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Shabbat Parashat Vayeshev| 5767
A Woman Who Admitted Adultery and Recants - Excerpts from Piskei Din Rabbani’im - vol. IX, pp. 74-94
Case: A woman told her husband, during a quarrel, that she committed adultery. The husband says he believes her and wants to give a get. The wife objects and claims that she said what she did out of anger to upset him, but that she had not committed adultery. The husband admits that other than his wife’s admission, there were no signs of adultery.
Ruling: The mishna (Nedarim 90b) concludes that a woman who claims she committed adultery is not believed. The reason is that we are concerned that she made the claim to force her husband to divorce her. [The question of how this concern overcomes the general rule that one is believed to say that something is forbidden to him or her (i.e., to live with her husband) is beyond our scope]. However, what happens if the husband says he believes her admission?
The Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’ezer 115:6) says that if the husband believes his wife’s admission, he should divorce her. However, the Rama (ibid. 178:9) brings two opinions if we believe the husband that he believes her when the matter takes place in an area where Rabbeinu Gershom’s ban not to divorce a wife against her will is accepted. In such a case, the same logic that prevents a woman from freeing herself from her husband may prevent the husband from freeing himself from his wife. (The Shulchan Aruch lived in communities where the ban was not accepted.) There is an apparent contradiction between two responsa of the Rashba as to whether Rabbeinu Gershom’s ban applies in this case.
The Knesset Hagedola (EH 115:31) says that it depends on whether the husband was known to have been quarreling with his wife, in which case we suspect that he is lying when he says he believes her. The Meiri (Kiddushin 66), who apparently received one of the Rashba’s responsa, distinguished differently. The husband can accept the wife’s admission only in cases where there are other grounds to suspect that she was indeed involved in adultery.
In our case, the husband admits that there were no grounds to suspect his wife besides her admission. Furthermore, her explanation (amatla)of why she claimed to have committed adultery is very plausible. According to most poskim, she is able to retract her admission and remain with her husband. A notable dissenter is Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Shut 88), who says that the husband can accept her admission. He points out that he is not acting unilaterally against her, as she caused her own problem by admitting. However, there are strong grounds [beyond our scope] to reject that opinion.
In this case, the couple is Sephardic, and Sephardim did not accept Rabbeinu Gershom’s ban. However, since their ketuba included an oath not to divorce against the wife’s will and since it is against the law in Israel to do so, the halacha is no different for them than for Ashkenazim. Therefore, the woman does not have to accept a get.
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Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
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in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l.
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