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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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A proposal on prenuptial agreements

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Rabbi Shalom Spira

“And you shall remember HaShem, your God, for it is He Who gives you the strength to act valiantly” (Deut. 8:18). This verse, which appears in our parshat ha-shavuah, is invoked by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Mosheh, Orach Chaim 2:111) as justification for human beings to draft insurance contracts. The Creator has given humankind the creative wisdom to devise insurance programs that benefit society. The verse teaches us to draft commercially appropriate insurance contracts and that, while doing so, we must give thanks to the Creator for granting us the ability to conceive of these policies, Rabbi Feinstein declares.

The same is assuredly true for drafting prenuptial agreements that champion the welfare of the righteous women of Israel. In the article “May we all be ‘Hartmanized’” that I was privileged to publish in The CJN on Jan. 19, 2012, I presented a proposal to that effect. Since then, I have received illuminating feedback from sagacious CJN readers recommending improvements to my essay. There is no greater compliment possible to this newspaper’s readership!

As such, the second edition – revised and corrected – of my proposal is now available at

My proposal essentially consists of two prenuptial agreements.

First, in order for a sefer keritut (bill of divorce required by Torah law to dissolve the marriage between two Jews) to be valid, there must be no financial coercion imposed on the husband. The first prenuptial agreement therefore, shields, the prospective bride and groom – before they contract their marriage – from any government legislation or judicial decisions that may be interpreted as depriving the husband of money in the event of any marital disagreement. Such legislation/judicial rulings could render the bride an agunah, but a prenuptial agreement will presciently solve the dilemma by granting the bride and groom freedom of religious conscience.

Second, in order to financially empower the bride, she can be given (if the groom so offers before the wedding) a prenuptial agreement of tosefet mezonot (enhanced daily allowance), as was Rebecca our Matriarch, as recorded by Rashi in commentary on Genesis 27:9. Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky encouraged the implementation of such a prenuptial agreement, but it’s necessary to diamond-polish Rabbi Kamenetzky’s proposal so that it conforms with the consensus of poskim. Under a modified version of Rabbi Kamenetzky’s scheme (presented in my essay), every day that the husband and wife live in harmony, the husband would give his wife a large sum of money. (Of course, nothing is given on the Sabbath or festivals.) The wife thus controls the purse strings of the marriage. When marital harmony dissolves, although the wife is not entitled to any further allowance, she now possesses the extensive wealth necessary to offer to pay her husband for a sefer keritut, which will be kosher if the husband so agrees.

Accordingly, let us thank the Creator who has given the readership of CJN and myself, working co-operatively together, “the strength to act valiantly” in publishing such a proposal to benefit the righteous women of Israel.

Rabbi Shalom Spira is spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Yehouda in Cote St. Luc, Que.

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