Early childhood custody gives excessive preference to women in the case of divorce * If necessary, it is a mitzvah to divorce; but often, a marriage crisis can and should be solved to prevent suffering from the family * Through the regulation of the ‘ketubah’, Chazal established balance between husband and wife, and created a situation preventing either side from rushing into divorce * When children automatically remain with the mother and the father must pay their child support, it’s no wonder that almost 90% of divorce cases are initiated by women * Crowd sourcing: Halachic questions concerning the absorption of glass and metal utensils
Problems with Early Childhood Custody
There are two problems with early childhood custody where, in the case of divorce, the mother automatically gets custody of the children, and consequently, the father must pay her full alimony. In consequence, even when the children mature they usually remain with the mother after having done so for so long, and often, even develop a certain animosity towards their father.
The first problem with early childhood custody is that it encourages divorce by granting excessive power to divorced women, as will be explained below. The second problem is the absence of the father in the education of the children, who need both parents, even though they are divorced. In this article, I will deal with the first problem.
The Torah’s Attitude towards Divorce
According to the Torah when a couple cannot find a way of living peacefully together, in spite of all the sorrow, it is a mitzvah to divorce. Often, however, marriage crises’ can be resolved, and only if adequate efforts are not made to solve the crisis will it lead to divorce, resulting in great suffering for the husband, wife, and children.
Various surveys indicate that after five years, about half of the people who initiated divorce wish they had worked harder to restore their marriage. In all probability, even among those who say they are satisfied with their divorce, some regret it in their hearts, but lack the emotional strength to reach this painful understanding, and thus, say divorce improved their lives.
In order to avoid unnecessary divorce, our Sages enacted the ‘ketubah’. Additionally, couples finding themselves in a marriage crisis are advised to do their utmost to reach ‘shalom bayit’.
The Gradual Process of the ‘Ketubah’ Enactment
Human relationships are built on a certain sense of balance. When that balance is disrupted, relations are shaken. Even in the past when earning a livelihood involved hard physical labor, and as a result, men’s economic status was greater than that of women, it was crucial to find a balance between men and women. So we have learned in the Talmud, in the Tractate of Ketubot (82b), that in a gradual process, the optimal balance point was arrived at.
Initially, so that men would not take divorcing their wives lightly, our Sages enacted that every husband, even if he was poor, would have to pay his ex-wife at least two hundred zuz in the event of divorce. This was an amount of money a person could live on for an entire year, and this was the basis of the ‘ketubah‘. The more financially established a couple was, the higher the sum of the ‘ketubah’ was, seeing as it was determined in negotiations between the families of the bride and groom. It is important to understand: This enactment was not determined just for the benefit of women, but rather to reinforce the institution of marriage. For if it was easy for men to divorce their wives, women would also be deterred from marrying, because they would be nervous that perhaps in a time of crisis, men would divorce them. Therefore, our Sages enacted the ‘ketubah‘, and determined that its sum would be a significant figure, so that it would cause financial pain to a woman’s husband, and make him think twice before rushing to divorce his wife.
However, our Sages did not want to put in writing that all of a husband’s assets would be collateral for the ‘ketubah’, so as not to hurt real-estate transactions essential for maintaining a farm; for if buyers were aware that the land they wished to purchase was mortgaged to the ‘ketubah‘, they would be nervous about buying it.
The Search for Balance between Spouses
However, the Talmud in Ketubot goes on to say that since it was not determined that the husband’s assets were mortgaged to the payment of the ‘ketubah‘, there were women who refrained from marrying, preferring to stay single. They were afraid that despite the obligations of the ‘ketubah‘, if husbands were to fall into financial difficulties, they would divorce them, and throw them out of the house empty-handed, because in actual fact, they had no money to pay them. Thus, our Sages enacted that the sum amount of the ‘ketubah’ would be deposited in the home of the woman’s parents, and thus, even if the husband fell into financial difficulties, the sum of the ‘ketubah’ was guaranteed.
However, it turned out that when the cash money was deposited in the home of the woman’s parents, many men felt that it did not belong to them, and in times of anger, would tend to divorce their wives more frequently. Because in reality, during marriage, almost every couple experiences times of crisis; but since the value of marriage is understood, and the couple also realizes that divorce is an expensive and painful ordeal, they resolve their differences and get back to living agreeably. But when the ‘ketubah’ money was left with the woman’s parents, it was easy for an angery husband to divorce his wife in a time of a crisis, because there was no need to withdraw the money from his own pocket.
Therefore, our Sages enacted that the sum of the ‘ketubah‘ remain in the couple’s home, and be exchanged for fine vessels. Wealthy women whose ‘ketubah’ was substantial, bought silver and gold utensils while the poor purchased simple ones, and in the case of divorce, the woman would take the vessels of her ‘ketubah’, and leave.
However, it turned out that in this situation as well, husbands did not sense a significant financial loss in divorce, because they did not consider these vessels as belonging to them, and in a time of crisis, with relative ease, the husband would write his wife a ‘get‘ (bill of divorce) and tell her: “Take your vessels, and leave.”
The Balance Point of the Enactment of Shimon Ben Shetach
Therefore, Shimon ben Shetach enacted that all of a husband’s assets be mortgaged for payment of the ‘ketubah’. This was the optimal balance point, for on the one hand, the payment of the ‘ketubah‘ caused pain for the husband, since he had to remove cash from his pocket, or was forced to sell property to pay the ‘ketubah‘; on the other hand, the payment of the ‘ketubah‘ was assured, because all assets of the husband, including land he owned while married and later sold, were mortgaged for the payment of the ‘ketubah’ (this enactment was also a financial success, because by means of it, assets of the ‘ketubah’ were invested in resources that could bear fruit for the benefit of the family).
An Illustrative Example from the Kibbutzim
Among kibbutzim, as a result of their privatization, the probability of divorce significantly decreased (according to the thesis of Ro’i Bass, 2010 at Haifa University, under the guidance of Prof. Bar-Ilan, and Prof. Palgi). Beforehand, the kibbutz had taken care of all the member’s needs, and a couple’s decision to divorce carried no economic consequences. The kibbutz took pains to provide each one of them with an apartment, and continued providing for the needs of the children as before. However, after privatization, each one of the divorcing couple had to pay for his own apartment and continue providing for their children’s needs, which became more expensive after the divorce. In such a situation, couples thought twice before deciding to divorce, and some of them found ways to get through the crisis and remain married. Many of them are happy they did so.
The Damage of Early Childhood Custody
Early childhood custody granted excessive power to women and radically affected the balance between a couple, because it made divorce profitable for women – they were now confidant that no matter what, the children would remain with them, while the husband would have to pay their alimony, estimated at the average cost of child support – at least NIS 2,000 a month, per child. If a father fails to pay, Bituach Leumi (Social Security) pays in his place, and the husband is chased after by bailiffs, seizing his possessions and proceeds towards the payment of alimony. About half of all men earn less than 7,000 shekels a month, and if they have to pay child support for two children, they must pay about 4,000 shekels a month. Besides that, they have to pay rent for their own apartment, buy food and clothes, provide for their children when they come to visit, and assist them in special cases not included in regular child support. It’s no wonder that in such a situation, nearly ninety percent of divorce cases are initiated by women.
Women who detest men, provoked today by various organizations, argue that men are closed-minded, violent, evil, and deserve to be punished for what they, and their predecessors, have done to women for generations … However, reasonable folks, fond of people, understand that in both sexes there is good and bad. And when women are given excessive power in divorce agreements, the percentage of divorce rates rise. Presumably, many divorced women would argue that this is not true because, subjectively, they feel deprived. However, it seems that anyone who contemplates honestly divorce cases he is familiar with will find that in most cases, men have lost a lot more.
However, if we measure the situation of divorced women down the years, their situation may be worse off. But in times of crisis and anger, women who initiate divorce think only about the near-term, and within this range of time, they have the upper hand.
In all probability, after early childhood custody is annulled, the divorce rate will decrease. It’s too bad that good and decent Members of Knesset fail to understand this, and in the meantime, heighten the suffering of men, women, and children.
Halachic Questions for Experts in Metal and Glass Utensils
In this paragraph, I turn to experts and all interested parties with a request for help and assistance in clarifying a halachic issue. Recently, I have engaged in studying the laws of meat and milk and their mixtures. From the Talmud and Rishonim it appears that the sides of utensils made of metal absorb a great measure of the flavor of foods cooked in them, to the point where even if the utensils are cleaned, one can still taste the flavor of the food absorbed in the utensil in a subsequently cooked food. And because it is impossible to estimate just how much taste is released from a utensil, our Sages were ‘machmir‘ (stringent), and considered all sides of the utensil as if they are fully absorbed with the taste, unless a trustworthy Gentile tasted the cooked dish, and failed to discern the prohibited flavor.
About eight hundred years ago, halachic discussions concerning glassware arose, and the Rishonim were divided about their status – if they absorb, or not. In practice, according to tests conducted recently (by Rabbi Yair Frank and Rabbi Dr. Dror Fixler), it has been shown that metal and glass utensils absorb only a tiny bit, to the point where it is impossible to taste the flavor absorbed in the utensil.
My questions are: 1) Have there been significant changes in the composition of metal since ancient times, or perhaps the absorption in question also includes foods stuck to the utensil, which were difficult to remove without modern detergents, which were only invented some two hundred years ago? 2) Is it possible that the taste absorbed in the utensils or stuck to them could be stronger than its volume, i.e., the taste of one such gram of food stuck to the utensil could be ten times stronger than the taste of a gram of the cooked dish itself? 3) Why did halachic discussions concerning glassware begin only eight hundred years ago: were glassware utensils for use in kitchens not produced earlier? 4) Is it possible to say that the utensils made of glassware discussed were used only as a ‘kli sheni’ and not as a ‘kli rishon’ used to cook on fire, because if used on fire, they would crack? 5) When was fireproof glassware invented?
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: