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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) prenuptial agreement is undoubtedly gaining in popularity and usage. It is has become accepted already for many years as a standard part of the wedding preparation from brides and grooms in our community. A few years ago, the Rabbinical Council of America reported over 2,000 downloads of the prenuptial agreement from its website in one year alone. Full disclosure: My wife Malca and I proudly signed the RCA prenuptial before our wedding in 1995 (and, yes, our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up).

But what about Sephardim? Is the RCA agreement appropriate for usage by Sephardim? The answer is a resounding yes. First of all, Hacham Ovadia Yosef endorsed the RCA prenuptial agreement in writing. Rav Ovadia is the most prominent of all the great rabbanim who endorsed the agreement (Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Gedalia Schwartz, Rav Osher Weiss and Rav Mordechai Willig are among the other great authorities who grant their imprimatur to the prenuptial).

Moreover, the first seeds of the RCA agreement were planted in Morocco many decades ago. This fascinating history is recorded by the great Rav Shalom Massas, widely regarded as the leading posek among Moroccan Jews. Rav Massas served as the chief rabbi of Morocco until 1972 when Rav Ovadia Yosef invited Rav Messas to Jerusalem to serve as its Sephardic Chief Rabbi, a position he served with distinction until his death in 2003. Rav Messas wrote the acclaimed teshuvot (halachic responsa) entitled Teshuvot Tevu’ot Shemesh and Shemesh U’Magen.

In teshuvot Shemesh U’Magen, Rav Messas records that the Moroccan rabbinate introduced a prenuptial agreement to avoid problems of Agunot. He notes that this was implemented with great success over many years. Fascinatingly, in the early 1980s, this came to the attention of Rav Gilbert Klaperman of Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence, and he invited Rav Massas to address a convention of the members of the RCA about the prenuptial.

So began the road to the eventual adoption of the prenuptial by the RCA, crowned with the approbations of the many aforementioned gedolim. Therefore, an unqualified and enthusiastic yes is the answer to whether the RCA prenuptial agreement is suitable for Sephardic couples. The prenuptial agreement should be part of every couple’s wedding, especially Sephardic couples. After all, the genesis of the prenuptial agreement was in the Sephardic community.

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter