Sh’mor Sh’eirit Yisrael!
It was an unusually thunderous speech from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein delivered on Purim 5442 (1982) at Yeshivat Har Etzion, one of Israel’s premier Yeshivot Hesder. Rav Lichtenstein summoned the Talmidim to follow the example of Esther’s incredible Mesirat Nefesh for Am Yisrael. Rav Lichtenstein’s thunderous clarion call “Chayavim Litrom L’Am Yisrael” (we must contribute to the Jewish People) still resonates deeply in my ear, as I am sure it does for the hundreds of other Talmidim who were privileged to hear this great speech.
On a personal note, it is this speech which has driven me in my twenty-five years of service as a Mesadeir Gittin, a Rabbanut HaRashit L’Yisrael recognized Get administrator under the auspices of the Beth Din of Elizabeth. We Get administrators work tirelessly to ensure and preserve the Kedusha of Am Yisrael, especially amongst those who are marginally affiliated with the Orthodox community. I can think of no greater implementation of Rav Lichtenstein’s call to make a positive impact on the Jewish People.
Our reading of the Pesukim regarding Gittin in this week’s Parashah can be seen as a call to action in this regard to the broader Orthodox community. We must all become Shomrei Yisrael to insure that divorcing couples receive a proper Orthodox Get. It makes no difference whether the marriage was performed by an Orthodox rabbi or even if only a civil ceremony was performed. The policy of the Rabbanut HaRashit L’Yisrael and Batei Din throughout the world is to require a Get even in these circumstances.
I recall meeting a woman whose mother had remarried without the benefit of a Get. The woman was a child of the woman’s second husband whom she married in a Reform wedding ceremony. The tragedy of Mamzeirut, also described in our Parasha, tragically came to life!!
It is through no fault of this woman that her marital options are severely compromised. To a great extent it is not even the fault of the parents who were not aware of the institutions of Gittin and Mamzeirut. A certain responsibility, though, rests upon the observant community which did not manage to publicize amongst our less observant brethren, the need for a Get and the catastrophic result of failing to obtain one.
Thus, it is most appropriate to read about Gittin and Mamzeirut during Chodesh Elul as it serves as a call to action to, in Rav Lichtenstein’s words, contribute to Am Yisrael.
Contributing to Am Yisrael in addition to careful Halachic observance lies at the core of Religious Zionism. Caring for our less observant brethren and harboring a sense of responsibility towards them is certainly a central component of the definition of Religious Zionism. Parashat Ki Tetzei and Chodesh Elul highlight the need to broaden our mission to encompass Gittin for those in need and avoidance of the disaster of Mamzeirut. It is an excellent opportunity for us to add to our merits that will hopefully earn us a Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah for the upcoming year 5778.