The Halachic Pre-Nup

Posted on April 10, 2016

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The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a positive article on the halachic pre-nup. An Agunah activist, Professor Susan Aranoff, wrote a letter in response pointing out the weaknesses of this pre-nup and the fact that the Beth Din of America will rarely enforce the support clause of such an agreement, once the husband agrees to give a Get. Some of what Ms. Aranoff wrote was overly critical and yet some of her comments were constructive criticism. The upshot of the letter is that it is truly a shame that Jewish communal organizations do not encourage more feedback from the lay community. If that happened more often, we would not have to air our communal dirty laundry is regional and national newspapers.

My letter to the WSJ follows:

"Just the Facts Ma'am"
On April 5, 2016, the WSJ presented a sympathetic look at the needs of Orthodox Jews to 
who write prenuptial agreements with clauses that try to guarantee a religious 
divorce process known as the Get. ("For Orthodox Jews, a Different Kind of Pre-Nup"). 
On April 8, 2016, Professor Susan Aranoff wrote a letter to the editor and stated 
that "Orthodox marriages can be a trap". She then made reference to "immoral 
Orthodox marital law". Ms. Aranoff then critiqued the manner in which the Beth 
Din of America handles cases requiring implementation of the pre-nup agreement. In 
closing, Ms. Aranoff stated, with apparent resignation, that "signing a prenup 
is better than nothing".

Surely, there are people of all religions and persuasions who abuse the 
system. Not every pre-nup can be a guarantee of such manipulation. However, signing a 
a pre-nup is indeed a better option than not signing one. Not every Beth Din will 
act perfectly every time they need to adjudicate a matter. The Beth Din of America 
is certainly an example of an important, but imperfect, body. But they do get it 
right a good portion of the time. Reading Ms. Aranoff's letter I am reminded of 
the aphorism which states that "The perfect is the enemy of the Good". 

The pre-nup for Orthodox Jews was a great step forward in giving guarantees to 
women who desire a Get from their husbands, once the marriage has failed. The 
nuanced analysis that would make Ms. Aranoff content is not suited for the Wall 
Street Journal. For the practitioners of Orthodox Judaism, the belief exists that 
while Orthodox Jews are not perfect, Orthodox Judaism is indeed perfect. 
This belief is not belied by contentions that things can always be better. Making 
such a point with no constructive suggestion is of little utility. 
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