According to Jewish law a married woman who is forced to live with another man
may go back to her husband, and thus by tradition Queen Esther had hoped to go
back and live with her Jewish husband and cousin, Mordecai. This hope vanished
when she went willingly to King Ahasuerus, without being summoned. With this
act, not only did she put her life in danger, also gave up her chance for a
happy marriage, and from that day onwards was trapped in a loveless
Ta’anit Esther – the day we commemorate the fast for Queen
Esther, has for the past two decades also been known as Yom Ha’Agunah – a day to
remember the women trapped in loveless marriages. This day was set by
ICAR, the International Coalition for Agunah Rights.
Who is to blame for
the plight of the agunot (chained women)?
First and foremost, those who keep
them trapped; the recalcitrant husbands, the judge who allows this behavior and
the general public – friends, neighbors and family of the husband, who keep
With Israel’s battle between religion and state ongoing, and
questions of women’s rights and status coming up over and over again, and as we
set the boundaries and come to agreements on these issues, it is important to
remember the agunot – women whose plight is in part the fault of the Israeli
We must hear their cry and offer them a solution. We
have to condemn their abusers, and say loud and clear – this is a misuse of
Jewish law, we will not tolerate it in our courtrooms, we will not allow it in
our community and we will condemn it in our family and homes.
For if we
keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jewish women
from another place, but our tradition and forefather’s legacy may
The writer is the director of Yad L'Isha.