Annulling a Marriage – An Overview

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10 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    a tad much for a blog, imho. I would suggest reading the teshuvot quoted, the supporting sugyot, rishonim, etc. as well as a number of seforim and sources on this topic. again, imho, afterwards perhaps, you can comment, or have an opinion. I feel similarly on uprooting or second-guessing a geirut by a rav you might not support.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    I think one assumption of Torah law is that we Jews are basically good people acting in good faith who will not push their legal rights to the nth degree. I once saw something on this in a translated article by R’ Yitzchak Breuer ZT”L contrasting Jewish and German law. When parties to a potential divorce are not that way and when our exile has weakened the power and quality of our batei din, the system is open to ghastly abuse by the parties and/or their helpers, acting inside and outside Jewish law. But who now has the responsibility to legislate and execute remedies for all of Klal Yisrael (including all Orthodox factions)? An attempted change by one faction will impact all the others.

  3. rebbeofallrebbes says:

    “one assumption of Torah law is that we Jews are basically good people acting in good faith” ????, how can this be true?

    the first thing that comes to mind to refute that notion is “Eid Zomem”, Would the Torah imagine a situation where 2 people would conspire to perpetrate an utter falsehood? Obviously the Torah deals directly with such nefarious acts, well beyond people acting in good faith

  4. Chaim Saiman says:

    R. Hoffman is to be applauded for his framing of the issue and putting the central questions front and center.

  5. micha says:

    I’m not sure about group B.

    I do know of rabbis who ruled that marriage can only be annulled by a Sanhdrin. The principle is that every marriage is contingent on being “according to the rite of Moshe and Israel”, as we currently say in the standard wedding declaration. To say that a marriage is against the rite requires a singular court that owns the power to define it — the Sanhedrin.

    This means that today, marriages can only be annulled when they qualify for one of the general rule annulments stated in the gemara, established back when there was a Sanhedrin. Such as a couple who marry without a formal ceremony, “in the marketplace”. If this were to happen today, the marriage would effectively be annulled by a Sanhedrin that lived over 1500 years ago.

    Is this a group (D), a different understanding of this middle category, or just a different wording?

  6. Bob Miller says:

    “one assumption of Torah law is that we Jews are basically good people acting in good faith” ????, how can this be true?

    Basically good doesn’t mean crime-free. In olden times, when a Jewish king saw a general moral breakdown, he could impose the equivalent of martial law as a temporary substitute for strict Torah law. We don’t have this recourse now. In the “normal” situation, even not-so-moral Jews were thought to have certain scruples.

  7. Question says:

    It seems to me that are claiming that in recent times annulling a marriage is not common practice. This is supported by your quote from the Netziv. My question is that you cite Rav Moshe as allowing annulments in cases of Mekach Taos. Additionally you cite other gedolim who allowed it with other factors. Most of them certainly lived after the Netziv and were aware of the social and economic factors that are present nowadays. How can you summarily dismiss the opinion of all the recent gedolim (Rav Elyashiv, Rav Ovadya and most importantly Rav Moshe) and seriously claim that it is something that our leaders say should be discontinued?

  8. L. Oberstein says:

    Yasher Koach for explaining the issue in such a clear and objectve manner.
    Nowadays, many couples live together before marriage and having a “partner’ or “fiance” is n longer considered “living in sin”. Likewise, half of the marriages end in divorce. Under such circumstances perhaps some of the assumptions of the past need to be reconsidered. I once read an article by a Conservative rabbi who said that he had not performed a marriage ceremony for a virgin bride in many years. I also learned from my own career that one can say that the bride is a besula and read that kesuva even though she is not and the groom doesn’t care. How to preserve the laws of gittin when the laws of kiddushin have collapsed is a question for gedolim to ponder. It just isn’t the same any more.

  9. Binyamin says:

    It is ironic to see this article between the two essays on women wearing Tefillin, because the question of annulments is a much worse violation of Judaism and tradition. Traditionally, marriage is valued, not divorce, and there is little sympathy for anyone who wants a divorce without a compelling reason. Easy divorce has destroyed our surrounding society, and there is no reason to think Halacha should provide a solution for our own cultural destruction, especially when it is clear that Halacha addresses this issue by not giving women the option of easy divorce.

    As to the question of mekach taus, that applies only to a serious, objective, pre-existing condition. Mekach Taus is relevant when serious faults are discovered right after the wedding. When you got what you thought you were getting, but things did not turn out as you hoped, that is not a mekach taus. When a women wants a divorce because she is not satisfied in her marriage, mekach taus and annulment are never relevant. The teshuva you quote from R’ Moshe uses the argument of mekach taus only because the problem existed from the beginning, and she left as soon as she found out about it. (Even with that, his position is a very big chiddush.)

    People who argue for mekach taus annulment seem to live in a fantasy land where there are no surprises in marriage, no changes, and nothing ever goes wrong.

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    An analysis of post-Talmudic responsa will show that clearly, in the past, mekach ta’us was enough of a rationale by itself to annul a marriage, according to many poskim. Nonetheless, on account of various social and economic factors, the view of most contemporary poskim is that this heter or leniency must be discontinued.

    Ignorant chiloni questions:

    1. When mekach ta’ut stop being a sufficient rationale, and why?
    2. Are our modern circumstances closer to those of the period when it was sufficient, or those of the period when it stopped being sufficient?

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