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Prenups Not For Everyone
Tue, 12/24/2013

Rori Picker Neiss (“The Prenup Can Help Everyone,” online Opinion) is “shocked” at my response to your reporter, who asked me for the rationale of esteemed rabbinical authorities’ opposition to prenuptial agreements focused on a future divorce. I explained that “there is a concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage.”

Picker Neiss contends that such focus is already introduced, in the traditional ketubah. I don’t know what version of the ketubah she is citing but the time-honored, halachically mandated one contains no mention whatsoever of divorce.

The pledge of support that the ketubah references remains in place in a case of divorce, or of the husband’s death.  But that is a peripheral implication of the ketubah, which simply lists the husband’s obligations to his wife. And so to compare the ketubah to the “prenup” used by some today is comparing apples to aufrufs (the ritual calling a groom to the Torah prior to his wedding).

Picker Neiss is entitled to embrace the prenuptial approach if she chooses. But I would only ask her to recognize that there are others who, for entirely defensible reasons, choose otherwise.

Director of Public Affairs Agudath Israel of America


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The agudah is opposed because it was started by YU rabbis (similar to the train why haredim in Israel are opposed to putting techeilet on tourist). I don't know why rabbi shafran can't simply admit that. It's as good a reason as he presents.

“there is a concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage.”

It's possible that the concern is based on *some* people's reaction, not all. However, the rabbis of the Agudah took the position because of that segment of the population. That, I would argue, is an understandable and defensible position.

Others don't have this concern, for whatever the reason. R. Asher Bush wrote on Hirurim(10/22/13):

"However, there are far too many people who are aware of this document but do not use it. In this regard there are two common concerns heard for why the prenuptial agreement is not used. The first is that this type of document would put a damper on the joyous spirit of a wedding. Aside from the fact that this document can be signed days or weeks before the actual wedding, more importantly it should be noted that the kesubah itself is hardly a romantic document, outlining the husband’s financial responsibilities both during the marriage and in the event of his death or divorce. It is clear that our Sages were more concerned with protecting the interests of the bride than with artificially painting a romantic picture. In many Orthodox communities young men and women getting married know and expect that the prenuptial agreement will be a part of their wedding. Strikingly, the well publicized case of a congressional aide who has refused to give his wife a get has also contributed to the increased use of these prenuptial forms as the consequences of this behavior are seen in a most public forum."

Shafran says: “there is a concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage.”

Do you have life insurance, Rabbi Shafran? If you do, wouldn't there be a concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a life isn't conducive to positive thinking and a healthy outlook on living?

Your opposition to the pre-nup is avoiding the reality and does nothing to resolve this tragic problem.

What I find amazing, is that no one in the Chareidi world cares about the health of a marriage when they marry off 18 and 19 years olds who are completely unequipped to deal with real life, much less married life. In that instance, the CW is "They will work together and figure things out, like we all did." No one is concerned about the health of a marriage when they match up husbands who have no skills by which they can support a family. No one seems to care about the health of the marriage when marry off wives who will have to bear the double load of homemaker and breadwinner. But when it comes to a mechanism that might help avoid the single biggest risk every Jewish women takes when she gets married, being left chained to a dead marriage by dint of an estranged husband's recalcitrance to give a Get, the Chareidim shrei "chay vekayam!!!!!" this sends the wrong message to the couple. Give me a freakin break.

Rabbi Shafran didn't really say anything of substance here. He's talking about Rabbinic opposition to something that, if opposed Rabbinically, should be opposed for Rabbinic reasons. He DIDN'T write about forced Get (presumably since the current prenup solves that concern) and he DIDN'T write about asmachta (presumably because it's solved) and he DIDN'T write about anything halachic. He wrote only about a debatable value issue, and after writing about a value, he doesn't even relate to the trade-off between that value and the risk of mesarvei gittin aka aguna situations. I expect more from him if he's choosing to write on the subject.

This is absurd. The prenup can be signed in private. The rabbinic law was deeply concerned about the rights of the women in the event of divorce and evolved the understanding of the ketubah on the basis of that concern. The truth is that Agudah is simply unwilling to wiegh the risks to exploited women and address it. They are defending disregard for exploited women with romantic blarney, or as we say in Yiddish, narishkeit.

I agree. It is typical of the Agudah to oppose new solutions just becuase they are new by using uproven general assumptions when they have nothing of substance to contribute. Thisi puts them in a bad light amongst a large part of the orthodox commnuity.

My Dear Avi Shafran - I find it so unfortunate that you choose to abandon reason and logic to maintain a perspective that disenfranchises your organization from the rest of Klal Yisrael. I would love if you and your cohort of "esteemed" Rabbis would present evidence from any Torah, Prophetic, Talmudic, Halachick, or reputable psychological source that indicates signing a pre-nup could be potentially destructive to the health of a marriage. Marriage is not a Disney-inspired fairy-tale that necessitates being so oblivious to the realities facing Agunot in Frum community that you do nothing to prevent their anguish and pain. Lastly, even if you are not ready to embrace Pre-nups, it would be nice if you would express some level of concern of heart-ache and compassion for woman suffering as Agunot, rather than being so obstinate and cold-hearted.

So we have a growing problem with divorce yet can't take protective steps because the Hachamim didn't even though they weren't confronted with the same problem?
We also don't want to do this because "focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage." Actually, there are more problems with couples who avoid discussing problems and don't face reality together. Getting caught-up in the excitement of the engagement is all fine and well but at some point there must be a discussion of some of the other "facts of life:" that bad things happen during a marriage---miscommunication, spousal illness or disability, the need for life insurance, the need for a prenup, etc.

So if Ms. Neiss would have added one word ("peripheral") then she would've been absolutely, indisputably correct? This article is a desperate attempt to justify the unjustifiable by twisting the truth. I can't believe anyone in a position of such esteem would stoop so low and manifest such a profound Chillul Hashem.

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