May We Coerce a GET Passively with Ostracizing?

Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn/Monsey, NY 10952

May a GET be Coerced with Passive Ostracizing?

               The laws of coercing a GET are in Even Hoezer 154. Paragraph 21 tells us that the Talmud sometimes permits a coercion of a GET with a beating or severe pressure such as putting  the husband in Nidui. Sometimes this is too strong a coercion and beatings and Nidui are forbidden, but we may tell the husband that he is a wicked person. The Talmud has ordered him to divorce his wife and he refuses. This applies to any case where the Talmud demands a GET but does not explicitly permit beatings or Nidui. There are other cases where the Talmud has not commanded the husband to divorce with a GET. In such circumstances, there is no permission for any type of coercion.

Briefly, as we will show, there are three categories of husbands in our question about ostracizing to force a GET. Those husbands who are commanded by the Talmud to give a GET or face a beating may be coerced to give a GET with passive ostracizing. Even active ostracizing is probably permitted because the Beth Din is permitted to beat the husband. The second level of husband who refuses to give a GET is one the Talmud demands of him that he give his wife a GET, but the Talmud does not say to beat him or apply the highest level of coercion. Such a person may not be coerced with humiliation, physical abuse, or Nidui. But he may be told, “You are a wicked person because the Talmud commands  you to give your wife a GET and you refuse it.” That is, we may tell the husband this but public humiliations such as a crowd of people shouting at him about this is probably forbidden because humiliation is a very serious kind of coercion and permitted only when beatings are permitted.

The third level is when the wife demands a GET because “my husband repels me” and I can’t remain in marriage with him. In such a case no coercion at all is permitted see EH 77 2;3 and all of the commentators there besides the Shulchan Aruch and Ramo who say “If the husband wants he can divorce and if he does not want he does not give a GET.” This is from the Rashbo teshuva VII:414 and accepted by the Radvaz, Beis Yosef EH 154 and Chazon Ish. The Gro #5 says that nobody permits coercion in MOUS OLEI “my husband repels me.” Meaning, nobody from the recent generations of the Shulchan Aruch, etc. In such a case nobody mentions any kind of coercion that is permitted. And nobody mentions ostracizing of Rabbeinu Tam. This is only mentioned by the Ramo in the laws of Gittin as it applies to somebody who is commanded by the Talmud to divorce, not by somebody who is free not to divorce.

Those who seek excuses to coerce husbands where the Shulchan Aruch says not to coerce him, often refer to Rabbeinu Tam and his permission to ostracize a husband in a passive manner. We want therefore to deal with the common type of demand of the wife for a GET, when she says MOUS OLEI, my husband repels me. In such a case coercion is forbidden, but coercion is usually active coercion. But is it forbidden to coerce passively by ostracizing the husband?

The laws of a woman demanding a GET which are not accepted by the Torah are dealt with not in the laws of Gittin in the above chapter 154, but in another chapter and another section of Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer about the laws of KESUBOSE or issues among married people. See EH 77 paragraph 2,3. Both the Ashkenazi and the Sefardic commentator do not mention anything about any form of coercion if the woman claims my husband repels me or MOUS OLEI. If so, even the one who permits it in the Laws of Gittin only permits it in the case where the Talmud demands a GET. But, in the vast majority of cases, surely MOUS OLEI, it is forbidden to ostracize the husband to coerce a GET even with passive ostracizing.

The Vilna Gaon says furthermore in his commentatory to the above section of Laws of Gittin, that we only permit coercion to divorce with passive ostracizing when the husband can leave the city and be safe. But if a general ostracizing is proclaimed in every city, and the husband cannot leave his city and be safe, it is forbidden.

The Shach in Gevuras Anoshim says that when the husband cannot function like a man, and the Talmud commands a GET, we do not beat him or make  NIDUI but we may ostracize him in a passive manner, but only if he can escape the ostracizing by going to another place. However, afterwards, the Shach says that because some disagree with this and forbid any kind of ostracizing because it is a very powerful coercion, it may invalidate the GET and we should not do it at all, unless the Talmud clearly states that a person may be beaten.

Thus, the Shach and the Vilna Gaon both forbid ostracizing in a passive manner if the husband cannot leave his city and go somewhere else. Today, where communication and organized Aguna organizations reach a husband outside his original city, the Shach and Vilna Gaon would forbid coercion with ostracizing even when the husband is commanded to give a GET by the Talmud. But to coerce in MOUS OLEI is surely forbidden by the Ramo, the Vilna Gaon and the Shach, who forbids it completely.

Thus nobody permits ostracizing a husband if he does not divorce when the wife claims “he repels me.” And if the husband has a condition whereby he cannot be a husband and the Talmud commands him to divorce his wife, the Shach and Chazon Ish forbid ostracizing in a passive manner to force him to divorce. But if the Talmud does not command the husband to divorce, such as when the wife claims “he repels me, “ nobody permits coercion, and certainly not such a strong coercion as being publicly ostracized until he divorces his wife.

If the husband is commanded to divorce by the Talmud as when he has problems fulfilling the marriage, the Ramo permits passive ostracizing, but the Gro and Shach insist that this is only true if the husband can escape the ostracizing by going to a different city. The Shach in Gevuras Anoshim says that a major authority says that it was unheard of to coerce with Rabbeinu Tam’s ostracizing, and the Shach rules that we should not use it today even if the husband is commanded by the Talmud to give a GET, unless the Talmud suggests beating the husband.