I’m not a strong proponent of prenuptial agreements as I think that they often spoil the romance. Moreover, the prenuptial agreements which mainstream rabbinical organization utilize, ostensibly to assist our young women in obtaining a get upon divorce, needs major tweaking to be effective. I’ve represented and represent too many young Jewish women with prenuptial agreements who are still waiting anxiously for a get. The small monetary fine imposed by the rabbis on the stubborn husband simply isn’t doing the trick.
Nevertheless, join me for a moment to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the prenup I have in mind. It might just have an application beyond the bounds of holy matrimony. All is rosy when the 18-year-old girl who just graduated high school and the 20-year-old yeshiva bochur meet. He is a top boy in his yeshiva (of course) and she is in a rush to not be the last girl from her seminary class to get engaged.
The boy, for his part, has no plans to “make” a living. He has opted the better course among his friends: “take” a living. The couple gets married, spends $100,000 in the process, moves to Israel, has three kids in four years, and then realizes that it takes money to have things. The couple will begin to fight and will wake up one day, wondering how they ever got in this mess to begin with. There will be strained relationships among the in-laws as to which set was supposed to carry the couple until such time as the couple could be self-sufficient — a nigh impossible task to do without an education.
Daddy, his or hers, has a few bucks and now the fun begins. Freedom comes with a price and if she wants her get or he wants his freedom someone is going to have to pony up. Now, let’s remember that none of these difficulties were contemplated when the entire extended family was posing for the wide-angle shot right after the chuppah. Then, despite the bride and the groom not knowing each other, every other armchair psychologist in the family swore that it was the best match since Adam and Eve and Johnson and Johnson.
So a prenup says I know all is well now, but there might come a time when things change. And if, G-d forbid, things change, I recognize that one who once professed love to me might no longer desire love; quite the contrary, he or she might espouse hate and venom. And so the spouse must protect himself or herself and say, “I draw the line here.” This much you can take from me, but no more. This much I am willing to initially sacrifice or make available to you while all is rosy. But in the event things turn ugly, I must protect myself. I cannot be left vulnerable to the point when there is nothing left of me should you happen to turn on me.
So we draft a prenup that stipulates that, in the unlikely event that we are no longer a “we,” at least there will remain an “I.”
When two people are committed to each other’s survival there is still a valid argument to be made for a prenup in the event that the love thaws. How much more so when the initial relationship is not rooted in deep love, where the parties are not committed to each other’s perpetual existence. No half-intelligent woman would let down her last line of defense — surrendering it all as if she was ready to embark in a relationship with a man, who at the very best, promised only to not destroy her.
Which brings us to the Middle East. We give up Gaza, Hamas moves in. We cede territory in the north, Hezbollah moves in. We gave up Sinai and now Egypt stands at the brink becoming the spouse who can no longer profess fidelity to us. What next? Do we dare give up the West Bank only to see extremists take control of Jordan? Do we dare surrender East Jerusalem only to have Hamas tell us at the breakfast table, over coffee and cereal, that they no longer love us?
Would we counsel our children to enter into such a relationship without a prenup, without a document or an understanding that we will expose ourselves, but only to a certain degree and no more? And remember, in the marriage, at least there was love at one point. In the Middle East, no such love exists — save Egypt and Jordan, who presently don’t profess to want to destroy us — every other “boyfriend” in the region wants to abuse us. Hence the need for a prenuptial agreement with the Arab world. Hence the need to set the security conditions from the outset. This is where we draw the line. You will never be in a position — physically, militarily, economically, or emotionally — to harm us beyond the point where our existence is tenuous. You will never be able to create a “we” where there is no longer an “I.”
I read an editorial, a two-liner in a local paper the other day, which blasted the United States for their one-sided support of Israel in the Middle East conflict. The writer needs an education. For when all the Arab regimes begin to fall, in the ensuing chaos, at least until the dust settles, radical Islam will attempt to fill the void. Then there will be only one partner for the United States whose fidelity can be counted on. That partner is Israel.
Recent events in the Middle East should serve as a wake-up call to all the Americans who think that the United States has spent too much time and effort carrying Israel. As the new Middle East begins to take shape it will be abundantly clear that it is Israel who is watching America’s back.
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann & Mermelstein. He can be reached at (718) 692-1013 and at email@example.com