Jewish law is normally characterized by a pluralist discourse and, even when controversies are acrimonious, the merits of competitive arguments are recognized and receive some legitimacy. By contrast, Jewish family law, especially in the case of marriage annulment, is characterized quite differently, patently diverging from the pluralist hermeneutic discourse normally characterizing Jewish law. This divergence is the subject of this article.
From the work of early classic commentators to modern Jewish Law scholars, the character of marriage annulment in Jewish law has been much debated. Questions about both the authority of the Sages to annul a marriage and the meaning of annulment have arisen. Commentators have probed famous passages in the Babylonian Talmud mentioning the concept of marriage annulment (Heb. hafka'at kiddushin), often simply with the words “the Sages annulled the betrothal.” Similarly, discussing a case where a Jewish writ of divorce (get) was formally void but validated by the Sages, the Palestinian Talmud states “their [i.e., the Sages'] words uproot the words of the Torah,” which implies that the Sages have the authority according to Jewish law to annul a marriage in certain circumstances.