Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Ring of Truth

The Charles and Camilla wedding was postponed by a day, ostensibly to allow Charlie attend the Pope's funeral but in fact because it was clear that nobody would even have noticed his sordid ceremony had the two collided. It was celebrated therefor upon the Shabbes day and the poor C.R. was forced to give it a miss.

Ingratiation has always been percieved as one of the Chassidic leadership’s specialties. I have, truth be known, on occasion been irritated by the way they go all smiley and friendly whenever there are outsiders looking and we do all know they will sign anything if there is but a chance to earn a buck. It was therefore for me bittersweet vindication to see the Chief Rabbi, representing objective moral guidance from a Torah perspective I thought, so cavalierly betray everything he purports to believe in and bless the Royal adulterer’s union. I wonder indeed what possessed him to rush forward, unbidden, to bless a marriage he would not allow in his own congregation. There is after all no way in Jewish law that a man can wed a woman he bagged while she was married to another... Or is there?

We do find in Talmudic law the concept of marriage dissolvment. The way it works is dead simple. The Beth Din (Rabbinic court) decrees the woman’s wedding ring to be worthless with retroactive effect. As in Jewish law the ring has to have a specific value for the ceremony to be valid this marriage becomes effectively annulled. Not much help in this case; Camilla did not marry her first man under Jewish law, but it’s still a thought for some others maybe.

Ironically the Pope, whose expiry was timed so inconveniently for Charles, could have annulled Camilla's first wedding to the cuckold, had the Prince’s great-grandfather Henry VIII not founded the Anglican Church, with the king as its supreme leader, to save himself having to kill another one of his wives after the pope of the day refused to do just that. Meanwhile, in a triumph for love over adversity, the two sinners have been joined in unholy matrimony with a blessing from someone purporting to represent us who never even got the chance in the end to don that smart top hat. All to the good I say, now lets move on and forget their whole regrettable existence.

The idea of annulment holds its attraction for me for a different reason altogether. I don’t know for how long this has been going on (I hear stories going back to shtetl times at least) but a divorce has become an expensive luxury. I cannot remember hearing about a single instance where the stronger party (i.e. the one with the least to lose) did not force a monetary concession out of the other. And this in a community in which the marriages of children are arranged in fifteen-minute meetings in stuffy front rooms with only the suspicious courtesy among the adults outside any indication that something momentous is afoot.

I propose a prenup. agreement that should be made mandatory for all couples. It should contain a clause stating that should any party receive monetary gain for giving or taking a divorce the marriage is annulled retroactively. Breaking such a clause (if it’s well written) would throw the couple into such a legal quagmire that they will have the scholars quivering in their peyos and I guarantee neither will ever marry in a Beth Din again.

Unlike the Prince we cannot all afford fifteen million pounds in a divorce settlement, even if we know we are wrong, and I bet there are many who will wish they had a safeguard like that.

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