The Agunah Debate Continues

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agunahby R. Gil Student

My column in this week’s The Jewish Link

Ideas are important, especially when put into practice. Legal theories can change the world. Debates over legal theories can impact the community and well beyond, even before the ideas are implemented. I believe that in the latest debate over rabbinic action on behalf of agunos, a key point has been misunderstood.

Rav Hershel Schachter recently published a public letter ( to rabbis, strongly advising them against relying on rulings of the International Beit Din for Agunot. Among his arguments was that a responsum by one of this beit din’s judges was “mistaken from beginning to end.”

I. Get Zikuy

Rav Schachter was referring to a paper presented by Rav Simcha Krauss on December 25, 2014, in a discussion with Rav Jeremy Wieder and Prof. Chaim Saiman (neither of whom agreed with Rav Krauss). Rav Krauss argued at length that a beit din can give a get to a woman on behalf of a recalcitrant husband even if he objects (called a get zikuy). Indeed, this is a radical claim that provides a solution to the plight of the agunah. Rav Wieder strongly critiqued this paper. Likewise, Rav Schachter argued that this approach is unprecedented and completely mistaken.

Rav Krauss stated, in a response (, that he presented two recent precedents to Rav Schachter, who was unaware and uninterested. In fact, Rav Schachter was correct neither case serves as a precedent for Rav Krauss’ proposal. The portrayal in Rav Krauss’ letter of Rav Schachter as uninterested and unaware, or at least that perception which was felt by many readers, is strange—given Rav Schachter’s encyclopedic knowledge and interests—and unfair, as we will soon see.

But first an important point. Rav Krauss’ responsum represents only his own view and not that of the beit din. Other judges on the court may feel differently and rule against this proposal. Nor has this proposal been acted upon yet. However, as the leading judge of the beit din and its driving force, Rav Krauss’ opinion on this radical proposal to solve the agunah problem is highly relevant.

Additionally, before we address the specific issue under concern, let us also note that Rav Krauss personally criticized harshly another proposal to solve the agunah problem. When Rav Emanuel Rackman initiated his Bet Din Tzedek L’Ba’Ayot in 1998, The Jewish Week quoted Rav Simcha Krauss as saying “This has nothing to do with right-wingers and left-wingers but with the integrity of gittin(religious divorces)… I will not make a joke of the halachic system and that is what is happening here.” These are weighty matters that bring out passion and concern, both by Rav Krauss and Rav Schachter.

Continue reading here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

One comment

  1. Listen here for similar analysis. R’JW adds that there are agunot who can’t seem to get a beit din to get involved and also suggest ibd get reviews of its psakim by established authorities till it becomes established:
    Rabbi Jeremy Wieder -Get Zikkuy and Yihud ha-Edim: A Response to the IBD Controversy

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