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Marry My Ex – Please! [Halachic Analysis]

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

No. This headline is not a Henny Youngman joke. Rather, it was a question that was posed recently to two of the outstanding Gedolei haDor – Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein Shlita and Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita. The background and the question, were as follows:

There was a couple that was married and had one child. On account of an unspecified illness of the mother, the couple had to divorce. And the wife had now approached her single friend.

“I know you well. I trust you. I am concerned for my daughter, and I know that you would take care of her very well – putting her best interests in mind always. This is not always the case with other step-parents. Please, I beg you. Will you date my ex?”


The friend was concerned that if she did go ahead with this shidduch – her friend would eventually be upset with her. Although, it seems that her concern would be the loss of friendship – there are also two other concerns. One concern is that her going through with such a marriage could in all probability lead to a negation of the Mitzvah of v’Ahavta larayacha kamocha. The second concern is that the marriage would actively cause her friend untold tza’ar, anguish. This might be a violation of lo sonu ish es amiso, a verse in VaYikra (25:17). The Mitzvah is generally called “Onaas Dvarim” or just plain “Onaah.” As an interesting aside, the Sfas Emes explains that the main reason behind this prohibition is so that we will all have a sense of complete oneness as a people. Causing another pain was prohibited because it causes division within us as a people.


The friend of the ex-wife posed the question to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein Shlita.  His tentative response was that although her hesitation was correct – there is an effective workaround.

What was it?  The ex-wife should place her guarantee of not being angry in writing rather than having it merely said to her orally.


Rav Zilberstein cited a Merkeves HaMishna (Hilchos Geirushin 6:3) regarding the idea of a heter meah rabbonim for a woman whose psychological state was such that she is halachically incapable of receiving a get.  He states that a messenger should be appointed to give her a Get and when she is healthy once again, he can give it to her.  He is then able to marry someone else with a heter meah Rabbonim.

Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum asks a question.  He asks, “How it is possible that the shliach can give the get when even the husband himself would not have been able to give it to her?”  He therefore questions the entire mechanism.

The answer, writes Rav Zilberstein, is that the messenger is appointed in writing.  This author’s understanding of Rav Zilberstein is that the writing imbues the shliach with extra abilities.  Indeed, there are many Roshei Yeshiva that have explained that a “writing” in a sense carries its own thought process – da’as.


Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein initially attempted to use this concept as a workaround for the woman.  If the ex-wife gave it to her friend in writing, it could carry with it “its own da’as” in a sense.  Later, even if the ex-wife changes her mind – her new thinking would be ineffective.


However, after Rav Zilberstein presented the question and the solution to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the Sar HaTorah. Rav Chaim shlita rejected the rationale.  He stated that she should not date her friend’s ex-husband.  The information contained here (aside from the author’s conjectures) is found in Vavei haAmudim in the Kislev 5779 edition.


What was Rav Chaim’s rationale?  On the one hand, it could be that he rejects the idea of writing carrying it’s own thought.  Or it could be that he rejects the idea that the writing would do anything to remedy the pain of the first wife.  There is a third possibility.


There is an interesting debate between Rav Henoch Leibowitz zatzal and Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zatzal in regard to the holy biblical figures of Pnina and Chana, the two wives of Elkanah. Pnina had children, while Chana, at this point, did not.  The Gemara in Bava Basra 16a states that Pnina acted for the sake of Heaven when she made Chana cry about her lack of children.

Pnina realized that the reason Hashem was withholding children from Chana was because she was not davening to Hashem with the requisite intensity. She took it upon herself leshaim shamayim to help Chana intensify her prayers by teasing her that she had no children.


Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zatzal (Sichos Mussar) points out that the notion of “what goes around comes around” (or the Middah keneged Middah) regarding causing someone else pain exists – even when the underlying intention of the offender is 100% proper.  This is the import of the Gemorah in Bava Basra.

It is kind of like the law of gravity.  The item that is being thrown off the seventh story of a building will fall down – no matter how innocent it may be.  The same thing is true of causing someone pain.  Rav Chaim Shmulevitz applies the same idea with Yaakov Avinu and Aisav.  Yaakov certainly had perfect intentions.  Yet the Midrash tells us that Yaakov Avinu’s descendent – Mordechai let out the same loud and bitter scream that his great-great great (etc.) uncle did:  Vayitzak tzaakah gedolah umarah.

Rav Henoch Leibowitz zatzal, on the other hand, held that it must be that Pnina was only 99.999% Lishma – but there was a subtle, infinitesimally small trace of improper motivation in Pnina’s actions. Regardless, we see how serious the issue of causing another pain actually is.


It very well could be that Rav Chaim Kanievsky held that it does not matter if the ex-wife put it in writing or not.  At the end of the day, the friend can be causing her tremendous pain – and causing someone pain will create a mida keneged mida in the world and the friend might eventually suffer from it.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

11 Responses

  1. May I respectfully point out that the divorced husband will in all probability remarry. His remarriage can cause a small amount of pain on the first wife no matter what. The menuchas nefesh of the first wife knowing her childs step mother will be someone who is compassionate and with good middos (she is after all her friend) is a huge relief. Unfortunately even in the best of circumstances, it isnt always that way and I think the Mothers feelings are best served by respecting her request.

  2. gedolai yisroel who do not provide the halakhic and or logical reasoning behind their psak did not exist throughout jewish history. what has changed to permit such behavior??

  3. Why post such a tragic story? What do we learn from this sensational question? Some Shaylos are meant to remain private. It’s important to note that some of Rav Zilbershteins “Shaylos” were asked theoretically for learning sake & not in real life. He refers to the Ben Ish Chai who would also pose theoretical shaylos to encourage thinking.
    Rav Zilbershtein is not asked every most farfetched question that could possibly occur in the world.

  4. Would the answer have been different if the question would have been focused on the child ? I.E. What is best for the daughter (instead of the mother)? Should we also be concerned of causing pain to the daughter if she has an unsuitable stepmother ?

  5. DrYidd, I wish to apologize to you for the gedolim not respecting your opinion and not asking you for your opinion before responding to the question posed to them. Please convey to them that you feel it’s wrong for them not to answer without backing up their responses as you feel they should. Perhaps, just maybe perhaps, they just didn’t feel they needed to but once you tell them that they’re wrong for not properly backing up their responses, perhaps they will do teshuva and begin to do so! Thank you for pointing it out!

  6. Dr Yidd, perhaps the reason behind the psak was intentionally omitted to prevent amaratzim and leytzanim like yourself from dissecting the psak in the ywn comments section.

    And Haimy it’s a free country, nobody’s forcing you to take the click bait. Moreover, even if you feel there’s no tachlis to the Shayla, there’s a concept you’re probably not familiar with called “drosh v’kabel schar.” Look into it.

  7. Reply to Yaapchik:
    Actually the Steipler mentions this scenario (cited in Orchos Rabeinu vol 4, seforim uperushim 12) and dismisses any psak from even the greatest Rov.

  8. Yaapchick. …

    You are being too harsh and borderline mavazeh talmeidei chachomim with respect to those gadolim who on some occasions may decide not to fully document a psak din they issue. While I agree that it would be better for the tzibur to understand their analysis of the facts and the rationale for their decision, they may have good reasons not to do in some cases (including the privacy of those involved whose identify might be inferred from such documentation). Trust a gadol as to when to do so and when not.

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