Shabbat Parashat Noach | 5770
Parashat Hashavuah: Home Remedy for the Survival of the EarthHarav Yosef Carmel
Rabbinical courts are apprehensive about using coercion to facilitate a get out of fear that, if done improperly, it will render the get invalid and subject the subsequent unknowing couple that the get enabled, to live in sin and bear mamzerim. However, the courts must remember that if this concern is taken to an extreme, women will be unduly kept “in chains”, which is against the age-old rabbinic tradition to search for every validly possible measure to permit an aguna. The refusal to act even by a few rabbinical courts can be responsible for the ire of women’s advocacy groups and the community as a whole against rabbinical courts in general.
Let us take a look at coerced divorces in the context of our parasha’s main topic, the generation of the flood. The spiritual reasons that “precipitated” the vast ecological disaster were raised in Bereishit: “The sons of the powerful saw that the daughters of man were good, and they took women from whomever they chose” (Bereishit 6:2). The midrash (Rabba 26) says that this refers to the taking of married women. Ibn Ezra says that the husbands could do nothing about it because the perpetrators were the sons of the judges. Other commentators give other possibilities about the nature of this powerful group of elitists.
Unfortunately, history has shown us that there are various ways for the powerful to claim even the married women of their desire, including in “legal” ways. The powerful pressure the socially weak husband to divorce his wife or else … Getting from there to finding a newly divorced bride is not too difficult.
To deal with cases such as this is certainly a worthy use of the restrictions on a coerced divorce. Another is to prevent a woman from abandoning a worthy husband because she has improperly fallen in love with someone else (see Nedarim 90b). In contrast, holding on to the claim of a coerced get in order to extract financial gain or to “take revenge” against a wife is against halacha. It also lends a hand to those who want to destroy the holy foundations of the Jewish, and universal, for that matter, family unit.
Noach’s ark served as a place of refuge for a normative family: father Noach, mother Naama, three sons and their wives, and even mates among the animal world. This is a message for generations. The future survival of man on our planet has more to do with our clinging to family values than to recycling and other ecological measures, which we also value. A mother, father, and upstanding children, not just for the Jewish people but for all of the nations of the world, are our security against foreboding horrible storms.
Specifically, after the “white holiday” of Yom Kippur, when we read about the prohibitions of illicit relations, and the “green holiday” of Sukkot, when we went out into nature, let us call on the rabbinical courts to strengthen the family unit. We encourage the survival of families based on the principles of mutual respect and fidelity, but not based on using elements of our system for any form of extortion.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
ben Yehudah Mayer
a lover of the Jewish Nation Torah and Land
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.