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Divorce- understanding women's rights


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Shevat 15, 5776
Is there kind, understanding, digestible way to explain why the divorce process is leveraged totally in favor of the husband? There are irreligious people in my office who trash this subject all the time and there must be a way to make Judaism seem less archaic.
If you trace it back, the Jewish marriage and divorce laws were always the most considerate towards women compared to any other system, until recently. When the Torah system functions properly, the Sanhedrin (official contemporary interpreters of the Oral law) is meant to, as in any law structure, make occasional necessary updates. Unfortunately, during galut (exile), Am Yisrael really didn’t function naturally and the “un-changeability” of halacha is one of the problems, especially in today’s ever-changing world. Today, with our national return to Israel, it’s just a matter of time until we renew the Sanhedrin, in fact, see Megilla 17a, where after the rebirth of the Land, and mass aliya, it’s actually the very next stage in the redemption process, before (!) building the Beit Hamikdash and before Mashiach. Just as the previous (more difficult!) two stages have already been fulfilled, we have no reason to doubt that the relatively easier renewal of religious law will come sooner than most people realize, but its pace depends upon our initiative. As the Rambam writes, the Sanhedrin has the power to even re-interpret Torah psukim in new ways, different than chazal, and accordingly make those far-reaching updates necessary for the Torah to eternally be that beautiful, moral Living Torah it’s meant to be. It’s issues like the one you raise which inevitably will force us rabbis to renew the Sanhedrin who will have the necessary capacity and collective responsibility, but until then, we must work within the existing un-natural and incomplete system.
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