Do We Need A Solution To The Agunah Crisis?

Rabbi Gil Student writes:

R. Mordechai Torczyner writes about how local rabbis struggle to "free" agunos and resolve diffcult divorce cases (link). His main point is that rabbis put in a great deal of effort and creativity in solving these cases. Unfortunately, they do not always succeed but the many successes — the majority of cases — generally go unrecognized while the failures are trumpeted as if they are the standard procedure.

I think that this can be said about a number of communal problems. Capable community leaders spend an incredible amount of time trying to solve complex problems, generally with success. But it is the failures that get the press coverage, even if they only account for a minimal number of cases.

I see multiple ways of responding to the recognition of this pattern. One is to focus only on the failures. Any suffering is problematic, even if it is only for a minority of cases. If the current communal structure is unable to avoid that then a new structure needs to be built.

Another is to respond sympathetically to the suffering but to recognize that no system is perfect. There is no way to resolve every case. While every failed case is heartbreaking, and the media attention tends to make that pain even more evident, the sad reality is that the current system works most of the time. The exceptions are just part of the unfair world in which we live.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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