Rabbi Sperber of Bar-Ilan University advocates for agunot rights

For Immediate Release – March 18, 2014

Media Contact: Alan Grossman, American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, alan.grossman@afbiu.org; 212-906-3910

Rabbi Sperber of Bar-Ilan University advocates for agunot rights   

New York, NY – “For agunot, we should seek lenient, compassionate solutions…We should persuade rabbis making judgments on when to grant and enforce a get to take the more lenient view as long as it is based on halachic sources,” said Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, a world-renowned Talmud scholar at Bar-Ilan University (BIU). Rabbi Sperber gave these remarks at a lecture earlier this month at The Jewish Center in New York City.

At this lecture, sponsored annually by The Yavne-Shapiro Program in Torah and Jewish Ethics in cooperation with the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Rabbi Sperber addressed the difficulties facing hundreds of agunot (women chained in bad marriages because their husbands refuse to grant a get). This was the 18th annual Yavne-Shapiro lecture, and the second consecutive one held in Manhattan.   

He decried what he views as the “radical move to the extreme right” by many of today’s rabbis dealing with get issues. “It is easier to say it’s not kosher than find reasons why it is kosher. We need rabbis who come up with compassionate decisions,” he said. 

The crowd that braved the elements on a cold winter night learned why Rabbi Sperber is such a respected scholar after hearing his in-depth analysis of this issue. A winner of the 1992 Israel Prize for his research in Talmud and the history of Jewish customs, Sperber has been the Dean of BIU’s Faculty of Jewish Studies. For the past ten years, he has been President of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies at BIU.  His latest book is On the Relationship of Mitzvot between Man and his Neighbor and Man and his Maker.

Rabbi Sperber argued that ethics and compassion within the framework of halacha (Jewish law) should be considered when it comes to providing a woman with a get even if the husband refuses. He said that such lenient interpretations of halacha have been used by distinguished rabbis throughout Jewish history. Examples of this were allowing evidence from one person to be submitted to the Beit Din when normally you need a second person to corroborate the evidence in a court of law.

After Rabbi Sperber’s lecture, there was a spirited Q&A session leading to a debate on what constitutes valid coercion within Jewish law to force a husband to grant a get, and when is it considered a forced coercion that would make the get invalid.

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 American Friends of Bar-Ilan University increases awareness of, and support for Israel’s fastest growing university, where a diverse student population comes together in an academic environment which embraces Judaism and Zionism.

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