Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-6c8bd87754-5dxdz Total loading time: 0.295 Render date: 2022-01-18T13:25:51.687Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

6 - New York’s Regulation of Jewish Marriage

Covenant, Contract, or Statute?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2011

Joel A. Nichols
University of St Thomas, Minnesota
Get access



Is Jewish marriage and divorce law essentially covenantal or contractual? The answer to this ancient question – and the extent to which the answer is an amalgamation of the two choices – has changed over time. Different authorities have disagreed about this question in profound ways, and the answer is still in flux today.

On the one hand, Jewish tradition is replete with references to the sacred nature of the marital relationship. The Talmud recounts that a person is not complete until he or she marries, and he or she is not even called a person until two are united. Further, the classical sources recount the profound Divine hand in the creation of marriage. One Talmudic source goes so far as to state, “Forty days prior to birth, the Holy One, Blessed be He, announces that so-and-so should marry so-and-so.” Marriages appear to be holy relationships that embrace and are embraced by the Divine. For example, the earliest commentaries on the Bible posit that God performed the wedding ceremony between Adam and Eve. Indeed, the blessings recited at Jewish weddings recount that it is God who “commanded us with regard to forbidden relationships, forbade [merely] betrothed women to us, and permitted wives [to husbands] through the Jewish wedding ceremony.”

Marriage and Divorce in a Multi-Cultural Context
Multi-Tiered Marriage and the Boundaries of Civil Law and Religion
, pp. 138 - 163
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ginzberg, LouisThe Legends of the JewsPhiladelphiaJewish Publication Society 1968Google Scholar
Scherman, Rabbi NossonThe Complete Artscroll Siddur, Rabbinical Council of America EditionNew YorkMesorah Publications 1995Google Scholar
Bleich, J. DavidJewish Divorce: Judicial Misconceptions and Possible Means of Civil Enforcement,Connecticut Law Review 16 1984 201Google Scholar
Broyde, MichaelReiss, JonathanThe Ketubah in America: Its Value in Dollars, its Significance in and its Enforceability in American Law,Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 47 2004 101Google Scholar
Friedman, Mordechai AkivaJewish Marriage in PalestineTel AvivTel Aviv University 1983Google Scholar
Breitowitz, Irving A.Between Civil and Religious Law: The Plight of the Agunah in American SocietyWestport, CTGreenwood Press 1993Google Scholar
Broyde, MichaelMarriage, Divorce and the Abandoned Wife in Jewish Law: A Conceptual Approach to the Agunah Problems in AmericaHoboken, NJKtav 2001Google Scholar
Feinstein, Moses 1980
Freeze, ChaeRan Y.Making and Unmaking the Jewish Family: Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia, 1850–1914Brandeis University 1997Google Scholar
Broyde, MichaelInforming on Others for Violating American Law: A Jewish Law View,Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 41 2002 5Google Scholar
Kahan, LindaJewish Divorce and Secular Court: The Promise of Avitzur,Georgetown Law Journal 73 1984 193Google Scholar
Warmflash, Lawrence M.The New York Approach to Enforcing Religious Marriage Contracts,Brooklyn Law Review 50 1984 229Google Scholar
Lamm, NormanRecent Additions to the Ketubah,Tradition 2 1959 93Google Scholar
Levin, A. LeoKramer, MeyerNew Provisions in the Ketubah: A Legal OpinionNew YorkYeshiva University Press 1955Google Scholar
Reed, AlanTransnational non-Judicial Divorces: A Comparative Analysis of Recognition under English and R.S. Jurisprudence,Loyola International and Comparative Law Review 18 1996 311Google Scholar
Dowell, SusanThey Two Shall be OneLondonFlame 1990Google Scholar
Nadel, Edward S.New York’s Get Laws: A Constitutional Analysis,Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 27 1998 55Google Scholar
Scott, Patti A.New York Divorce Law and the Religion Clauses: An Unconstitutional Exorcism of The Jewish Get Laws,Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal 6 1996 1117Google Scholar
Greenberg-Kobrin, MichelleCivil Enforceability of Religious Prenuptial Agreements,Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 32 1999 359Google Scholar
Greenawalt, KentReligious Law and Civil Law: Using Secular Law to Assure Observance of Practices With Religious Significance,Southern California Law Review 71 1998 781Google Scholar
Zornberg, LisaBeyond The Constitution: Is The New York Get Legislation Good Law?Pace Law Review 15 1995 703Google Scholar
Nadel, Edward S.A Bad Marriage: Jewish Divorce and the First Amendment,Cardozo Women’s Law Journal 2 1995 131Google Scholar
Finkelman, PaulNew York’s Get Laws: A Constitutional Analysis,Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems 27 1993 55Google Scholar
Leiberman, Elizabeth R.: The Constitutional Implications of Judicially Enforcing Religious Agreements,Catholic University Law Review 33 1983 219Google Scholar
Broyde, MichaelThe New York State [Jewish Divorce] Law,Tradition: A Journal of Jewish Thought 29:4 1995 3Google Scholar
Broyde, MichaelMalinowitz, ChaimThe 1992 New York Law: An Exchange,Tradition: A Journal of Jewish Thought 31 1997 23Google Scholar
Qaisi, Ghada G.Religious Marriage Contracts: Judicial Enforcement of Mahr Agreements in American Courts,Journal of Law & Religion 15 2000 67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Broyde, Michael J.Human Rights in Judaism: Cultural, Religious, and Political PerspectivesBroyde, MichaelWitte, JohnNorthvale, NJJason Aronson 1998Google Scholar
Cited by

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats