We present here various tips on saving marriages, children
Saving Marriages by Thinking of the Welfare of
We have in the past years,
in various media and publications, taught the public the laws of family,
marriage and divorce. We emphasize that a coerced GET can usually be invalid,
and if the woman remarries with an invalid GET, her children are probably
The gemora says that Beth
Din is the Father of Orphans. What greater orphan can there be than a mamzer or
a child who if his mother has a kosher GET will be a kosher child. But if his
mother has an invalid GET, he will be born a mamzer.
We therefore emphasize that
if a husband or wife is upset with their spouse, and want a divorce, they have
to consider the children. See gemora Pesachim 87b about maintaining a marriage
with a wicked woman because there are children, even if the children may be
mamzerim. Also Pesachim 113b if a man has an evil wife but has children he has
a problem divorcing her.
The gemora discusses saving
children by continuing with a wicked wife. But the same principle can be true
with a wife who has a wicked husband. If she gets a divorce and the children
suffer, is this right?
I once came to a Beth Din
and the wife was wailing piteously, and the husband was calm and relaxed. The
Rov explained to me that the husband is a baal teshuva who learns in Kollel and
the wife tried very hard to become frum but could not tolerate it. Therefore
the husband divorced her, and she took their child. I went to the Gaon Rav
Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l and asked him if it is permitted to divorce a wife
who is not frum and destroy a child because his wife is not frum. He agreed
with me that this is a problem, and said, “If she will keep taharas hamishpocho
I would permit him to remain with her and not advise him to divorce her and
destroy his child.”
Rabbeinu Tam says in his famous
teshuva about coerced Gittin that a woman has to remain an Agunah all of her
life rather than take a GET that rabbis of approve of but people will assume
that there are problems with it, thus creating laaz or suspicions that the
child is a mamzer. Yes, a woman must give up her life to protect her child from
suspicions that he is a mamzer. But today we have ladies going to rabbis who coerce
Gittin and make mamzerim. Beth Din is the “father of orphans” and we must fight
We are not saying that
nobody with children should be divorced. We are saying that two Torah Jews who
are considering divorce should consider their children.
There are many rabbis who
encourage women to coerce divorces and this makes mamzerim. People should be
concerned about this. Incredibly, in Philadelphia somebody is encouraging a
married woman to remarry without a GET (even though the husband wants to give a
GET after a visit to Beth Din to clarify custody, etc.. Where is the protest?
Where is the concern?
Children from Divorced Families
The Week Magazine published
studies that show nine problems that affect children from divorced parents.
Such children were over forty percent more likely to smoke. Another study
showed that children of divorced parents are more likely to need Ritalin. Also
a study showed that children from divorced parents have poor math and social
skills relative to children from two-parents homes. Also they suffer anxiety
stress and low self-esteem relative to children from two-family homes. It is
unlikely that they will catch up to their two-family peers. Children of divorce
also develop more health problems than children from stable families. Children
of divorce are more likely to drop out of school. A study showed that ten
percent of children of divorce turn to crime and that eight percent consider
suicide. There is a link between divorced parents and the risk of stroke.
Children of divorce are more likely to get divorced and suffer and early death.
Let us imagine X in a difficult
marriage. She/he sticks it out and has wonderful and successful children. As
she ages she sees children and grandchildren growing up happy and healthy.
Eventually, as time goes on, some of the harsh realities in the marriage begin
to fade and she ends up with a happy marriage. And if not, the happiness of her
children support her.
But let us imagine Y who got a
divorce. She is free from the fiend, but her children suffer. Sometimes they
become angry at her for ruining their two-parent home, or for hurting the
father. Her life will be a struggle. As she gets older, the problems get worse
as some children from broken families suffer from divorce themselves and other
problems. What kind of life is that?
Does it pay to rush into
divorce? Is it right to encourage the right of a wife/man to have a divorce
when there are children?
Not long ago I was talking to a
major Rov in Israel about my Shalom Bayis Beth Din project. Imagine, I said,
when we can have neutral people talking to husband and wife about the problems,
instead of today, when the parents and the friends are involved. They cannot be
neutral. They cannot tolerate the pain of their relative or friend. So they
make hate. The Rov agreed vociferously. How many marriages have been ruined by
parents and friends. Sad, but true.
Not long ago a dear friend called
me up. You know, he said, my wife doesn’t respect me. I was shocked because
these people had lived in peace for decades. What had happened all of a sudden?
I asked him, “Who has been talking to you?” He replied so and so. I said,
“Isn’t so and so just divorced?” Right on. “Get him out of your house.” And
there was once again peace.
The New York Time ran an article
about an apartment building in Manhattan populated by the up and coming
beautiful people. They were couples recently married, successful in business,
and rising in the world financially and socially. Their marriages were special.
One day, it seems, one couple got
a divorce. Not long afterwards, the neighbor of the divorcee got a divorce. It
began, like a contagion, to spread. People tried quarantine, but more and more
people divorced, until the building was devastated by divorces. When a bitter
person talks about their horrible spouse, the next phase is to talk about your
spouse, and after that…
Why does the spouse reject
his/her mate? Let us take an actual case. A woman married a fine Talmid
Chochom, one with the highest integrity and a very good reputation as a scholar.
The wife demanded and got a GET. I was flabbergasted. I called up the father of
the girl and asked him if it was true that his daughter rejected such a
wonderful husband for reasons that I could not fathom. The father sadly replied
that it was true. I asked if I could speak to the daughter. The father agreed.
I asked her if it was true what I heard that the reason she demanded a divorce
was X, something that utterly amazed me. Not only did she admit it. She was,
after the GET, and after she was on the market for a few months when surely
some very attractive boys that she at one time could attract would not now be
interested in her. Did that make a difference to her? Not at all. She was fuming
with fury at her husband because he was not that very uniquely special person
that she demanded.
What was my take on this?
How did a girl who obviously had very lofty qualities to attract her first
husband turn furious with fire because he was not, shall we say, so perfect or so
such a reason? Her father did not want this divorce. So who wanted it?
There is a terrible answer
to this. Some senior person in her life, a rabbi or teacher in Bais Yaacov, put
down the law. Only a husband great and incredible, otherwise, otherwise what? I
don’t want to write it. But that is how a young girl was brain washed into
destroying her life. Because what she wanted is not only extremely rare, but
those people who qualify for that particular level in some areas, are very
often not the best husbands.
What would have been so
terrible if she had married and stayed married? Okay, the shame and horror of
not being perfect is surely something that we cannot tolerate if you go to the
school that this girl went to. But was there nobody, a senior rabbi perhaps,
who could have saved the situation? Good question. But there is also a good
answer, actually a bad answer, but the right answer. The great rabbi who could
have taught this girl to stay married was the one who inspired the girl’s
teacher. A terrible thought. But, these things do happen.
I once went to a Gadol from
the past generation and told him that in Monsey, the holy city of Torah and Yeshivas, somebody had established
a video store, right smack in the middle of town in the business district. I
was sure this Gadol, who was a known fire eater, would get up and give one of
his great lectures to arouse the community to fight this tooth and nail. But
the Gadol did nothing, and completely ignored me. I asked, again and again, and
no reaction at all from him. He ignored me as if I didn’t exist. A voice within
me said, “He ignores you. But you are Mr. Mechutsaf. Turn it on.” I blurted
out, “Rebbe! Hashchoso!” That was what he was waiting for. Suddenly, he woke
up, his eyes flashing, his fingers pointing, a real show. And he said with
great theatric ability, “A Yeshiva is hashchoso.” I felt that I was falling
down, down, down, but a quiet and still voice said to me, “He said that in
public. He has to explain it. Just wait.” So, I just stood there, stunned and
amazed, waiting for the explanation.
I don’t recall the exact
words, nor do I think that the exact words were the purpose of his response.
The first thing he said, that I must look at the problems of the Torah
community instead of worrying so much about the treifeh world. The treifeh
world has a very limited ability in the Torah community, fortunately. But when
somebody wants to do a mitzvah, easily the good deed can turn to hashchoso. As
was the case with this poor girl who was taught to reject her wonderful husband
because he was not as perfect as somebody maintained. Yes, idealism is a terror
in the Torah world.
The Gaon Rav Mayer Mintz, a
major Talmid of the Gadol Reb Aharon Kotler zt”l, once told me the following
story. A Jew had committed a sin that no Jew was ever known to do. People came
to a great rabbi and asked his explanation how a Jew can fall so far. He
replied, “I don’t know how a Jew can do such a terrible thing. But one thing I
do know. He meant leshaim shomayim, he had idealistic motivations. Once
somebody hops a ride on the Torah to do an evil thing, where does it end? Yes,
where does it end? HaShem Yerachem.
A husband battled for years with his wife and refused to
give a GET. The community and his children turned against him, but he was
adamant and kept fighting. I once spoke to him and began reading some teachings
from the Shulchan Aruch. The man jumped up and said, “I need a wife.” He
decided then and there to talk to his children about settling things with his
Problems in marriage are solved with advice in practical
terms from others. But anyone who listens to advice from another can easily
find a reason to reject it, and this happens all the time. When presented,
however, with a clear demand from the Torah, a person has a focus and an
obligation to listen. Thus, dealing with a broken marriage with Torah rulings
can be successful when ordinary suggestions may fail.
What does the Torah say about problems in marriage? First of
all, the Torah, as taught in the Talmud, tells us that the greatest sages had
serious marital problems. These problems were not the result of insensitivity,
chas vishalom. In one case the wife had terrible pain having children and
wanted a GET. But Torah scholars can have problems of all kinds in marriage
just like regular people. And Torah scholars must confront the pain of such
struggles and find in the Torah the strength to continue the proper way. Thus,
the second rule in a damaged marriage is to realize that the Torah did not
consider you a failure and a ruined person because your marriage was in
trouble. This is a common problem, as life is filled with stresses and
confusion and frustrations. There are monetary problems and problems with
children and many other problems. But the Torah demands that we find within our
deepest recesses the strength to maintain the marriage and bring peace. It is
surely not easy and not always successful. Sometimes, nothing helps and
sometimes there must be a GET.
The Chofetz Chaim once told a couple to get divorced.
Somebody asked him, “Does somebody like you advise a GET?” The Chofetz Chaim
replied, “And according to you, why is the law of divorce taught in the Torah
if we should always make peace?”
A third rule is to keep in mind that the greatest love can
easily turn into the greatest hate. We regularly see the most hideous
viciousness between people who share a brood of children, people who are from
the finest families, people who went to all of the best Torah schools, but who
are now sniping and snarling without letup.
Thus, when faced with
a serious marital rupture it is crucial to bring the problems to a
senior rabbi or Beth Din rather than to find guidance with relatives and
friends, who will pour oil on the flames with their biased understanding of the
situation. The people who deal with a divorce should not be predisposed to one
side of the fight but should be people who are not biased in any way. Included
in this is the need to find somebody who is not biased about if the greatest
importance is to help men or to help women. The person who helps must be free
As I mentioned before, I told a senior Israeli Rov that my
Shalom Bayis Beth Din program does away with parents and good friends
“advising” the couple how to destroy the other one. The Rov agreed
enthusiastically. Of course, he knew much more than I do what happens when
parents and friends mix into the fight. How can a parent understand both sides
properly when one side is a son or daughter?
Once a marriage was in trouble and somebody immediately
intervened and got a very smart rabbi involved who didn’t know husband or wife.
The parents were not informed until things were all organized and ready for the
worst. Then the parents were told and encouraged to leave the problems to the
rabbi, who did a wonderful job of saving the couple from the common wars and
hate that destroy children. Now the couple separated without one word from either
spouse to the children about the evil of the other spouse. Now the couple
separated with nobody ever hearing hate from one spouse about the other one.
People were amazed when they saw that there were even kind words exchanged
between the separated individuals and the estranged spouse’s family. Everyone
knows that when you separate in a marriage the first rule is to make the other
one pay, to speak loshon hora, to demonize them. Well, that is not in the
Torah. Surely not. But it is done all of the time by people who do learn Torah,
but when egged on by relatives and friends, can descend to the worst hate.
Today there is a great tendency to find a rabbi who permits
coercing a GET. But such a GET is considered by the great rabbis a coerced and
invalid GET. And remarrying with a coerced GET when the Torah forbids coercion
can make mamzerim. Thus, we must realize that not all rabbis know the laws of
Gittin, and not all rabbis can overcome their prejudices to one side or the
other to rule as it says in Shulchan Aruch.
Somebody once called me up and ranked me out for opposing
coercing husbands to give a GET that is against the Shulchan Aruch. I listened
to all of his ranting but then asked a
simple question: What is your source to disagree with me? My sources are
this that and the other source in the Torah. What is your source? I was told
some mumbling and no real source. Eventually, that person came around to
realize that I had presented the Shulchan Aruch’s opinion and that of the great
authorities, and the other side was an invention based upon non-Torah
motivations. He enthusiastically backed my program of preventing coerced
When you open your mouth without the Shulchan Aruch, there
is evil and chaos.
If before you wage war and speak loshon hora in a marital
fight you sit down and think what the Torah would say, it could save you a lot
of time in Gehenum in this world and the next. But the best thing is to present
your problem to somebody who knows what the Torah says about marriage, and has
no bias in your case.
The gemora says that “The mizbach weeps at a divorce.”
Why the mizbayach? Because the mizbayach was the altar for
burning sacrifices to atone for sin. The mizbayach thus rectified sin. If a sin
to G-d can be rectified, why can’t people rectify their own problems with each
other to save a family and the children? So the Mizbayach cries when people
See Rashi Nosho 5:12 about a marrried woman who went to
another man. She sins twice says Rashi, once against HaShem and once against
her husband. Because HaShem participates in each marriage so that the woman is
considered as one betrothed to Heaven and to her husband. If people would
realize this, that the honor of a spouse is the honor of HaShem, would they do
what so many people do when the fight comes?
There are those who train women to lie about their husbands
and go to court and have the husband destroyed. This happens regularly
especially in New York State where the courts have power to force a GET,
threatening the husband with jail and loss of money and loss of custody. Such a
GET is invalid and the children born from it may be mamzerim. And yet, we hear
very little complaints about Torah women going to court and destroying their
husbands. The first husband is the evil one, he is demonized. But the woman who
goes to court and wails Agunah is the martyr. These are Torah Jews, rabbis and
women, and some husbands, who do against the Torah and are going to answer why
they did this. And those who do not protest this will also answer to a Higher
Incidentally, the power to force a GET was made in New York
State by a Modern Orthodox rabbi, and in our world when people are too busy or
too ignorant to protest, such things happen.