With all the back and forth in the blogosphere and elsewhere re: the ostensible “shidduch crisis”, people seem to forget a basic underpinning of halachic marriage which might make the prospect more frightening if they ever considered the implications.
Every Jewish woman who enters into a halachic marriage is making a commitment involving a level of mesiras nefesh that can NEVER be equaled by a male counterpart.
In other words: every woman who is ever mekudeshes undergoes her own personal akedah.
Some lawyers consider it legally unethical to ever advise a woman client to enter into the kind of contractual relationship entailed in an Orthodox marriage because there is never an option for her voluntary exit. This indicates that any Jewish woman who has consented to kiddushin has thereby expressed that she places notions of Kedusha and Torah above anything having to do with “freedom” or “Western values”. For all complaints from all quarters about the pernicious influence of “modernity” upon Yiddishkeit, the fact that kiddushin is practiced and that women enter into it willingly points to the fact that in some cases said “modernity” will never become a complete “ikkar”.
There are hints to this level of mesiras nefesh in the classic literature. One that I find pertinent in light of this parsha is the Talmudic statement [Kesuvos 72b] when discussing possible reasons for summary divorce: “im ken, lo henachta bas le’Avraham Avinu!” [e.g. our father Abraham has no daughters if you hold them to [x] standard]. Not by accident do Chazal realize what a nisayon there is in every marriage on her part—and bring the one who was tested through the Akedah to make the point.
Beyond that—and if you want to accuse me of actually suggesting this be done, fine, because we all know nothing of the sort will ever come close to happening on any level—if women realized what they were being asked to give up, what would keep them from staging a grand “walkout” and declaring [Bava Basra 60b]: “we ought by rights to bind ourselves not to marry and beget children, and the seed of Abraham our father would come to an end of itself”? The fact that said seed perpetuates—and is traced back to Avraham, particularly--indicates, again, the mesiras nefesh involved.
That is why the still-maligned halachic pre-nup is actually grossly undervalued—on RELIGIOUS terms.
Because if people knew what mesiras nefesh was entailed on the part of every woman who underwent erusin, they’d be tripping over themselves to find a male equivalent that was that automatic.
Because if there really was a salient “concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage” there would never have been a kesuva.
[And if one will claim that the implication of divorce/death is “peripheral” to the kesuva—should I mention Kesuvos 11a: “…she has a Kesuvah…lest it be light in her husband's eyes to divorce her”? Or maybe I should mention Rashi on Kesuvos 82b, where he says “lo rotzos lehinasei”—women were NOT MARRYING because the terms of the Kesuva [e.g. in regard to the nature of the assets attached to it] were unfavorable for the woman—and Chazal acted to fix it? Twice? Hardly “peripheral”, then, to “focus on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning”.]
Because if you think that it’s “unromantic” to sign a pre-nup—actually, it might be the most “romantic” gesture a guy can make in the context of a halachic marriage. In effect he says: I realize exactly what you’re doing, and I want to join you to whatever degree I can by making a similar commitment, even though it can never be the complete halachic equivalent. The prenup might probably the most salient way to express that sentiment.
Because, even if you can back up your claim that there are “entirely defensible reasons” to “[not] embrace the prenuptual approach”, you may not realize what a disservice you do to the very “nashim tzidkanios” you end up chaining to the pedestals you continually place them on.
If “nashim tzidkanios” are going to bring the geulah—let’s hope it’s as simple a process as the act of kiddushin which for all intents and purposes involves an akedah.
[P.S. After running this by an otherwise sympathetic Rabbi friend, he mentioned that the kesuva itself is hardly "romantic". Then I remembered--
Maybe it is:
"From this forward, all my property, even the shirt on my back, shall be mortgaged and liened for the payment of this kesuva, dowry and additional sum, whether during my lifetime or thereafter"...
"Even the shirt on my back"...sounds pretty romantic, no?
"Whether during my lifetime or thereafter"...still think divorce/death is “peripheral” to the kesuva?]