According to Halakha (Jewish law) traditionally when a couple gets divorced the man has to present the woman with a bill of divorce, called a get. Without one the couple is still viewed as married, whether a civil divorce is obtained or not. In the past, if a woman was refused a divorce because a man would not give his wife a get, the rabbis of the local Jewish community were authorized, under certain circumstances, to force the husband to do so (e.g., his refusal to be intimate with his wife as well as not giving the get), However since the Haskalah (Enlightenment) the local Jewish communities lost their autonomous status, and were merged into the nations in which they lived. Since the Jewish community lost its civil powers to enforce marriage and divorce laws. The unintended result was that rabbis lost the power to force a man to give his wife a get, and Jewish law traditionally does not allow a woman to give a get to the husband. Without a get, a Jewish woman is forbidden to remarry and is therefore called an agunah (literally "an chained woman").
At the 1998 Jerusalem Agunot Conference, Rabbi Mayer Rabinowitz, the Chairman of the Joint Bet Din of the Conservative Movement, explained the four approaches taken by leaders of Conservative Judaism to find remedies for the problem of the Agunah what follow is my summary of his remark, outlining four approaches to this issue:
One beginning in the 1950's, the inclusion of the Lieberman clause,in the Ketubah, requiring that a get be granted if a civil divorce is ever issued. Later, because some civil courts viewed the enforcement of a religious document as a violation of the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, Conservative rabbis began to require couples to sign a separate letter, stating that the clause had been explained to them as part of pre-marital counseling, and that both parties understood and agreed to its conditions, recognizing that this letter would constitute a separate civil document, enforceable in a civilian court./ However, many Conservative rabbis, including some on the movement's own law committee, had growing concerns regarding the clause for religious reasons.
The second approach was based on the concept of something called conditional marriages, t'nai b'kiddushin, and was based in part on past approaches used by both French and Turkish rabbis—but, according to Rabinowitz—had improvements gleaned from lessons learned from those past experiences. The ketubah was not changed, but a separate pre-marital agreement was signed, and in the presence of the rabbinical court, the prospective groom read it, and the prospective bride stated that she agreed to it. The agreement was that the parties understood that if a civil divorce were ever granted, then a get must be delivered within six months of that date. A refusal to abide by that agreement would give the court no choice but to consider the original marriage, and the original declaration of the groom, so flawed that it would be as if that marriage never occurred.
The third approach was to coerce the recalcitrant husband to grant a get. These included pressure on the husband with financial implications, liens from organizations of which he is a part of and through spiritual guidance.
The final approach was adopted by a unanimous vote of the law committee, when it was decided that the Joint Bet Din of the Conservative Movement could annul marriages as a last resort, based on the Talmudic principle of hafka’at kiddushin – the same principle used to compel the husband to act in option number two. By doing this, the rabbinical establishment returned much of the power of the process of divorce to the rabbinical court, returning to its original source and giving woman clear recourse for contentious situations.
By the rules of equality, there should be an entity called a "chained man." But that is looking at it from a negative perspective. The real equation should be - by the rules of equality, there should be no chained woman.
It is a signal failure of the system that we have chained women. There is no excuse for that. But that is not your question.
The simple answer to your question is that no legitimate Rabbi will officiate at a marriage involving a man who has no get.
There is a very complicated procedure to "free" a man who has no get, but that is employed in very limited situations, and certainly not when the refusal of the wife to grant the get is related to the man's irresponsibility or worse.
And there are many highly respected rabbis who as a matter of principle will never get involved in this complicated procedure.
What should happen when a wife refuses to cooperate with the get transmission is the same as should happen when the man is the refuser - the rabbinical court, the rabbinic community, and the Jewish community, should weigh down with full force on the uncooperative spouse until the get is granted.
Is there such a thing as a “chained man”? What happens in Jewish Law when a wife refuses to grant a divorce?
This question is moot in the Reform Jewish community.Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof z”l,was the head of the responsa committee of the CCAR for many years and he wrote,”Reform congregations recognize civil divorce as completely dissolving the marriage and permit remarriage of the divorced persons.
This decision is in line with the Reform position of equality of men and women. The issue of “chained man” is one for the Conservative and Orthodox communities to deal with as they see fit.
Having said this, Some Reform Jews have requested some form of recognition from the religious community that the marriage has ended. Such a document has been prepared by the CCAR but it is in no way considered to be a “get”.
We also recognize that this does cause a rift in the Jewish community because the Conservative and Orthodox movements place great importance on genealogy.However the above principle of equality is of greater importance in the Reform community.
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