We are going to be lenient with an agunah …there is no greater emergency than a situation where a woman remains an agunah all her life, a mishap will definitely result.” Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi (Kushta, 15th century) rules that the absence of a solution is liable to drive desperate women to sin.
— Sheilot U’Tshuvot, Rav Eliyahu Mizrahi Siman 36
Last year, in the US, a woman whose husband had denied her a get for years was freed when a beit din (religious court) ruled that the marriage was invalid due to the husband’s deliberate failure to disclose his mental illness to his wife before their wedding. She was freed based on a halachic mechanism allowing for the annulling of a marriage, namely, that had she known, she would never have married him.
A few months ago, an Israeli beit din legitimized three generations of mamzerim (Jews who are forbidden from marrying Jews because they are children of a union of a married woman and a man who is not her halachic husband). They did this by invalidating the witnesses at the wedding of the grandmother, who had been married 50 years ago in another country.
The granddaughter, who had brought her plight to the judges, was finally married at age 45 under the auspices of the Israeli Rabbinate.
According to Jewish law, without valid witnesses, the marriage never took place. This means that the woman was actually single at the time of her child’s conception, clearing the child, and subsequent generations, of mamzer status and its accompanying restrictions.
The internet is abuzz with blog and Facebook posts about the International Beit Din headed by Rabbi Simcha Krauss. Rabbi Krauss’ beit din is dedicated to freeing women denied a get and employs the mechanisms noted above when applicable.
Some claim that this Beit Din cannot be relied upon, that the women they free are still married, and that they are creating mamzerim.
Yet, the methods Rabbi Krauss uses are valid, have been used for hundreds of years, and are still in use today.
Read the full article on The Times of Israel