Shabbat Parashat Naso| 5765
Helping a Man Get Out of Jail If He Gives a Get - Based on Piskei Din Rabbaniim- vol. XI, pp. 300-308
Case: A husband is in jail for four years after conviction for drug dealing. Beit din instructed him to give a get, but he refused. During the hearing in beit din, the husband acted wildly, spitting at and threatening the dayanim. Beit din has the ability to reduce his chances of early discharge for good behavior by informing the authorities of his behavior in court. They would prefer to make a deal with the man to withhold the complaint if he gives a get. Would that linkage make the get he would be pressured into a get m’useh (coerced)?
Opinion #1: Although placing different types of sanctions on one who withholds a get can cause a get to be m’useh and invalid (depending on the case and the various opinions), the matter is different when one gives a get in order to save himself from a sanction which exists independently of the question of the get. The Rivash ( Shut 127) discusses a case where beit din wastaking harsh steps against a husband to force him to fulfill his marital obligations to his wife. He ruled that if, under the circumstances, the husband decides to divorce her, it is not considered a get m’useh. The Rivash compares this to a case where an incarcerated man is offered freedom if he gives a get to his wife, which he assumes simply does not harm that the get’s validity. The idea is that we consider such a get a reward, rather than considering its withholding a penalty.
However, later authorities argued about the extent of the Rivash’s leniency. The Tashbetz (I,1) says that the get given to extricate a man from unrelated sanctions is valid only if the sanctions were implemented halachically. On the other hand, the Ra’anach (Shut 43) says that as long as the sanctions were not imposed in order to force the get, it does not make a difference if they were imposed properly or not.
Our case may depend on which opinion one accepts. It is difficult for beit din to conclude that the husband’s imprisonment was done according to halacha. Thus, if they help the husband get out of jail earlier (by not reporting his behavior in court, which in other cases has been punished by the courts) only if he gives a get, at least the Ra’anach would say that it is valid. The Mabit (II, 138) understands the Tashbetz strictly and also says that if the husband can avoid the sanctions only by giving the get, then it is a problem of get m’useh. However, in our case, the Mabit would likely agree that there is not a problem. The jail sentence is already in place, with the only question being if the prisoner deserves a special gift of early release, which is not an automatic right. To withhold a favor is not a problem of get m’useh even if it leaves the husband in an unenviable situation.
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