Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In 1993 Rabbi Mordechai Willig, a Rosh Yeshiva at YU and a member of the Beth Din of America, drafted a prenup for use at Jewish weddings to avoid future Aguna/Mesorevet Get problems. The agreement basically obligates the husband to pay a fixed sum of money to the wife as support upon receiving notice from her requesting it. This is intended to be used by the wife to encourage the giving of a get.

His version of the agreement has received the approval inter alios of Rabbis Ovadia Yosef, Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Hershel Schachter, Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Osher Weiss, Norman Lamm, Yitzchok Liebes, as well as the Rabbinical Council of America. (That's quite an impressive list!)

Much more information is available at their website: http://www.theprenup.org/

If this is indeed permissible, it sounds like a good idea to me.

Do some current Rabbis/groups find this agreement to be problematic? If so, why? Is there a different variation they would find acceptable?

share|improve this question
@DoubleAA Is this the same thing? – Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 12 '14 at 21:04
@AvrohomYitzchok I don't think so. – Double AA Mar 12 '14 at 21:09

See the Fall 2010 issue of Tradition, with the article entitled "A Marital Agreement to Mediate" by R. David Joseph Mescheloff and also the letters section of the Spring 2011 issue, with letters by R. Howard Jachter and the author. The dispute is whether R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Soloveitchik supported the use of prenuptial agreements (according to R. Mescheloff, they both opposed them). It also seems that some of the rabbis on the list cited in the question subsequently withdrew their support (specifically R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg).

Many of the standard objections to prenups fall along the lines of the statement from R. Shaul Yisraeli quoted in the article:

...R. Shaul Yisraeli protested vigorously against prenuptial agreements: “All sorts of contractual arrangements whose purpose is not the financial undertaking [itself], but rather the pressure and the coercion applied to the husband, due to the payments, so that he will agree to divorce—all of these are a waste of effort, for all agree that the law of an [illegitimately] coerced get applies to this [i.e., a get delivered on account of such pressure]”...

share|improve this answer
They did not oppose R' Willig's prenup, for the simple reason that it post-dates them. However, Prof Saul Lieberman wrote a prenup for a similar purpose which is used throughout the Conservative Jewish community that many (all?) [Orthodox] rabbis of the time found to be invalid. R' Willig made a conscious effort to avoid the problems raised. – user1558 Aug 7 '12 at 15:26
Curiouser, user1558 brings up a good point. Can you clarify exactly who opposes whose document? – Double AA Aug 8 '12 at 2:56

Thirty two years ago I gathered material for an article I never brought myself to write. The RCA had not yet endorsed pre-nuptual agreements that require mandatory arbitration through a bais din and, in fact, were on the record opposing such agreements. In 1954, following the drafting of such an agreement by Conservative Rabbi Saul Lieberman, the RCA went on attack with a halachic criticism by Rabbi Norman Lamm ("Recent Additions to the Ketubah -- a Halachic Critique," 2(1) Tradition 93 (1959)), and on the legal side with a monograph by my friend Prof. A. Leo Levin and Meyer Kramer ("New Provisions in the Ketubah -- a Legal Opinion," 1955). Positions were dramatically altered by 1982, when Orthodoxy's super-lawyer, Nat Lewin, was litigating Avitzur v. Avitzur, which in 1983 resulted in a famous decision by the New York Court of Appeals (NY's highest court), favoring manditory arbitration. From what I understand, all RCA rabbis require such a pre-nuptual agreement. My daughter was married by a well-known Young Israel rabbi who did not require the pre-nup (nor even mentioned it). For more information, see Rabbi Michael Broyde's interesting article at http://www.mishpat.ac.il/files/650/3610/3622/3623.pdf

share|improve this answer
One of the reasons for reluctance to adopt the Lieberman clause was that it was inserted into the text of the Ketubah itself, as opposed to today's freestanding prenup. (Yes I know Ketubah texts have varied over time ... but it certainly caused many a traditional rabbi to look askance at it.) – Shalom Jan 3 '13 at 23:18
Good point; as I recall Leo Levin's paper questined whether a court would want to enforce a religious document. I don't know why he didn't think of making a separate document. But then again, in 1955 pre-nup agreements of any kind were rare. – Bruce James Jan 4 '13 at 4:02
Similarly there was an Orthodox proposal to simply translate the Ketubah into English, and expect the state courts to enforce it. While Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled this did not violate halacha, it never really caught on as it means you're asking the state courts to interpret "zuz", "zekukim", the exact conditions of a Ketubah obligation, etc. – Shalom Jan 4 '13 at 8:20
I know of one case that came before a Virginia court where the bride's family had insisted that the Conservative rabbi include a real sum of money -- US $500,000 (in 1986 dollars, which was a lot then) -- in the get, and then shortly after the wedding tried to get the couple to divorce so they could collect. The judge refused to enforce that get. Interestingly, I spoke with an Israeli family court judge who said he would have not honored the kesubah either because it was an unconscionable amount of money at that time. – Bruce James Jan 7 '13 at 19:17
calling R. Lieberman conservative is quite misleading. volumes have been written analyzing relationship with both orthodox and conservative judaism. – mevaqesh Feb 9 '15 at 17:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.