Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Prenups II: The Emperor's Waiver has no Close - Part 2 - Mechila

Author's note - This is Part 2 of a multi-part series. Please see Part 1 and the Author's note in the heading.

Hello, readers, I am back with Part 2. I apologize for the long delay.

One cause of the delay is the fact that this topic calls for a ton of research. I spent hours scouring the poskim for this post. A second cause is the fact that I had recurring dilemmas as to how to present a critique on highly technical Halachic issues in a way that can be followed by readers who are not Halachic techies. I had to scrap several earlier drafts of this post. This post is for Halachic savvy readers.

In some of the elaborate Halachic series’ such as the Kol Koreh (Mesira) series and the Malka Leifer series, it was necessary to prelude the main posts by dedicating a special post to list and define Talmudic terms and sources. Logic dictates that I should do the same here. Feedback dictates that it is probably a fruitless undertaking so I will try to get by without it. So let’s move on to Part 2.

As of now, two people were brave enough to post comments to Part 1. Both of whom made a point of reminding me that there is a Hebrew version of the main body of the PNA that is endorsed by a number of very prominent poskim that include Harav Hagaon Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Shlita and Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef, ZT”L.

In response, I must quote one of those commenters, “You are missing my point.” 

I am not trying to assert that the PNA is invalid as automatically engendering a get meuseh. Who am I to say so? Besides, if I wanted to, I can point to a substantial group of prominent poskim who are quite non-supportive of this agreement to say the least. It wouldn’t have to come from me.

What I am trying to assert is that even if the PNA is Halachically valid, there are issues that compromise its enforceability and, by extension, its effectiveness.

I am not the only one who noticed an enforceability issue here; Rabbi Willig saw it, too. But I think it is being swept under the rug and is much more serious than it is being made out to be.

So, to respond to the commenters, let’s refer to the Hebrew version of the PNA. And let’s refer to the English one (Standard Version). One may notice a slight variation. Did these commenters who laud the text of HRHGZN”G notice this subtle yet crucially important difference?

And what is this variation?

In the current English version there is an odd clause added in. It says: and I recite that I shall be deemed to have repeated this waiver at the time of our wedding.” These words are not in the original Hebrew, so why are do they appear in the current English?

Says Rabbi Willig (70:45) that, without these words, the waiver part of the agreement will not be enforceable. He points to the gemara in Kesubos (83a) that tells us that one cannot relinquish any “rights” prior to the wedding because he hasn’t been awarded them yet. The opportune time for such a thing would be after the kiddushin but before the nissuin. So by repeating this waiver after the kiddushin, or being deemed to have done so, we have grand-slammed the ball on to Waive-land (Ave. – sorry, Cubs fans, wait till next year century).

So says Rabbi Willig, Shlita. With a poker face, I am seeing Rabbi Willig’s bet and I am raising him. He acknowledges that without adding these additional words, the waiver aspect will not be enforceable. I am betting that even after adding these words, it is not enforceable.

What gives (or takes)?

In this clause, the husband agrees to “waive his rights to his wife’s earnings…” What rights are these?

In Part 1, I asserted that we need to differentiate between “dividend” earnings that come as a result of revenues of property holdings (Peiros), and “job” earnings that come as a result of profits and wages (Maaseh Yedayim). I explained why the waiver cannot apply to the Peiros. The Peiros benefit is a result of obtaining joint title in the property. Once this title is acquired by the husband, the only way to “waive” it is to transfer his share of the title back to his wife.  This requires a fresh kinyan at the time of relinquishing which cannot be done in advance (see Chelkas Mech. Even HaEzer 92:8 SK 17). Hence, even after the PNA is signed, and even if his obligation to increase the support takes effect at the time of the signing (not a sure thing), the husband can still retract the waiver on this income as long as it (the waiver) hasn’t taken effect – which is not until the separation.

We now turn our attention to the Maaseh Yedayim (earnings). Here we will need to get very technical.

When the husband waives his rights to his wife’s earnings what is he doing?

Well, let’s pretend we live in Monopoly-land and that it is a Halachic state (like Palmtree, NY). There is a wonderful law in Monopoly-land that every citizen who passes Go is entitled to collect $200. Yippie!

Let’s assume that the law also says that if one passes Go and neglects to collect his $200, he can no longer claim those $200 – but this applies only after he passes Go, not before (see Rema in Ch”M 209:4).

Now let’s say, R. Doniel Trumpsky, a big-shot loaded gvir, is running for mayor and wants to show off his benevolence so he declares that he is “waiving his rights” to the $200. He still passes Go like everyone else and he is still entitled to the $200. He is merely abstaining from collecting the money (or cashing the check).

We would say that he is being mochel (pardoning) the $200 back to the community chest. In this context “waiving his rights” means that he is choosing not to exercise his right to collect the $200. So now he won’t have these $200 in his pocket, but nothing happens to his basic right to collect it. The “right” is still there.

This is the standard. When someone “waives” a right, it doesn’t technically mean that he gives up the right. In most cases a person cannot give up a right. The right comes from the constitution of the domain (Church or State) that governs one’s life. The 5th amendment to the US Constitution gives us the right to remain silent. One can “waive” his 5th amendment rights in any given instance. But it only means that in this instance he is not exercising his right. The right is still there for him to use whenever he doesn’t want to waive it. He doesn’t lose the right and cannot, even if he wanted to.

The Monopoly-land constitution was written by the founding fathers – the Parker Brothers. If you pass Go you can collect $200. That’s the law of the land. R. Doniel Trumpsky – wealthy as he is – cannot change the law. He cannot get rid of the right. But since the right is a benefit, he cannot be forced to accept the benefit. So he can waive the benefit of the right; but not the right itself.

So, now, let’s say after blowing his life’s savings on his campaign, R. Doniel loses the mayoral race to R. Hillel Clintowitz. He changes his mind about not collecting his $200. Well, it’s his constitutional right, always was and always remains. So he can now begin again to collect the $200 though he may not be able to reclaim the payments that he waived earlier.

So when he declared he is “waiving” his right, what he is saying is that, until further notice, whenever he passes Go he will not exercise his right to collect the money. In effect, the declaration means nothing because he can still collect the money next time he passes Go. Either he will live up to his declaration or not but his right to collect the money doesn’t go away. He can also change his mind even after his declaration if he still hasn’t passed Go.

This is the typical scenario and in a Halachic framework it is called mechila (pardoning or excusing).

Is there any way he can shake off his “rights” once and for all?

There may be. As a citizen of Monopoly-land he is entitled to the rights whether he wants them or not. But perhaps, if it’s not a communist dictatorship, he can renounce his citizenship in Monopoly-land. He doesn’t change any laws or rights, he just removes himself from eligibility. Likewise, suppose he is not a citizen but applies for temporary residency in Monopoly-land. He is told that as a condition for temporary residency he must “waive” his rights to the $200 even though he will have every right to pass Go. He agrees to this.

In this case, he is not pardoning or excusing anyone from giving him $200. He is either relinquishing his eligibility to the rights or not obtaining the eligibility to start with. In this context, the term “waive the rights” means to relinquish or to decline the eligibility for the benefits.

This is a less typical scenario and in a Halachic framework it is called siluk (abdicating or declining eligibility).

What comes out is that the English term “waive” is an ambiguous term that means to “take a pass” on the benefits but it can mean by way of relinquishing the benefits themselves to which he is eligible (mechila) or by way of relinquishing the eligibility to get the benefits (siluk).

So now let’s go straight back to the waiver clause in the PNA and repeat our opening question about the Maaseh Yedayim:  When the husband “waives” his rights to his wife’s earnings (at a future time), what is he doing? 

Is it a mechila or a siluk?

Let us first assume that it is a mechila. The husband is being mochel her Maaseh Yadayim back to her. (Note - Mechila is the term that is used in the Hebrew version)

If he is, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is a short and sweet Halacha in Ch”M 12:8 (one of the shortest in all of Shu”A):
Mechila does not require a kinyan.

Goodie! This means that a mere declaration, spoken in front of witnesses or signed, is sufficient.

Now the bad news - Rema in Ch”M 209:4 (noted previously):

And just as a person cannot transfer [by sale or gift] something that is not yet in existence, likewise one cannot be mochel something that is not yet in existence.


This is saying that one cannot pardon a “promised” (or obligated) benefit before the benefit is in existence. One cannot be mochel the $200 before he passes Go and is eligible to collect it.

So let’s talk about his wife’s earnings. The mechila perspective means that the husband (to-be) is now agreeing that at a future time he will be mochel (pardon or excuse) her obligation to turn over her earnings to him. This “obligation” first comes about when she collects her earnings from her customer, client or employer. Let’s say she is a wage earner and earns $4500 (an arbitrary number). She gets paid promptly on the fifth of each month.  As soon as the paycheck comes in, Chazal obligate her to forward it to her husband.

If he likes, he can pardon her obligation and let her keep her paycheck. But on the fourth of the month, before it comes in, there is not yet anything for her to forward to him. And, as such, there is nothing for him to pardon. She will have an obligation tomorrow, but there is no obligation in effect now. Moreover, this obligation is perpetual. It renews itself with every paycheck just like she is passing Go. He has to reaffirm his mechila with every paycheck or he can change his mind. He can always retract his mechila from paycheck to paycheck.

Sof davar, with the mechila perspective, his signed declaration before the wedding does not accomplish a thing. Nothing is waived. She hasn’t earned anything for him to waive. Likewise for repeating the declaration “at the time of the wedding.” Even if the PNA would read that he repeats this waiver “at the time of the separation” won’t accomplish anything. Even if they are already separated and fighting a pitched battle, and even if he honored the agreement for some time, but now he changes his position and wants to be more recalcitrant and demand her earnings (and he is being held to pay mezonos), he can still retract his waiver.

One cannot be mochel something that has not yet come into existence.

So how will Rabbi Willig, Shlita, respond to this?

Rabbi Willig is no Am Haaretz. And he will promptly call me one and tell me to look at the SM”A in S.K. 21 and go directly to the Rema in 209:8 not to pass go and not to collect $200. There, the Rema clearly states that:

"even if one cannot transfer something that is not yet in existence he can base a condition on it and likewise to renounce (l’salek) himself and his power [of attorney] from something that is not yet in existence since he has not yet obtained it."

So he cannot be mochel in advance but he can be mesalek (siluk). Or can he?

In theory, now that we are back in Siluk-land, we will face many of the same problems that were discussed in Part 1. Still, in this case there is a bit of very good news. We are no longer discussing siluk from the dividends of property holdings but rather a siluk from a “shiabud” (lien or obligation - words of the Nesivos HaMishpat ibid:28). As such, both the Nesivos and the SM”A (S.K. 29) state that such a siluk does not require a kinyan! A declaration (before witnesses) or signed statement is sufficient.

This helps us (or Rabbi Willig) but not enough. The rules of this siluk are based on the siluk of Nichsei Malug in Kesubos 83, the only difference is that we are not talking about siluk from a title to property but rather from a monetary shiabud. All the other rules apply (see very lengthy Ktzos HaChoshen ibid.).

As such, can this siluk take effect before the wedding?

All opinions hold absolutely not. This is why the PNA adds the words about repeating the waiver afterward.

So, does it take effect at “the time of the wedding”?

It would, indeed, if this were when he wants the siluk to take effect. But because he does not want it to take effect now and is freezing it for later, it cannot.

Can it take effect at the time of the separation?

Believe it or not, this may actually work with the declaration he makes now (if he is “deemed” to repeat it then) because, for this shiabud, there is no need for a kinyan. However, the PNA would need to expressly say that he is deemed to repeat the declaration at that time (when the siluk takes effect) and this is not what it says.

So let’s say the PTB makes this change in the agreement, have we solved our problems?

No, or more precisely, it depends who you ask. If you ask the Shach or the Ktzos, perhaps it does. If you ask the Rema, Tumim or Mohari”t )Rav Yosef Matrani 1568-1639), it does not.

The issue at hand is that once we say that this siluk can only take effect at the time of separation, what happens if he retracts his siluk in the interim? Can he?

Moharit says he certainly can. The Ktzos disagrees. The Ktzos also intimates that this is in line with the Rema in Ch”M 112:1 concerning a lien against a future acquisition. The Rema’s opening position is even if one expressly earmarks a future acquisition for a lien, the lien cannot take effect until the acquisition and in the meantime, he can retract it. He follows this ruling with a terse “yesh cholkim (others disagree)”. This usually means that the first opinion is primary. The Shach announces that the “yesh cholkim” is the primary Halacha against the implication of the Rema.  The Nesivos disputes this Shach based on the Tumim and even the Ktzos.

So the retraction issue in this case seems to be a strong dispute. Furthermore, it is not clear if those who maintain that the husband cannot retract are talking only in a case that the siluk was done with a kinyan.

The basic rule in Halacha is that the burden of proof is upon side that is changing the status quo (motzi m’chezkaso). Hence, if the siluk has not yet taken effect and the husband retracts it. We need to follow the opinions that there is no siluk. (Of course, the BDA will want to follow the other opinion and make the husband agree with their “kim li” clause.)

Grand Summary

Let’s quickly summarize all of our angles:

Dividend Earnings (Peiros)

Declaration or kinyan before the wedding – Waiver doesn’t take effect at all because he has no rights to waive.

Declaration at time of wedding – Waiver doesn’t take effect at all because he doesn’t want it to take effect yet.

Declaration at time of separation – Waiver does not take effect at all because this requires a new kinyan. Husband could make a kinyan at that time if he agrees to it.

Declaration before the wedding that at the time of separation the current kinyan is effective me’achshav – Either his interim use of the peiros negates the me’achshav and the waiver will not take effect at all or the me’achshav negates the interim usage and takes effect retroactively. This will make the husband liable for reimbursement. Also, in the latter viewpoint, many poskim will hold that he can retract the siluk order as long as it hasn’t taken effect.

Job Earnings (Maaseh Yedayim) by way of Mechila

No advance declarations will take effect because the job earnings have not yet come into existence (Ch"M 209:4).
Husband could waive them later once they are earned – if he agrees to it – but he can retract the waiver anytime and continue to collect. 

Job Earnings (Maaseh Yedayim) by way of Siluk

Declaration before the wedding – Waiver doesn’t take effect at all because he has no rights to waive.

Declaration at time of wedding – Waiver doesn’t take effect at all because he doesn’t want it to take effect yet.

Declaration at time of separation (or declaration now for the time of separation) – Waiver may take effect. However, PNA needs to write this expressly. In addition, many poskim will hold that he can retract the siluk order as long as it hasn’t taken effect.

Declaration before the wedding that at the time of separation the current declaration is effective me’achshav – Same problems as Peiros.

Conclusion (to waiver issue)

One of the two commenters on my Part 1 post noted that “Furthermore, even if this mechila doesn’t work the PNA is still extremely helpful for the majority of cases where the wife’s income is not way above average.”

On the face of things, he is 100% correct if this is the majority of cases. But we have to remember a few things.

Firstly, this entire PNA is predicated on the chiddush of the Toras Gittin which is built around this waiver. So the waiver must be solid.

We must also note that we are dealing with a couple who are separated so the wife is living on her own. Today, most women have incomes – especially those who leave their husbands - and it doesn’t take much income to take the bite out of the PNA. I did a bit of googling and came up that a woman in the US earns on the average $700-800 per week and for those in professional or management positions it was a bit over $1000. So we are talking on the average $3000-4000 per month to offset his $4500.

But there can also be some very serious ramifications. Everything that I have written is working in line with the opinions that the PNA does not automatically engender a forced get. I am only challenging the waiver aspect. One can argue that my entire thesis on the frailty of the waiver is only a concern if the husband is knowledgeable enough to challenge the validity of the waiver or to retract it. Very few men from the circles that promote the PNA – mostly Modern Orthodox working class – who don’t read my blog will be that knowledgeable.

But suppose some learned recalcitrant husband – or one who gets a good toen - does indeed challenge or retract the waiver and demands his wife’s earnings.  Suppose the Bais Din does not take his challenge seriously and they enforce the PNA agreement even though the Halacha about his wife’s earnings may be on his side. In such a case we are now dealing with a bona fide gold standard get meuseh l’mehadrin that is invalid according to all opinions.

So it’s critical to take a good look at this waiver and see if it really works. I have my doubts. The hitchayvut of the mezonos – a controversy in itself – may be bolstered with a belt and suspenders. But the waiver to the earnings has neither a belt nor suspenders. Nothing to hold up its trousers.

In my humble opinion and based on the research I have done, I don’t think the Emperor’s waiver has any close at all!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Prenups I: The Emperor’s Waiver has no Close – Part 1 – Siluk

Author's note – This subject involves very emotional and very complex Halachic issues. I am not a dayan or a posek but I strongly stand behind the Halachic corollaries that I present and believe them to be worthy of serious Halachic debate.

The laws of the Torah are longer than the Earth and wider than the sea (Iyov 11:9). No amount of research on these Halachic topics is sufficient. The Halachic arguments presented here are subject to differing interpretations of the Poskim, errors, and oversights. In addition, some concepts require more detailed explanation than can be fit into even a lengthy essay and may not be sufficiently clear. I welcome all respectful comments and questions.

Ever since the dawn of time (or Mattan Torah), man has pursued a never-ending quest to develop two specific mechanisms:

·         A perpetual motion machine

·         A valid Halachic formula to avert agunos and siruvei gittin once and for all.

Both of these quests have proven to be impossible; the former due to the laws of physics and the latter due to the laws of Shulchan Aruch.

Additionally, in an earlier post I wrote another reason why a wholesale hetter-agunah mechanism will never come about. HKBH does not want it to. The logical explanation for this would be that If marriage can be so easily dissolved, it loses its “staying power” and its sanctity.  So He created a system where getting out of a marriage has to come at a price. For everybody.

This is because HKBH wants marriages to last. He wants the couple to invest in the marriage, to maintain it and nurture it as opposed to neglecting it. He also wants people to have the proper goals in mind when they look to get married which will help ensure that they get married to the right people. He wants us to take it seriously.

Of course HKBH doesn’t want recalcitrance, either, but He gives all human beings free will to choose between right and wrong.

Despite the impossibility in both cases, people haven’t stopped trying. And once in a while somebody screams “Eureka!” – I have found it – only to see it ultimately debunked.

In the case of agunos and siruvei gittin, we know the “usual suspects” – hafkaas kiddushin, get zikui, and t’nayim.  Although some of these mechanisms may be applicable in exceptional instances, they never were and never will be approved for commercial use.

Undaunted, the “free-the-agunos” askanim of today, sponsored by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and its judicial branch, Beis Din of America (BDA), are trying to peddle another “solution” – the prenuptial agreements.

The Halachic issues involved have turned it into a very convoluted document and, accordingly, a very controversial one. This is evidenced by the strange kim li clause at the end of the document. Without too much detail, this clause states that the parties agree to accept whatever halachic opinions are required to make this work, even if they are not the prevailing majority opinions. This, by itself indicates that the BDA acknowledges that the validity of the prenup depends on some off-Broadway opinions.

I am not one to say whether it is valid or invalid but I do think it is a stroke of genius. This is because they developed a two-phase agreement. Phase one is that the parties are granting the BDA itself exclusive authority to arbitrate their dispute. Phase two is that (ex-)husband-to-be commits himself to the financial arrangement outlined in the agreement. Since the BDA are the primary backers of the Halachic validity of the agreement and they are also arbitrating the dispute, they will have no problem upholding the agreement at their discretion – with the help of the kim li clause.

To quote chief architect Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Shlita – “a belt and suspenders!”

The more chareidi batei din, who don’t work on kim li’s of minority opinions, are not as supportive of this agreement, nor are they as eager to see problem marriages end in divorce (although they certainly do not condone recalcitrance). And many of these poskim have voiced their objections. The overwhelming issue is the question of a forced get (get meuseh) and the lion’s share of the literature debates this issue. As I look at this, I see some other less prominent Halachic issues that need to be addressed. And these are what I want to discuss.

The Halachic controversy can only be understood from a point of knowledge. So let’s see how this mechanism is supposed to work.

The initial model for the current day BDA prenup was the concept of the husband declaring a self-imposed penalty (knas) for not issuing a get. Since this penalty is self-imposed, his agreement to divorce would not be considered a forced get (get meuseh).

This idea goes way back and is discussed openly in the Rema in Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 134:5. The Rema personally does not see a problem with this system but he notes that there are those who don’t approve (Teshuvos HaRashba). Accordingly, he says it should not be done l’chatchila and even if it is done, the knas should be waived. He rules that despite this, if this system was used the get is still valid, but in his closing words, he throws in some scary language that the get is valid “since initially he was not forced to do this…”

This implies that if it is possible to claim in any given case that the initial “self-imposed” knas was forced, even the Rema might invalidate the get!

Because of all of these problems, it was understood that the right-wing Rabbinic world will not approve of a prenup based on the knas concept to be implemented l’chatchila. We must stay out of Knas-land.

Undaunted, the framers of the prenups created a new domain which seems to be advocated by the Toras Gittin (ibid.):  Mezonos-land!

The Mezonos-land method works as follows. In every standard marriage the husband has rights (benefits from his wife) and obligations to the wife (benefits from the husband).  Chazal defined and arranged these rights and obligations in a way to create a balance where some of the benefits given to the husband balance those awarded to the wife.

The idea of this prenup is that the husband agrees of his own volition that, in case of marital strife, he will uphold and even increase his financial obligations to his wife and at the same time renounce his rights to financial benefits from his wife. Since all he is doing is to uphold his marital obligations, even though he is now creating an imbalance which puts upon him financial duress, this is not construed as a Knas – at least, in the eyes of the Toras Gittin.

To understand the issues of the prenup, we need to assess the validity of both segments – (1) boosting his obligations and (2) renouncing his benefits. In this post, I will only deal with the renouncing part – the “Waiver” - which has gotten a back seat look from the Poskim. But I think some aspects were overlooked and, hence, it is the more problematic issue. Indeed, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Shlita, in his famous shiur, noted that this segment is “very sticky”. From his brief description, I don’t think he adequately demonstrated how sticky it is. (B’mechilas kvodo, I am not convinced that he grasped it himself).

As stated earlier, in a situation where the wife has a significant income, the waiver is vitally important to create the needed imbalance. Without it, the rules of Mezonos-land dictate that as long as he covers the support, he can collect her earnings. If her earnings are substantial they can offset the augmented support. If this collection is not waived, the force of the agreement is neutralized. So this waiver is a crucial ingredient.

However, for the ingredient to work properly, the waiver would need to be effectual and irrevocable. And herein lies the rub. It is difficult to make this waiver effectual and – as far as I can see – virtually impossible to make it irrevocable.

Let’s discuss why.

In general people earn money through one or more of three basic methods:

·         Dividends

·         Profits

·         Wages

Dividends refer to the yields of property holdings. This would include rental income from real estate, dividends from stocks, and proceeds from other investments. In the Talmudic agricultural society, it refers to the actual yields of produce from fields or the offspring of livestock. In Talmudic language this is called “peiros nechasim”.

Profits are the earnings from buying and selling merchandise or providing self-employed services. In Talmudic terms, we can call this “iska” (business).

Wages are salaries from hired labor. In Modern Hebrew it is called “maskoret”. Also “schar tircha” or “schar pe’ula”.

For our purposes, the first category – Dividends - stands alone as “peiros” (Property rights) and the second two categories – Profits and Wages - can be combined together to be called “maaseh yedayim” (Earnings).

In today’s world, most people obtain their primary income from maaseh yadayim. Some people have investments in stocks and/or property holdings but usually it is stored in savings and not used for income. More important, very few women have any property when they are first married.

We noted that according to the prenup, the husband will renounce some financial rights that he gets from his wife. What rights does a husband get? They are the two kinds that we just described: Property rights and earnings. A woman basically has no property rights from her husband, meaning she has no rights to any property that the husband brings into the marriage except that she has an automatic lien on his property for her Kesuba and other marital rights (mezonos).

These two rights of the husband - Property rights and Earnings - have different rules. Since the husband is the one renouncing some of his rights in the BDA prenup, we need to discuss both of these.

To review the Property rights, by Torah law, when a couple marries, all property that belongs to the husband remains his. Likewise for what he acquires in his own name over the course of the marriage. As for the wife’s properties, things are a bit different. Upon the commencement of the marriage, the property remains under the official ownership of the wife, but, by decree of Chazal, the husband is granted partial rights to the property which are:

·         He can hold her back from selling the property to somebody else.

·         He is entitled to personal consumption of all proceeds from the property in terms of produce or revenues.

·         He inherits the land to be his own upon her demise – if they are still married.  

These rights are looked upon as if the husband has a physical stake in the property. As if he is a part owner. Since the property is tangible, this “stake” is tangible. Thus, at the conclusion of the chuppah, if the woman has any properties, the husband makes a tangible acquisition.

Chazal call this “nichsei malug”.

Incidentally, this also applies to properties that the woman acquires in the course of the marriage through inheritance or as a gift.

Let’s suppose that the wife does not like this arrangement. She does not want her new husband to get a tangible stake in her property. And let’s say the husband agrees to this setup (like she won’t otherwise agree to marry him. This is very common, if not standard, by second marriages where there are children from the first one. ) How do they circumvent the decree of chazal which takes effect automatically at the moment of nissuin?

The simple thing to suggest is: let him be mochel (waive) his rights. Alas, Halacha is not so simple.

The concept of “mochel” cannot apply here. According to most poskim, mechila is like giving a gift. It only applies to a monetary obligation from one to another.

In our case, nobody is obligated to give anything to the other. Chazal are in control and they determine that he automatically gets the property together with the girl. Before the chuppa, it is not yet his and she has no monetary obligations to him that he can be mochel. Even during the betrothal she has no obligations to him. After the chuppa, the property [rights] automatically land in his pocket courtesy of Chazal. At this stage, he cannot be mochel. He has already taken possession. One cannot be mochel what one has in his pocket. It won’t move out by itself.

For this reason, we need to devise a different concept. It is called “Siluk” and it means abdication – not waiving. Although there is no obligation from her to enable him to be mochel, he can choose to be mesalek (abdicate or renounce) his ownership of the property before or after he receives it via Chazal. But there is a difference between before and after.

Before he receives it, all he has to do is recite (or write) that he wants nothing to do with the property. Return to Sender.  Once he receives it (at the conclusion of the chuppa), he cannot do this by a mere statement (even in writing). His stake in the property has already been deposited into his pocket and it’s not going to leave on its own. He needs to do a kinyan with his wife to actively transfer his stake back to her.

Hence, Chazal delineate different rules for three specific periods of time:

·       Before the entire marriage, one cannot do any siluk because he has no stake in the property even in potential. This is like calling your Post Office to refuse a package that has not arrived there at all.

·       After the Kiddushin and before the nissuin, she is already his “wife” but he does not receive his stake in her properties until he brings her in (kenisa=chuppa=sheva brachos ) when the benefits and responsibilities of the kesuba take effect. Still, since it is understood that he is destined to acquire this stake in the property, he can block it with a statement so as not to acquire it in the first place. This is like receiving a notice in your mailbox that there is a package waiting for you to pick up at the Post Office. You can simply call up the PO and tell them that you are refusing the package and to return it to sender.

·       After the nissuin one has already accepted delivery of the package and calling the PO won’t accomplish anything. The only way to return it to sender is to replace the brown paper, go down to the PO, pay postage again and send it back.

All this is the subject matter of the ninth perek of Kesubos and is spelled out in Even HaEzer 92. These Halachos apply exclusively to the nichsei malug of the woman. They do not apply to the maaseh yadayim!

A few more important details about a siluk are in order.

From the description of the gemara and Shulchan Aruch, a siluk is an on the spot action that takes effect immediately in the here and now. The groom recites or writes his siluk sometime during the kiddushin period and his acquisition is immediately “blocked”. If after the marriage, he must do it with a kinyan and it takes effect immediately. There is no discussion in the gemara or Shulchan Aruch about a situation where the groom recites that a siluk will take place at a future time but not now (and not for the interim). Is such a thing possible?

Presumably not.     

It definitely cannot work with a mere declaration because a declaration is only valid if he has not yet accepted delivery on the package. Once he has claimed the package, which he does in the interim,  he will need to do a kinyan.

Can he do a kinyan now that will take effect later?

The only kinyan one can make “up front” is a kinyan sudar and, in general, a kinyan sudar done today cannot be delayed until tomorrow because tomorrow the sudar is back to its owner (Choshen Mishpat 195:5).

How about we do a kinyan sudar now and we state that when the circumstances call for the siluk, it will take effect retroactively from now (me’achshav)?

Here we walk on thin ice. Even though such a thing is effective for a simple purchase or a self-imposed obligation (hitchayvut), it is very difficult to say that this can work with a siluk. Why? Because me’achshav is not a magic wand. It doesn’t make a delayed kinyan work later hocus pocus. It actually means that we retroactively determine that the transfer of ownership takes effect now. Like now!

Let’s assume a 12 month delay me’achshav. In the case of a purchase, after 12 months, me’achshav determines that the new owner has been the actual owner for the past 12 months. He has held the rights to all the benefits of ownership. If the original owner was using the item in the interim, he is liable to the new owner for its use (unless the new owner is mochel).

If me’achshav will work with a siluk, the trigger point – which may be many years later - will determine retroactively that the siluk took effect from the day (and time) of the kinyan. The husband will be liable to his wife for all the proceeds that he took control of from that time. Thus, a siluk will only work if he is “meirim yadayim” (hands off) in the interim or if he settles with his wife on the proceeds of the interim period. But if he displays that he has no intention of honoring the siluk retroactively, he is megalah daas that he does not want the siluk to take effect until the trigger point. Whereupon, he will need to make a new kinyan at that time to effect the siluk.

You can’t be mesalek from your cake and eat it first!

What if he makes a written agreement now to do a kinyan when it is called for?

No problem with that, but until he does the kinyan, there is no siluk. If he is an honorable person he needs to keep his word but nobody can force him to. So, until the time comes and he actually makes a kinyan, no one can stop him from backing out of the agreement.

What emerges is that in all the earlier suggestions, the siluk is not effectual and in the final suggestion, the pledge to do a siluk in not irrevocable.

So now that we know all of this, let’s go and analyze the BDA prenup.

The BDA wants to put the Toras Gittin’s suggestion in action. This is to have the groom agree now that, in a future time when appropriate, he will increase his mezonos obligation to his wife and at the same time to renounce his financial rights. (Note- Toras Gittin makes no mention of making an agreement now for the future. This is critically important and will be discussed in a future post.) And so they word their prenup as follows:

I hereby now (me’achshav) obligate myself to support my Wife-to-Be from the date …Furthermore, I waive my halakhic rights to my wife’s earnings for the period that she is entitled to the above-stipulated sum, and I recite that I shall be deemed to have repeated this waiver at the time of our wedding. I acknowledge that I have now (me’achshav) effected the above obligation by means of a kinyan (formal Jewish transaction) in an esteemed (chashuv) Beth Din as prescribed by Jewish law. 

Which halakhic rights is this referring to and what makes this waiver take effect?

Are we talking about the maaseh yadayim or the peiros, or both?

Well, I am certain that Rabbi Willig, Shlita wants to cover both bases but it looks like he is weaving shaatnez – wool and linen mixed together.

The term “my wife’s earnings” and “waive” (as opposed to “abdicate from” or “renounce”) certainly indicate that he is renouncing the maaseh yadayim.  Maaseh yadayim does require mechila (we will discuss this in the next post) and, besides, peiros cannot be called “my wife’s earnings” because they are automatically his as soon as they come into existence. Yet, the phrase “and I recite that I shall be deemed to have repeated this waiver at the time of our wedding” indicates otherwise. Why are those words there?

Rabbi Willig explains himself (71:00):  
If you look in Kesubos 83 it says that you can’t do that (waive his rights) before the eirusin

Kesubos 83?? Isn’t that talking about siluk from nichsei malug?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter and this rule of siluk applies to maaseh yadayim as well?

I cannot discuss maaseh yadayim in this post, but I will give you a sneak preview. My perspective is that, for maaseh yadayim, it does not help to recite this not before the wedding and not “at the time of our wedding”. It is only effective at the time of the actual mechila. I will explain this in the ensuing post. So, if it refers to maaseh yadayim it should read: “and I recite that I shall be deemed to have repeated this waiver at the time of our separation (or notification)”.

For the moment, let’s pretend that we are indeed discussing peiros – the proceeds from nichsei malug. Is this clause effective?

Well, I already wrote that, if this is the case, it should read, “I abdicate myself from the proceeds of my wife’s pre-marital properties…” instead of what it says. He cannot waive the peiros that automatically land in his pocket. (It’s like if the Israeli government gives you Child allowance through automatic electronic direct deposit, you can be mochel it all you want but it is still sitting in your bank account.)

Aside from this, it is not bound to be too practical because most women do not have nichsei malug.  If the couple earn their living from renting properties the properties were probably jointly bought in the course of their marriage. In this case, he is a part owner on the keren – the principle - of the property and he is certainly not abdicating from that. Same goes for stock shares.

But, more important, as we discussed, once he took possession of his stake in the nichsei malug, he cannot relinquish them without making a kinyan with his wife at the time he wants to relinquish it. If he is a recalcitrant, good luck with that.

Can the kinyan that he made at the chosson tish take effect retroactively at the time of separation to facilitate a siluk all the way back to the day of the wedding (me’achshav)?

We must say that either it doesn’t at all because he was megalah daas all these years that he had no intention of effecting a siluk from the time of the wedding (and this negates the me’achshav), or, possibly, we can say that it does take effect (me’achshav is not negated) and he is now liable for all the proceeds that he took for himself for all this time.

I think that in order to make the latter viewpoint valid, this ramification would have to be expressly spelled out in the prenup agreement. Moreover, it is very unreasonable to promote an agreement which puts a young groom at such risk and likewise more unreasonable to expect him to want to sign it and it is criminal to demand him to sign it. Remember, the terms of the prenup are independent of whether he is recalcitrant or not.

Incidentally, Rabbi Willig’s assertion that the wife is not required to surrender a “sophisticated” income to her husband (based on a shita of the Bach) might apply to maaseh yadayim but it certainly does not apply for the proceeds of nichsei  malug. Whatever it yields is all his. So there could be a lot to give back for a retroactive siluk.

For all these reasons, it is abundantly clear that the waiver in the prenup has no effect on the husband’s rights to the proceeds of the wife’s personal properties. The intent of the agreement must be relating to the maaseh yadayim. (Note that the Toras Gittin expressly mentions maaseh yadayim  and seems to ignore peiros nichsei malug.)

So now we need to examine if it this “waiver” is effective for the maaseh yadayim. But this is a post in itself.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of…

...The Emperor’s Waiver has no Close.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

War(time) and Peace(time)

Since my last post (and even before) I have been spending a lot of time doing research on the Halachic status of the BDA prenuptial agreements. I have wanted to write on that subject ever since Emes V’Emunah put out a few posts in favor of the prenups back in August. I am too preoccupied to write about it now, but maybe I will get a post out in time for Chayei Sara ;-).

Currently, the army issue is making the headlines along with some severe traffic jams in Yerushalayim. It is annoying. I had to miss the Tolna Rebbe’s shiur last Thursday because it was impossible to drive out there.

Personally, I am caught between the two rabbinic opinions. I understand the position of the “hardliners” despite the fact that I am from the moderate camp who believes that if you can just show up at the Lishkat HaGiyus and get a legal deferment, why be obstinate and aggravate the IDF?  

Besides, I do have a son who served. (My other sons obtained legal deferments.)

I have never yet written a full 1A7B overview on the army issue. It is a very complex issue and it is very hard to do justice to it in a blog post. My posts are way too long as it is (which is because it is very hard to do justice to any major issue in a brief  blog post).

That said, a fellow blogger who is a very sincere Char-da”l (Chareidi/Dati-Leumi) type has just posted on the issue and it was brought to my attention. It follows the same widespread erroneous assumption that “serving in the army” is identical to “fighting in a war”. As such, these people apply the known halachos of fighting in a war to the concept of serving in an army (when there is hardly any war).

You can see his analysis HERE.

My comment is there, as well, but I have since enhanced it and, therefore, I am reprinting it here: 

I really haven’t written directly about the army issue, but there are many misconceptions at play.

1. There is no obligation to be part of an "army" whatsoever. There is an obligation to participate in a "war" (milchama) but not to serve in an army when there is no war. So the important thing is, how do we define “war”?

Every indication from Tanach and shas is that a "war" is an active military engagement in the face of enemy hostilities; when an armed force of men is mobilized for battle. In the past 30 years, there has been very little activity which meets the criteria of “war”. Desert Shield can be called “war”, Cast Lead can be called “war”, Second Lebanon War, Tzuk Eitan, Amud Anan, whatever you want. All these “wars” probably won’t add up to six months over the past twenty years. Manning checkpoints and going into Arab villages to arrest terrorists are not wars.

2. Every indication from Tanach is that there was no major standing army in Biblical times. The Jewish armies in those times were militia style armies of regular people – farmers, laborers, and perhaps even scholars – who were called up to arms when there was a call to arms. The rest of the time, they stayed home and worked or studied. We see this clearly in the wars of Barak and Gideon as well as Moshe's war against Midyan.

Indeed, there were professional Jewish soldiers under the command of the kings’ generals like Yoav and Avner but there is neither reason nor source to say that these soldiers were anything but volunteers. Also, a proper king has the right to draft anybody he wants into his personal guard. Nevertheless, there is no indication whatsoever that anybody was ever forcibly conscripted into a standing army to hang around and waste their lives when there was no active war going on.

In fact, as far as I know, the only place in Tanach that discusses a long-term conscription of any kind was Shlomo Hamelech's labor force for building the Bais HaMikdash (Melachm I 5:28). Even that was a rotation of one month on duty and two months at home.
Interestingly, the gemara in Sanhedrin (94b) clearly relates that when the nation of Yehuda was beiong attacked by the army of Sancheiriv which comprised 185,000 commanding officers, Chizkiyahu Hamelech conscripted every able bodies person to study in the Beis Midrash!

3. Today’s army is forced enslavement of young people for three crucial years using the excuse that they must be thus enslaved so that they can fight in combat just in case there is a week or two of actual “war” during this period. There is no Halachic premise to sanction this. Ironically, when the second Lebanon war occurred (34 days in 2006, the longest in the past 20 years), the IDF mostly left the army intact and called up reservists!

4. Incidentally, almost nobody who takes on this issue, including our esteemed blog host, seems to mention that Rashi,in no less than three places in Chumash, goes out of his way to stress that, even for a call up for active hostilities, the minimum age for soldiering is 20 years old.

So, to answer your title question, nobody has to serve in the army but anybody over 20 who is needed has to fight in a war for as long as that war is in effect.

Y. Hirshman

AuthorOne Above and Seven Below

עת מלחמה ועת שלום

May we be zocheh to see the final geula and put this whole controversy to rest once and for all. BB”A.

Once we are in Parshas Lech Lecha and discussing the Kedusha of Eretz Yisroel, please see this fascinating post from 2008:

Good Shabbos!