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New York City - Examining The 'Halacha' If Jewish Fashion Mogul Needs A 'Get'

Published on: November 2, 2008 09:38 AM
By: 5 Towns Jewish Times By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
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Tory Burch has build an empire in just a few years, they have 16 free-standing Tory Burch boutiques across the US, and over 400 select department and specialty stores worldwide.Tory Burch has build an empire in just a few years, they have 16 free-standing Tory Burch boutiques across the US, and over 400 select department and specialty stores worldwide.
New York City - Most people associate Tory Burch with $500 boots and the resurgence of 1960s fashion design. In four short years she has managed to build a veritable fashion design empire that has taken over the minds of teenage girls and married women… as well as the bank accounts of their fathers and husbands (or what’s left of their bank accounts in light of the current economic downturn).

Few, however, would identify her as a typical example of one of the tens of thousands of people that are the subject of a great halachic debate between Rav Yoseph Eliyahu Henkin, zt’l, (1881–1973) and Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l (1895–1986).

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What lies at the heart of this great debate are the following questions: How does the halachah view a secular (non-religious) Jewish marriage? And what happens if such a marriage dissolves? When a Jewish couple that was married either in the secular court system or by a non-Orthodox rabbi is divorced, rarely do they seek to also obtain a Jewish bill of divorce, called a get. This could present a problem for the woman’s future marriage prospects and, unfortunately, for those of her children as well.

Although Tory Burch (daughter of Reva Robinson and thus halachically Jewish) apparently received the last name she is now using from her marriage to Chris Burch (not a Jew), she was previously married to William Macklowe, a famous real-estate developer who is also halachically Jewish. The marriage did not succeed, and it ended rather quickly in a secular divorce. The question is, though: What is the halachic status of this first marriage?

Tory Burch who is jewish, has build a multi million dollar clothing empireTory Burch who is jewish, has build a multi million dollar clothing empire

Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses this issue in Igros Moshe (Even HaEzer, vol. IV, No. 59; he discusses the issue in general, not Ms. Burch’s particular circumstances). In discussing these types of marriages in a letter to Rabbi Nissan Alpert, zt’l, Rav Moshe is of the opinion that since the original wedding was, in all probability, never made with any halachic validity, the need for a halachic get is not imperative. A halachic wedding requires a woman to receive an item of value accompanied by the Jewish declaration of marriage in the presence of two Sabbath-observing witnesses. If there were no Sabbath-observing witnesses present when the ring was given and the declaration made, there is no halachic wedding, states Rav Moshe.

Rav Henkin, on the other hand, disagrees. He quotes a principle of the Talmud (Gittin 81b and codified in Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 26:1) that a person does not generally wish that his marriage not be legitimate. The Mishnah there in Gittin explains that, according to Beis Hillel, if a man divorces his wife but subsequently remains with her in a pundaki (an inn), a get is required. The Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 149:1) rules in accordance with Beis Hillel.

Rav Henkin extends this ruling to cases such as the one mentioned above, as well. He points out that, although no longer practiced, there are ways of enacting a halachic marriage other than with the use of a ring (see the first Mishnah in tractate Kiddushin), and this is what is at play both in our case and in the Mishnah in Gittin. Since the members of this married couple are living together as a married couple, and the world views them as such, we have all the elements of a halachic marriage. What are the elements? The three elements are (1) kosher witnesses; (2) a valid method of effectuating marriage; and (3) the declaration of marriage.

In Rav Henkin’s view, who are the “kosher witnesses”? The witnesses are the entire world, including Sabbath-observing neighbors and friends that see them acting as a married couple. Rav Henkin refers to another Talmudic principle called an “anan sahadi,” which literally means “we [all] testify.” In his view, witnesses do not actually have to see it, but knowing it with certitude is sufficient.

Where is the declaration of marriage? According to Rav Henkin, there is a tacit, unspoken declaration of marriage that is based on the fact that a person does not wish his marriage to be invalid. Thus, when there is another method of effectuating the marriage—living together as husband and wife—Rav Henkin rules that the tacit declaration is the accompanying secondary marriage effectuation. Although it may sound somewhat strange, Rav Henkin’s position is not so novel. Poskim have discussed the notion of savlanos, sending gifts to one’s new bride, as a problem, and the issue is extended beyond the case of the Mishnah in Gittin.

Rav Feinstein attacks Rav Henkin’s position, stating that the husband thinks that the civil marriage has already effected the marriage. In defense of Rav Henkin, one could state that the non-observant Jew does not think that the civil marriage is effecting any change in the Divine view of his marital status. Rather, he thinks that the civil marriage is merely affecting (not effecting) the social apperception of his status. Rav Henkin, therefore, can quite justifiably employ non-conscious religious desires to effect the marriage.

How have the poskim viewed this great halachic debate? Rav Moshe Feinstein himself writes that ideally one should require a get in order to satisfy the other view as well. Rav Ovadiah Yosef also requires a get under ideal circumstances. However, the challenges of arranging for a get when the husband is truly not around allows for leniencies, according to both Rabbi Feinstein and Rav Yosef.

Just out of curiosity, one may wonder how contemporary Reform Judaism viewed this debate. Surprisingly enough, the halachic issues were dealt with in a Reform journal decades ago. It seems that the responsa committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis were somewhat insulted by Rav Moshe Feinstein’s position and stated that in their view Rav Henkin was correct.

Does it really matter for Tory Burch? Would it make a difference for her? Perhaps yes. It seems that she has been dating Jewish men since her divorce. She has dated both an Israeli designer and an American Jewish businessman.

 


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1

 Nov 02, 2008 at 09:48 AM Anonymous Says:

mazeltov

2

 Nov 02, 2008 at 10:11 AM anon Says:

Does she live a jewish life? if not she doesn't deserve publicity.

3

 Nov 02, 2008 at 10:44 AM to vosizneias Says:

This Rabbi Yair Hoffman has the best, most interesting and informative articles please post them all

4

 Nov 02, 2008 at 11:02 AM Anonymous Says:

People are crazy for spending so much money on designer items!!!! it simply doesnt make sense to voluntarily become a walking billboard for these fashion designers. I have a sister in law who shoul be paid for advertising for Tori!!!!
They should give the money to tzeddakah instead!!! hundreds of families in israel are starving, while others are wearing $800 sweaters, and $500 boots!!!!
They are losing out on precious mitzvos (tzeddakah) for the sake of impressing others! nebach,,,,,for those who might say that they already give tzeddakah and are allowwed to satisfy their needs: ; you can never give enough tzeddakah!!! you will earn far more respect and bracha from Hakadosh Baruch Hu then by wasting money on designer items......

5

 Nov 02, 2008 at 11:59 AM onemanband613 Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

People are crazy for spending so much money on designer items!!!! it simply doesnt make sense to voluntarily become a walking billboard for these fashion designers. I have a sister in law who shoul be paid for advertising for Tori!!!!
They should give the money to tzeddakah instead!!! hundreds of families in israel are starving, while others are wearing $800 sweaters, and $500 boots!!!!
They are losing out on precious mitzvos (tzeddakah) for the sake of impressing others! nebach,,,,,for those who might say that they already give tzeddakah and are allowwed to satisfy their needs: ; you can never give enough tzeddakah!!! you will earn far more respect and bracha from Hakadosh Baruch Hu then by wasting money on designer items......

Well said. "Amen" to that!

6

 Nov 02, 2008 at 12:13 PM Shaul in Monsey Says:

Those of us in the know know that there is no shayleh here. With Tory's money, she'll be able to buy a Ralbag psak that reverts her status back to kalleh beseeleh.

7

 Nov 02, 2008 at 12:44 PM insane Says:

insane isn't the right word but I've dispised the market for a very long time.

fashion is a walk n talk its redicilous watching our wives and daughters walking on 13th ave like she's been nomenated as a sex godous.

a woman should dress to impress herself and of course her husband but dressing like a sex idol is the worst thing a jewish woman can do.

I tell my wife all the time

8

 Nov 02, 2008 at 12:39 PM poshiter teanecker Says:

We should be grateful to Tory Burch for turning the flat shoe (no heel) into a fashionable item. The heeled shoes, which are certainly more popular, are not tznius and create uncomfortable situations for everyone around the person.

9

 Nov 02, 2008 at 12:35 PM samthenylic Says:

Reply to #2  
anon Says:

Does she live a jewish life? if not she doesn't deserve publicity.

It does deserve PUBLICITY in ordedr to make everyone aware that there are problems in non orthodox marriages and divorces, and to mke us cognizant of that fact.

10

 Nov 02, 2008 at 12:56 PM Case is not theoretical Says:

It had been reported that Ms. Burch had been dating Mr. Ron Perelman, the owner of the Revlon company. He is an orthodox jew, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to tzedaka. He is one of the biggest supporters of Jewish education in the world, including many Chabad mosdos. Therefore, this case could have been very pertinent.

11

 Nov 02, 2008 at 01:49 PM Heshy Says:

Ron Perelman may be a great guy, but he is certainly not frum. Maybe he is a "non-practicing orthodox Jew", which many people consider themselves to be!

12

 Nov 02, 2008 at 02:01 PM Anonymous Says:

I am a woman and I never heard of her. I consider myself well dressed, but, I don't spend a fortune to do so. All this gashmius is utterly ridiculous.Does she design tsniusdik clothing?

13

 Nov 02, 2008 at 02:14 PM AuthenticSatmar Says:

Reply to #10  
Case is not theoretical Says:

It had been reported that Ms. Burch had been dating Mr. Ron Perelman, the owner of the Revlon company. He is an orthodox jew, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to tzedaka. He is one of the biggest supporters of Jewish education in the world, including many Chabad mosdos. Therefore, this case could have been very pertinent.

Ron Perelman was married to a shiksa. So much for Orthodox.
If you ask him which branch of judaism he belongs he will say Orthodox, but he's hardly a practicing Orthodox jew.

14

 Nov 02, 2008 at 02:24 PM I'm a woman Says:

Yes, i like to dress nice for my husband. but certainly not a spender on clothing or household items. i buy nice stuff at reasonably cheap prices. over spending like S&W prices are ridiculous. who are you trying to fool. as LIPA sings in A poshiter yid , all about copying others for WHO. that's NOT our goal on this world and certainly doesn't bring the geula only troubles.

15

 Nov 02, 2008 at 02:38 PM just WHY? Says:

why are we yenting about this woman's private halachic business?

16

 Nov 02, 2008 at 03:50 PM Ploni Says:

At least it is made in America. i see lots of labels saying made in Germany, and refuse to purchase that kind of clothing. You can find many decent clothing made in America that is moderately priced and modestly styled.

17

 Nov 02, 2008 at 04:23 PM Elisheva Says:

Is her first husband unwilling to give her a get?
If not, she may have the original marriage invalidated. She must obtain proofs that he refuses to cooperate with the Get, and to provide the other proofs, per Moshe Feinstein, such a list of the wedding guests, and if any were Shabbos Shomer, who signed the Ketuba [was one "witness" a woman?], etc.
But is she raising the question, or merely the writer?
Re the Reform folks - Because we are not able to assume that so many Jewish marriages were not, each must be reviewed and found not valid for them to be not valid. Until then, it is assumed that the couple is married, and a Get on divorce is in order. However, if one partner refuses, it should be easier to prove it invalid....

18

 Nov 02, 2008 at 05:44 PM mewhoze Says:

how come buying the sara palin wig is ok and no one questions it?

19

 Nov 02, 2008 at 06:05 PM Anonymous Says:

Ron Perelman is an official member of Park East Synagogue. He definitely holds himself out as an Orthodox Jew. That's OK though. Not worse than Jared Kushner who is also Orthodox and engaged to Ivanka Trump who is converting, thanks to Rabbi Lookstein.

20

 Nov 02, 2008 at 05:56 PM Avrohom Abba Says:

The Nazis treated us like Jews even if we only had a minor fraction of our ancestors was considered Jewish like a great uncle. I am FFB. I will always consider the Conservative and Reformed Jews as part of us. I would love them to be more frum, but they are all my brothers and sisters even if they don't become frum. This lady and her friend Ron Perelman are 100% welcome to doven in my Orthodox shul NO MATTER WHAT THEY DID IN THEIR PASTS and they can stay for Shabbos in my house, and they can keep their money for their children; we have enough from our members b"H. Our shul is located at 1049 East 15th Streeet in Brooklyn, N.Y. I hereby publicly give the Vozisneias administrators full reshoos to give them my email address.

21

 Nov 02, 2008 at 07:14 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #3  
to vosizneias Says:

This Rabbi Yair Hoffman has the best, most interesting and informative articles please post them all

Agreed! It is great to hear the torah of these two great 20th century American poskim.

22

 Nov 02, 2008 at 09:13 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

I am a woman and I never heard of her. I consider myself well dressed, but, I don't spend a fortune to do so. All this gashmius is utterly ridiculous.Does she design tsniusdik clothing?

not yet! When she marries a Chassid, she will! Wait for that day!!!

23

 Nov 02, 2008 at 09:11 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #7  
insane Says:

insane isn't the right word but I've dispised the market for a very long time.

fashion is a walk n talk its redicilous watching our wives and daughters walking on 13th ave like she's been nomenated as a sex godous.

a woman should dress to impress herself and of course her husband but dressing like a sex idol is the worst thing a jewish woman can do.

I tell my wife all the time

...But we all know who wins the argument... (answ.; Tony burch!)

24

 Nov 02, 2008 at 09:30 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #20  
Avrohom Abba Says:

The Nazis treated us like Jews even if we only had a minor fraction of our ancestors was considered Jewish like a great uncle. I am FFB. I will always consider the Conservative and Reformed Jews as part of us. I would love them to be more frum, but they are all my brothers and sisters even if they don't become frum. This lady and her friend Ron Perelman are 100% welcome to doven in my Orthodox shul NO MATTER WHAT THEY DID IN THEIR PASTS and they can stay for Shabbos in my house, and they can keep their money for their children; we have enough from our members b"H. Our shul is located at 1049 East 15th Streeet in Brooklyn, N.Y. I hereby publicly give the Vozisneias administrators full reshoos to give them my email address.

On a national[istic] level you're right! I consider and I love every Jew! Regardless of their Religious affiliation! They're welcome to daven in my Shul (I don't own it, nor am I a member of the Board) (We're located a little South-West of yours, in an area called B--- Park) But I wouldn't [presently] Daven in their Temples or make use of any of their Religious services!!!

25

 Nov 02, 2008 at 09:33 PM Suri Palin Says:

This is the best news for women! I am so proud of her. Keep up the great work - more things to buy!

26

 Nov 02, 2008 at 10:54 PM Anonymous Says:

what a shame

27

 Nov 03, 2008 at 01:35 PM Tzofnas Paneiach Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

I am a woman and I never heard of her. I consider myself well dressed, but, I don't spend a fortune to do so. All this gashmius is utterly ridiculous.Does she design tsniusdik clothing?

There isn't a big market for tzniyusdiga clothing. Consider yourself among the lucky ones, Ashreichem Yisroel.

28

 Nov 04, 2008 at 08:07 AM matzahlocal101 Says:

Reply to #17  
Elisheva Says:

Is her first husband unwilling to give her a get?
If not, she may have the original marriage invalidated. She must obtain proofs that he refuses to cooperate with the Get, and to provide the other proofs, per Moshe Feinstein, such a list of the wedding guests, and if any were Shabbos Shomer, who signed the Ketuba [was one "witness" a woman?], etc.
But is she raising the question, or merely the writer?
Re the Reform folks - Because we are not able to assume that so many Jewish marriages were not, each must be reviewed and found not valid for them to be not valid. Until then, it is assumed that the couple is married, and a Get on divorce is in order. However, if one partner refuses, it should be easier to prove it invalid....

Please do not pasken halachas in areas where you nothing. You can all shomer shabbos guests and still not have kosher aidim. Example: If the two witness were not appointed as witnesses to the exclusion of all other people, and one witness has a brother, among the guests, the witness are invalidated because they are related. Two of the group are invalidated, the whole group becomes invalidated and there was no kosher aidis. the signing of the kesubah has no bearing on the aidis of kedushin. Conversely, if all the guest were mechallaly shabbos but after the wedding the couple lived in a frum area where it could be assumed that orthodox Jews saw them living together as man and wife, that becomes the aidis, not the show under the chuppah. It is not a simple matter.

29

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