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Does Halachah Permit Annulments for Marriage?

The principle of annulment for failed marriages has been used throughout Jewish history since the days of Late Antiquity.

In one Responsa of the Rashbam, he writes:

The correct rationale for all Talmudic statements that “the Rabbis annul this marriage” is that the court has the authority to expropriate the money used to effect the marriage, since the law recognizes the principle of hefker bet din hefker (i.e., the court has the right to declare privately-owned money or property ownerless). This being so, the money does not belong to him [the groom]—and thus he did not marry her with his money, and she is not married at all.

If so, we may expand this principle to cover a communal enactment, since the community may expropriate the property of any of its members, and all courts in every generation have the power to expropriate private property because “Jephthah in his generation is equal to Samuel in his generation.” …

Consequently, a community that adopts an enactment to the effect that any marriage not having the consent of the communal leaders is invalid has thereby taken the property away from the man and transferred it to the woman on condition that the man shall have no right to it. Since it did not belong to him, he gave her nothing of his own; what she obtained from him was ownerless property that had been taken away from him. She is [therefore] not married at all.

The community may do this as a protective measure to prevent an unworthy man from coming forward to entice a girl from a distinguished family and marry her in secret. If it is an earlier enactment [before the man moved into the town], then everyone implicitly consented to it, and the matter is even simpler.

(Cited from Jewish Law : History, Sources, Principles = Ha-mishpat ha-Ivri, p. 840.)

Unfortunately, the Orthodox and Haredi communities refuse to utilize such a measure because it involves a biblical issur. However, the loophole exists and this issue needs to be reappraised. Rav Moshe Feinstein utilized numerous Halachic arguments to annul marriages that occurred on a variety of different issues, e.g., the failure to disclose vital personal history, and so on. It is obvious that under normal circumstances a get would be required, but  the Halacha sanctions a more extraordinary approach–when the situation calls for it, i.e., when the woman is subject to the threat of extortion from an estranged husband. Ultimately, today’s modern leaders will have to eventually answer God for their stubbornness and stupidity in World of Eternity. Such rabbinic corruption and anarchy must be confronted.