By Aliza BasMenachem
When I saw the sign “EVERY AGUNAH IS MY SISTER”, in caps, with a solid bright red background, I felt something was wrong. Despite the loving words, the sign was not one of Ahavas Yisroel. It was manipulation. It proclaimed a righteousness to all vocal Agunah supporters, with the implication that if you don’t show support Agunahs you will be ostracized.
I have seen Crown Heights respond to tragedy with pure Ahavas Yisroel and there were no red signs with capital letters. To me, capital letters often look like someone is screaming. When someone is expressing Ahavah – they don’t scream.
When someone feels trapped they do scream. And the ruckus about so-called Agunahs is about feeling trapped. Everyone knows that most of these women are not real Agunahs. So I am not going to explain it again. I will call them UnGetted Women. Unfortunately, their pain has been corralled and trademarked by activists who produce signs such as the one I saw.
I would like to mention an authentic Agunah who lived in Crown Heights for decades. I knew her in the 70’s. She cooked for the younger division of Oheloi Torah. Her husband had been taken by the KGB and never heard of again. She was left without a husband and without children and – in those days for women – not much of a future, or so it would seem. But she became a legend. She fed hundreds of young students. Every helping was topped with a dollop of love. She showed no signs of feeling trapped, being angry, or unfulfilled. I would be proud to say is my sister (if only I qualified). No need for caps.
I know that UnGetted women are in pain. And I expect the painful mistreatment started long before it came to the Gett Refusal. My purpose in writing this article is to offer an alternative way of dealing with the pain. An alternative without hostility, anger and other stressful emotions that cause damage to a personality’s equilibrium. Especially for UnGetted women with children. You do not want to have your quest for freedom jeopardize the stability and wellbeing of your children.
The UnGetted woman is not chained by her husband. She has a choice. Especially in today’s world, a woman can have a career, be involved in diverse fields of interest, and make a comfortable living. She does not need to live through a man. She can chose to be a single woman without a Gett. She can put dignity into her life. By all means she should speak to people and do whatever she can in a dignified way to attain a GETT, but it need not be an obsession.
Part of the problem is that the frenzy that has been generated about GETT refusal, has made the refusal more profitable. If there was a prevailing attitude that life goes on without a GETT, then the trend to withhold the GETT would lose some of its appeal and profitability.
The key is Emmunah. Hashem has many agents. If the agent to prevent you from getting re-married is your husband, it can be very aggravating. But the husband is still only the agent. If the UnGetted woman will accept that it is Hashem who is giving her this challenge. Then she can process it the same way she would process other challenges. She can put it into perspective.
A few times I have seen it written that the pain of an ‘Agunah’ is the greatest pain of all. Talk about claiming victimhood! This claim has milked its potential to the point of husbands being fried by equipment used on cattle. Not only is this claim arrogant, it is not healthy for the UnGetted woman who believes it. She loses her empathy for others who are suffering. She fails to appreciate the blessings in her own life. She carries this shadow of superior pain with her as a cloud. This attitude is confining. This attitude keeps her chained.
But the real chains are the obsession about re-marriage. Why is the GETT so important? Most of the UnGetted women have been released from their marriages in most aspects of their lives. The one aspect where they do not have freedom is to re-marry. That is the issue. To re-marry. And that has become an obsession.
Instead of hounding the Rabbis and undermining the Halacha in a never ending search for an escape hatch – how about walking out the front door and seeing the sunshine? There are a lot of single women in the world. Some were never married, some have a GETT and some don’t have a GETT. Not having a GETT is not optimal – but if you do have children – then focus on them. Do not bad mouth their father. If they have no respect for their father, they will have no self-respect and eventually it will likely come back to haunt you. For sure, don’t make demonstrations about their father. You are setting them up to see the world as a victim. There are a lot of bullies out there waiting for them. Face your challenge as others face their challenges. We all slip and fall, but we do not go around saying our challenge is worse than anyone else’s. The choice is yours – keep up the anger and hostility and stress – or count your blessing and find your way to live a fulfilled life.
Emmunah is important. If you believe that marriage is Beshert. Then if Hashem has a suitable Beshert for you. Hashem will make you available at the right time. In the meantime, use your time to heal from your wounds, strengthen the relationships with people who make you happy and discover new horizons.
Recently there have been a lot of studies about happiness. Feeling appreciation for what you have has proven to be an important ingredient according to studies. Sound familiar? “Who is happy? One who is happy with his lot.” That doesn’t mean – she who has a great marriage. It means she who accepts life’s challenges with capital letters that spell BORUCH HASHEM. Together the Boruch Hashem and Sameach B’Chelkoy will break the chains of Golus, as together, with true Ahavas Yisroel, we greet MOSHIACH NOW!