Ta’anit Esther Agunah Day

According to Jewish law a married woman who is forced to live with another man may go back to her husband.

March 5, 2012 21:36
1 minute read.
Illustrative image

Rabbi preforming wedding in Jerusalem 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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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 marriage.

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 silent.

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 judicial system.

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 perish.

The writer is the director of Yad L'Isha.

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