands’ future children will never be considered mamzerim.

    Not so when men withhold a get. Their wives have NO halachic alternatives.

    Both actions are reprehensible, but there is no moral equivalence and their causes are not equal.

  5. Mordechai HaYehudi permalink
    Tuesday, 25 March 2008 9:50 pm

    The ex husband to be is unable to go on a date or remarry. He cannot move on with his life…either. The only Halachic remedy is Meah Rabbonim which while true, is not available to women, find me a Bais Din which has applied it in this generation. There is strong moral equivalence.

  6. Yael permalink
    Thursday, 27 March 2008 2:20 pm

    Check this out. The Beit Din of America also performs such a procedure (but they obviously did not give details on their website). Why is he unable to go on a date or remarry? I am sure that there are Orthodox rabbis who are willing to officiate at such a wedding. I don’t think rabbis actually think twice before signing a heter meah rabbanim. There was a rally at YU (attended by both men and women) to protest the abuse of the system *precisely* because they were given.

    Frume Sarah: I love the (dare I say sarcarstic use of) “matir asurim” at the end.

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