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judaism also allows divorce even without reasons. the old testament gives the husband the right to divorce his wife for only not loving her: "when a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. and when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. and if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled;" (deuteronomy 24: 1-4). the previous verses raised considerable debate among jewish scholars because they disagreed on the interpretation of the word "find no favour in his eyes" and "some uncleanness in her" and "hate her." the talmud records the different views: "the school of shammai is of the opinion that man should not divorce his wife unless he discovers her sexual misconduct. the school of hillel says that he might divorce her if she spoils his food. rabbi akiba says he might divorce her once he finds a more beautiful woman."[35]

 

the new testament follows the view of shammai school while the jewish law follows that of school of hillel and akiba. [36] since the view school of hillel is the prevailing one, it has become a tradition in the jewish law that a man divorces his wife without any reason. not only does the new testament give men the right to divorce the annoying wives, but also makes this a duty on them: "a wicked woman abateth the courage, maketh an heavy countenance and a wounded heart: a woman that will not comfort her husband in distress maketh weak hands and feeble knees. of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die. give the water no passage; neither a wicked woman liberty to gad abroad. if she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh, and give her a bill of divorce, and let her go." (ecclesiasticus 25:23-26)

 

talmud cites several acts of wives that forced their husbands to divorce them: "if she eats on the road, drank ravenously on the road, and if she breastfeeds on the road," says rabbi meir in all these cases she should leave her husband."[37] in addition, talmud obligates the husband to divorce the sterile woman (who does not give birth for a period of ten years): "our rabbis believe that if a man marries a woman and lives with her for ten years during which she does not has give birth, he must divorce her."[38]

 

moreover, according to the jewish law, wives cannot initiate divorce. however, a jewish woman can apply for divorce before the jewish court, but because of a very strong reason. the motifs available for women to apply for divorce are very few such as if the husband has a physical defect, skin disease or if he is unable to perform his sexual duties. in this case, what the court can do is to ratify the wife's application but it cannot dissolve the marriage; only the husband can do so by giving the wife the divorce certificate. the court can flagellate, penalize, imprison, or deprive him from entering the synagogue to force him to hand over the necessary divorce documentation to the wife.  if the husband refuses and if he is strong enough he can keep her waiting for indefinitely. worse still, he can forsake her without divorcing and so she becomes remains married and unmarried at a time. he can marry another woman or just live with her without marriage and beget legitimate children according to jewish law. on the other hand, the woman cannot marry another as long as she is legally linked to her husband and cannot live with another because that shall be considered as adultery and her children from the other person shall be illegitimate for ten generations. this 'suspended' woman is called 'agunah', that is, the restrained woman. [39] in the united states there is approximately 1.000 or 1.500 woman in this situation while their number in israel is approximately 1.6000. the husband can blackmail thousands of dollars from his restrained wife in return for jewish divorce. [40]

 

with regard to inheritance, rabbi epstein aptly described the viewpoint of the torah regarding woman's inheritance from her deceased relatives of the deceased: "the continuous habit that none since torah was revealed broke does not give the female family members - the wife or daughters - any right to the inheritance of family property. one of the primary rules of the inheritance system is that woman is considered a part of the family property and she is far from the legal capacity of heirs as slaves. according to the moses' law, girls may have the right to inheritance in the absence of male heirs but the wife has no right to inheritance, even under this condition." [41] why then do female family members are considered part of the family property? rabbi epstein answers: "before marriage, they are among the father's property of the father and after marriage husband's." [42] the laws of inheritance are summarized in the old testament book of numbers 27: 1-11. the wife takes nothing from her husband's property while he is her first heir even before their sons. the daughter can inherit if she has no brothers. the mother never becomes an heir but the father inherits. in the case there are sons, widowed women and girls shall be at their mercy. for this reason, the widows and orphan daughters are the poorest in the jewish community. furthermore, judaism says: "women do not have wisdom except in spinning things" [43], "women are greedy" [44], and "from them emits a foul sweat smell (they must use perfumes)" and they have the highest voice (sharp voice)." [45] the rabbis explained all this discrimination based on the story of creation. r. joshua explains to his followers: "women have an obnoxious smell because they were created from flesh and not like men who were created from earth ...."[46]

 

these opinions and judgments in both christianity and judaism belittle women in an unbelievable manner. at least she is deemed in the best cases less than men in rights. woman is not equal but a follower and salve of man. she serves him and is treated merely as a property he owns and disposes of the way he likes. this racism against women in the west caused the of women's rights movement in 1848 in the united states by 'elizabeth cady stanton' and a group of her colleagues who said that the american declaration of independence of america, written seventy years before this date, stipulated that "god created men and women equal in rights and duties, and that god granted them the right to life, liberty and happiness."

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[35] gittin 90a-b

[36] louis m. epstein, the jewish marriage contract (new york: arno press, 1973), p. 196.

[37] git. 89a

[38] yeb. 64a

[39] leonard j. swidler, women in judaism: the status of women in formative judaism (metuchen, n.j: scarecrow press, 1976), pp. 162-163.

[40] the toronto star, apr. 8, 1995.

[41] louis m. epstein, the jewish marriage contract (new york: arno press, 1973), p. 175.

[42] louis m. epstein, the jewish marriage contract (new york: arno press, 1973), p. 121.

[43] rabbi eliezer, byoma 66b

[44] mtoh. 7.9; ttoh.8.16

[45] all examples from gen.r.17,8

[46] tal ilan, jewish women in greco-roman palestine, tübingen: mohr 1995, 186.

 

 

 




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