Question:  My cousin and I (his mother and I are first cousins--his grandmother and my father are brother & sister) are very much attracted to one another and have feelings for one another.  We would like to pursue a relationship, but I can only do this if it is OK with Jewish law!  Is this accepted?  I am 40 & he is 38...I know having children can be an issue, but I have never had a child and I'm not so sure I still want to have one this time in my life!

Answer: The two of you are actually first cousins, once removed (one generation apart).  Under Jewish law, first cousins are permitted to marry, and it follow that any more distant cousin relationship, first cousins once removed, second cousins, etc., would also be permitted to marry.


Question:  What are the Jewish rules or laws governing a marriage of two people that come from divorce homes where the parents of each are now married to each other?

 

Answer: The rules concerning prohibited marriages do not extend to step-sibling relationships, as long as they are not related to each other in any other way through their biological parents.


Question:  A question regarding the status of converts & marriage to a kohen:  Along with divorcees and mamzerim, kohen’s are prohibited from marrying a convert to Judaism?  Why, as this suggests to me that there is something trefah about all converts and that they are not fully accepted as kosher Jews.  Also if a kohen does marry a convert, what is the halakhic status of their children?

 

Answer: The original reason that Kohanim could not marry converts was that kohanim were not permitted to marry any woman who had engaged in acts of sexual promiscuity - and all non-Jews were suspected of such acts.  Therefore, a convert in her previous life before becoming Jewish was suspected of such acts, and prohibited from marrying a kohen.

Today, we recognize that non-Jews are no more suspect of acts of sexual promiscuity than Jews, and we therefore do not treat converts differently than any other Jew, even with respect to marriage to a kohen.

Rabbi Arnold Goodman wrote a teshuva for the Conservative movement's committee on Jewish Law and Standards permitting the marriage between a Kohen and a convert.


Question:  I have a question about Kohanim marrying converts or divorcees.  I am an Orthodox Jew whose mother, a Conservative Jew, is interested in getting remarried to a Kohen.  I am aware that, according to Orthodox Judaism, a Kohen who marries a convert or a divorcee loses his privileges as a Kohen.  My mother was wondering what the Conservative position was on this issue.

 

Answer: There is a Conservative position that permits a marriage between a kohen and a divorcee.  According to this position, the kohen [and his children] retain the privileges accorded to kohanim.

Although such a marriage is prohibited by the Torah (Leviticus 21:7), the Talmud gives a Rabbinic court (beit din) permission to uproot a Torah prohibition under extreme circumstances.  In this case:

1) The intermarriage crisis is severe enough that the marriage of any two Jews should be celebrated; and

2)  We no longer perceive a divorcee as a woman who has been discarded by her former husband and is hence not suitable as a spouse for a kohen.

There is also a Conservative position that permits a marriage between a kohen and a convert, based on the following reasoning:

The original reason that Kohanim could not marry converts was that kohanim were not permitted to marry any woman who had engaged in acts of sexual promiscuity - and all non-Jews were suspected of such acts.  Therefore, a convert in her previous life before becoming Jewish was suspected of such acts, and prohibited from marrying a kohen.

Today, we recognize that non-Jews are no more suspect of acts of sexual promiscuity than Jews, and we therefore do not treat converts differently than any other Jew, even with respect to marriage to a kohen.


Question:  Why can a Kohen marry a widow but not a woman who has been divorced?

 

Answer: The Torah forbade the marriage of a kohen and a divorcee because it assumed that a woman who had been divorced had been discarded by her former husband because of some defect, and would no longer be suitable for marriage to a kohen.  A widow, on the other hand, would not be suspected of any kind of defect, and could marry a kohen.

The Conservative movement has affirmed that Kohanim may marry divorcees because we do not perceive a divorced woman to be defective in any way.


Question:  I am a kohen and I am involved in a loving relationship with a divorcee.  I know that Orthodox rabbis will not marry me because of this; however, I wonder what the Conservative perspective is on this issue.  Will I become an Israelite if I marry a divorcee (in other words, give up my kohen status)?  What implications would my marriage have on my future children (sons and/or daughters)?

 

Answer: You are correct that an Orthodox Rabbi would not perform such a marriage; in addition, if you did marry a divorcee, an Orthodox synagogue would, in all likelihood, deny both you and your [male] children the privileges accorded to kohanim.

There is a Conservative position, however, that permits a marriage between a kohen and a divorcee.  According to this position, the kohen [and his children] retain the privileges accorded to kohanim.

Although such a marriage is prohibited by the Torah (Leviticus 21:7), the Talmud gives a Rabbinic court (beit din) permission to uproot a Torah prohibition under extreme circumstances.  In this case:

1) The intermarriage crisis is severe enough that the marriage of any two Jews should be celebrated; and

2)  We no longer perceive a divorcee as a woman who has been discarded by her former husband and is hence not suitable as a spouse for a kohen.


Question: I have heard of an ancient Jewish law forbidding a married Jewish woman from remarrying for 15 years if her husband disappears. Is this actually a Jewish law, or even Jewish custom? I have not been able locate any reference to this the Torah and was curious if this was true or false.

 

Answer: A woman may not remarry unless she has received a bill of divorce, known as a get, from her husband.  This is based on Deuteronomy 24:1.  If the husband disappears without giving the wife a get, the woman may not remarry unless evidence is brought showing the husband has died.  There is no provision for a 15 year time limit -- she may never remarry unless either the husband is proven to have died or a Rabbinic court can find a way to nullify the marriage vows.


Question:  Following a divorce if a woman remarries is it considered adultery?

 

I have a Christian friend who is troubled by not being able to find the proper passage to help her have a Biblical grounds for divorce. (Husband is alchoholic and asexual last eight years and now seeking treatment. Husband has told her biblically that she has no grounds for divorce.)   I have found the Ask A Rabbi so helpful for me and told her I would see what I could find out.

Answer: The most relevant Biblical source for divorce is Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  The substance of these verses is that if a woman is divorced, she can marry again but she can never remarry the first husband if her second husband divorced her or died. However, the point is that remarriage after divorce is Biblically permitted.  I cannot rule on whether your friend has grounds for divorce within her own religious tradition.  From a Jewish point of view, it sounds like she does -- but without really knowing the situation firsthand, I will not give a definitive opinion.


Question:  Where does it mention in Bible/Talmud that a man must be the one to give a Jewish divorce?

 

Answer: The source for the halakhic ruling that a husband gives a get (Jewish divorce) to his wife, rather than the wife to the husband, is Deuteronomy 24:1, "When a man takes-in-marriage a woman and espouses her, and it happens:  if she fails to please him, because he finds something obnoxious about her - he may write for her a bill of divorcement; he is to place it in her hand, and send her on her way."

Be aware, however, that later halakha also ruled that a woman may not be forced to accept a get against her will.


Question:  I am divorced, and planning on remarrying. Do I need a
Get to get married religiously, and what if my ex husband doesn't want to give me one? What do we do then? We want to get married by a conservative Rabbi.

 

Answer: You need a get to remarry with a Conservative rabbi.  I suggest that you contact your rabbi and get the process started.  If you husband refuses to give you one, your rabbi can tell you what your options are.

If you need a referral to a Conservative rabbi, send me your location and I can try to find one in your area.


Question:  I've recently become engaged. Both my fiance and I were married and divorced in our early 20's to people who were not Jewish. We've both been raised Conservative, and would like to be married by a Conservative rabbi.  Is there any step that we need to take in order for this to be possible? I remember that a get is needed in the case of a Jewish divorce. Since our prior marriages weren't recognized by the Jewish community, I wasn't sure if something else needs to be done so that this marriage is viewed as "kosher."

 

Answer: First of all, Mazal Tov on your engagement.  You are correct that no get is needed.  Since your first marriage was not done "according to the law of Moses and Israel," in the words of a traditional marriage ceremony, there is no requirement to dissolve the marriage by a Jewish ceremony.


Question:  My fiancee (Rob) and I (Lisa) are both jewish. We are planning a June 2002 wedding. Rob is divorced to a woman who was not born Jewish but was adopted by a Jewish family. She never converted to Judaism.  When they were married, they were married by a rabbi.  They divorced 2 years after their marriage and she has since re-married to a non-Jewish man.  There was never a
get.  Does my fiancee need a get prior to us being married since she is technically not a Jew?

 

Answer: Since Rob's first wife was never formally converted (with Beit Din and Mikvah), her status according to the traditional Jewish community is that of a non-Jew.  Therefore, Rob does not need to give her a get before you and he get married.


Question:  Assume the following facts:

 

1.  A gentile man marries a Jewish woman in a civil ceremony

2.  The gentile man later converts to Judaism in a conservative Synagogue.

3.  The couple does not undergo a halakhic religious marriage ceremony.

4.  The couple later obtains a civil divorce.

Is a get necessary or appropriate?

Answer: Rabbi Isaac Klein, z"l, author of A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, and others have ruled that two Jews who get married in a civil ceremony, without chupah or kiddushin, still need a get if they divorce.  While the case you outlined is slightly different, the same rule would apply - a get is needed.

You did not say if the question is a real case, and if you are the woman involved.  If the case is real and involves you, please call me and we can talk about how to institute the procedure for having a get written.  If it involves a friend of yours, please tell her - or him - to call me.  If either party intends to remarry in the near future, it is urgent that they contact a rabbi immediately.  It is possible that there may be another solution that does not involve a get, but this depends on the circumstances - for this, I would need to get more information.  My phone number is below - if you send me a phone number, I would be happy to call you instead.

If the case is only imagined, thank you for the opportunity to think about a very interesting and unusual possible case!


Question: I am involved with a man who was raised Conservative, I am in the beginning stages of my conversion. He lived with a woman for 20 years and they never married.They filed taxes each year jointly and they had 2 sons (21 and 19) the government claims they need a divorce , we are confused. We have a son together and have been together for 2 years, and we want to be married. Does he need a
Get? This woman will not speak to him or answer phone calls, how, if he needs to obtain one, would he go about this? Also is he even considered married in the eyes of Jewish society?

 

Answer: If his common-law wife was Jewish, then he would need to give her a get.  If you tell me what city you live in, I can refer you to a Rabbi who can help you.  This is far too serious for an AskaRabbi consultation.


Question: What is the process of acquiring a
get? What documentation do I need to bring to the rabbi? How long does the process take?

 

Answer: In order for your Rabbi to begin the process of writing a get, he will need to see the final document attesting to your civil divorce -- not necessarily the entire document, but at least the front page, containing the case number of the court through which the divorce was granted.  Your rabbi will work with a Mesader Gittin, a person trained in the writing of a get.  The following steps are all initiated by your or your husband's rabbis -- you normally will not be involved until the final stage.

First, your ex-husband will sign a minui shelihut, an agency appointment by which he authorizes the Mesader Gittin to write the get.  This has to be signed before a Beit Din of the rabbi and two other witnesses.  At this time, he (or you) will normally need to provide a check in payment for the get.

Next, the Rabbi sends the paperwork to the Mesader Gittin, who write the get, also before a Beit Din.  Most Mesadrei Gittin meet with their Beit Din on a regular schedule, every two-three months.

When the get is finished, it is sent to the Shaliah Sheni, the agent appointed to deliver the get to the wife.  This may or may not be the same Rabbi who initiated the process.  If the husband and wife live in different communities, then it is most common to have the Rabbi in the husband's community initiate the process, and the Rabbi in the wife's community deliver the get.

When the get is in the agent's hands, he makes an appointment with the wife to deliver the get in front of a Beit Din.  She accepts the get, and the Beit Din signs two copies of a p'tor, a document attesting to the fact that the get was properly delivered.  One copy goes to each spouse, and the original get goes back to the Mesader Gittin for permanent storage.

The entire process normally takes less than three months, depending on the schedule of the Mesader Gittin.

Your first step is to contact your Rabbi.  He or she will know how to contact the Mesader Gittin.  If you need a referral to a local Rabbi, let me know.

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