This past Shabbat, I issued a challenge to our Young Israel of Oceanside community: I’d like us to reach 100% participation at our upcoming postnup event on December 10th. After hearing a shiur from Rav Mordechai Willig, one of the Torah giants of our community, addressing the challenges of the agunah problem and its potential solutions, we will invite couples to sign a postnuptial agreement that incentivizes a spouse to give a get if the other wants a divorce.
I understand that some people might be a bit uneasy about this event. They might ask, what does signing a postnup say about my marriage? Is it an ayin hara? I’ve been married for 30, 40, or 50 years. Realistically we’re not getting divorced so why should I participate in this event? I understand those concerns, and would like to take this opportunity to explain my thinking.
In this past week’s parsha, we saw Avraham’s servant search for a wife for Yitzchak. In doing so, he looked for a mate who would be compatible with Yitzchak on a personal level, but also someone who could create a family unit that would be a model for the nation of Israel as a whole. What we learn from this is that a Jewish marriage has two important and distinct functions. That is, the personal and the communal. We should strengthen our own marriages for the sake of our own families, but we also have an opportunity to spread important values to our greater community.
On a personal level, signing a postnup is an opportunity for each spouse to say to the other, “I will never harm you and I want to protect you in any way that I can.” But there is a great communal opportunity in signing as well. Publicly signing a postnup, and encouraging all our married and soon-to-be married friends to do the same, sends the valuable message that not only do I want my spouse to always be protected, but I want that for all our families. Because this should be the norm. Caring for one another, protecting all of our community members, should be a core and undisputed value of our community.
Many of my Rabbinic colleagues will not officiate at weddings where a prenup is not signed. This is a hugely positive step, and I am proud to join in that effort. But there is still an important role for lay people to play in advancing this important cause. In Jewish communities just like ours, postnup signing ceremonies have recently become a popular means of encouraging already married couples to sign this important document. The couples that sign do so out of an understanding of the communal message that they have the opportunity to send.
And so I wondered to myself. What if our Oceanside community made a statement that not just 10 couples, or 15 couples, or even 50 couples signed the agreement. What if every single couple, whether you’ve been married for five years or fifty years, signed an agreement that would protect each partner in cases of divorce? Imagine the impact that could have! Yes, it may be little uncomfortable to sign such an agreement, but it need not be. Because signing this document is not about divorce. Just the opposite! Signing this document is a public statement about what a Jewish marriage should be. Signing this document sends the message loud and clear, that mutual respect and understanding must be at the core of every Jewish home.
Unfortunately, many of us know only too well about stories where agunot have suffered. Though we may not have been able to prevent their suffering, let us at least proclaim now, that we are with you. We have heard your suffering, and it is a blemish on all of us. And we will not just go on as usual. The Young Israel of Oceanside will not sit idly by as Jewish women suffer. We are committed to making changes, to taking steps to minimize the chances more woman will suffer in the future.
On Saturday night, December 10th, let’s become a community where every single orthodox married couple has either a prenup or a postnup agreement. Imagine what an example we can be to other orthodox communities. Imagine what a powerful message we can send about our community’s values and our own community’s priorities. When each of us signs a postnup, we use our own marriages to impact the culture of marriage and relationships within our community. Let’s make it clear that it is not merely the Rabbis who won’t officiate at weddings where there is no prenup, but that our entire community has adopted this value as well. So sign one for yourselves, or come to celebrate your friends signing theirs. Let's make it clear, as the Young Israel of Oceanside, where our values lie. This important statement will be strongest when we make it together. So, yes, I look forward to 100% participation, on Saturday evening, December 10th!