Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Posek On A Stick

The recent controversy in the left wing Modern Orthodox community over women starting to wear tefillin during davening has generated a lot of responses from across the Torah-observant spectrum.  There are the expected weak justifications along with rebuttals to Rav Hershel Schacther's strong position against such practice. 
However what I've found most fascinating are the two blogs that have tried to respond to Rav Schachter from a most interesting position.  The position can be summarized as follows: I have a Bar Ilan USB stick and I know how to use it.
Years and years ago McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario created and championed a new method of approaching medical problems called Evidence Based Medicine (EBM).  The idea was to challenge medical dogma, things we had been doing because, well because we'd always been doing them.  Was there any evidence in the literature that certain physical maneouvres or treatments were of any value?  What did the literature really say about disease processes and prognoses?  Certainly a laudable initiative and it revolutionized the practice of medicine much for the better.
In fact the only problem I ever had was the slogan that one of its founders came up with: With a proper approach to searching and understanding medical literature a first year intern is as effective a clinician as a 50 year veteran!
Now if you thinking that the two men who came up with the idea of evidence-based medicine are soft-core communists who see merit, experience and achievement as evil dividers within society you'd be pretty much on the mark.  As an experienced pediatrician told me back during my internship, "I don't care how fast you are with Medline, there's still an art to medicine that only years of practice can give you."
With the rapid spread of the Bar Ilan CD/USB this "democratization" of knwoledge has come to the Torah world, or so it seems.  Yes, the USB stick is an amazing device.  It, or the Otzar HaSefarim drive, put yeshivos worth of books at your fingertips.  Searching the entire corpus of Jewish legal literature is as easy as a few keystrokes.  Thus someone who wants to find out about women and tefillin and whether there are or there are not permissive positions doesn't have to find the nearest Jewish library or yeshivah and spend days digging through the books there.  A few clicks and bang!  You've got your answer.
But to paraphrase that pediatrician, I don't care how fast DovBear or Rabbi Yuter are with Medline, there's still an art to paskening that only years of learning can give you.
See, this is what people don't understand, or perhaps just don't want to understand about the Jewish legal process.  There are big psaks and little psaks.  The little psaks are the kind every community Rav gets approached about, the ones about kashrus or whether something is muktzeh or not.  The big psaks are the kind reserved for those with more comprehensive experience with the halachic literature.  They are the novel situations for which there isn't an agreed upon answer or a quick b'di'eved to rely on.  The community Rav isn't going to touch those; he is going to ask a posek.
Now perhaps some of the blame for this current situation can be blamed on the "Gedolim".  Nowadays no one wants to rely on his community Rav, or so it seems.  If you have a phone number for a "Gadol" and a question, however basic, you're more likely to call the "Gadol" then your Rav.  After all, why not go to the top?  However I wonder if an unintended consequence of this has been to create the opposite phenomenon as well?  If we take every little psak to a "Gadol" why can't the big questions now go to rabbonim further down the food chain?
What Rav Schechter tried to get across in his essay was not a novel teshuvah, nor was it a missive as one description had it.  It was a reminder that a rabbi who was not near the top of his class cannot suddenly create a new "maharat" just because he thinks there's a need, or that a couple of high school principles can suddenly decide on their own to overturn centuries of tradition and let their female students wear tefillin just because the girls are sincere and really, really want to.
Just owning a Bar Ilan USB or knowing how to use it might give one unprecendented access to halacha but it doesn't make one a posek.  One might use it to ask better questions but unless one is at a level where one is qualified, the big psaks should be left to the big experts.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Ritual Uber Alles Part 5 - The Hard Solution

A few years ago I was at a social gathering and someone commented that life must have been much easier for religious Jews back in the times of the Talmud and earlier.  After all, with all the chumros and minhagim that have developed in the last 2000 years or so that complicate everyone's practice of halacha it's no wonder people think it's too complicated to be Orthodox today.  Imagine what Shabbos was like before muktzeh and  shvus were invented.  So much easier!
One of the rabbonim at the gathering start laughing out loud.  Harder today?  We have no idea what it was like to be a fully observant Jew back then.  What about tumah and taharah, he asked.  Could you imagine living in a society where non-observant Jews weren't just snickered at quietly but considered untouchable before of the fear of picking up spiritual cooties from them?  Imagine not just caring about how kosher your neighbour keeps but also whether or not her pots are tahor enough for you.  And those poor kohanim with their constant need to keep pure because of terumah?  And that often wasn't enough, especially during those 2 weeks in the Temple and during the big holidays.  If you thought preparing for Pesach was a pain nowadays imagine what they went through to be ready to eat the Pesach korban in a proper ritual state!
I would go a step further.  Imagine a society in which going to beis din wasn't an option but an obligation.  Imagine all the institutions that keep secular society running.  Now consider what they'd look like if they were being run al pi halacha.  Simple banking transactions, your investment portfolio, your paycheque would all be affected.  What a different society it would be.
Now think about this: that's the society we as Orthodox Jews are supposed to be aiming for in Israel.  The ideal modern state of Israel is supposed to be one that is run al pi halacha.  If that is the case many questions arise.  Is the halacha as it is currently constituted capable of running a modern country?  Are current economics, politics and voting systems things that can be run by Torah?  Is contemporary law better suited for contemporary situations?
I'll give an example of the reason for concern in this area.  Years ago a Rav in our community wrote an article for a contemporary Jewish journal.  He posed the following scenario: Reuven sneaks onto Shimon's driveway at night and unplugs the oil pan in Shimon's car.  The oil drains out.  In the morning Shimon goes to start his car (and obviously doesn't see the oil puddle on the driveway).  The engine immediately overheats and breaks down.  What does Reuven owe Shimon?  Well, according to the basic understanding of Torah law Reuven owes Shimon one container of motor oil.  After all, that's the only direct loss he caused Shimon.  The engine break down might have been due to lack of oil but not due to Reuven directly.
Meanwhile over in contemporary law there would be potential financial penalties to cover the cost of the car repair and possible charges of trespassing since Reuven was on Shimon's property without permission.  One could make the argument that since there is a Judge and there is judgement Shimon shouldn't be upset with only get $10.99 for his loss.  If he has faith in God he'll accept this knowing that Reuven will get his.
Somehow I doubt Shimon is on that level.
I could get even more absurd.  A primary school rebbe is physically, or worse, abusing a student.  There are no witnesses and no warnings.  It's the student's word against the rebbe's and since the student is a minor he has no rights under halacha.  The parents can do nothing other than switch schools and if they do that they can be accused of maligning an innocent rebbe.  Of course he's innocent, no beis din has convicted him.
In the last few posts I've written about how ritual and the ritual approach to non-ritual areas still active in Judaism has corrupted our practice of the true faith.  In this post I would like to bring things to their annoying conclusion: if we wish to restore Judaism to its proper functioning state we need to start asking hard questions.  How does Torah law handle video cameras as testimony in court?  How about DNA evidence?  How does the Torah handle mutual funds and debentures?  How could a bank run al pi halacha and be successful without encountering ribis prohibitions?  What has to be done to get Reuven to pay Shimon for the full repairs to his car?
It is encouraging to note that the answers to many of these questions have already been dealt with by the poskim of the last few generations.  Unfortunately these kinds of teshuvos don't get the same press as the ones about how strawberries are all treif because of bugs no one can see.  What's more, we usually shrug in a resigned fashion.  Even if one comes up with a functional Torah-based banking system when will it see the light of day?
The answer is: in Israel it should.  The modern state of Israel presents the Orthodox community with both an opportunity and a challenge.  Neither has been dealt with effectively until now.  The opportunity is to introduce halacha into areas it has not been prominent in until now.
Consider the area of medical halacha.  Unlike other areas of non-ritual Jewish life medical halacha is a thoroughly modern, practical and effective legal and ethical system that is practiced by Orthodox physicians.  Yes, some of the principles are not concordant with secular liberal ones, for example birth control and abortion on demand, but they are developed, take into account the latest technologies and provide the modern practitioner with a ready guide to performing his medical duty while obeying the Torah.  Is there a good reason this can't occur in other fields like economics, finance and {gasp!} law?
It must therefore be the task of the Religious Zionist community to push halacha in this direction.  Over the last generation the former National Religious Party suffered from declining voter support.  Like the Chareidi parties with their narrow "Gimme money!" platforms the Mafdal focused on narrow issues of interest to the Dati Leumi public.  However, unlike Chareidim who have no sense of the bigger picture and will vote for their parties for parochial reasons no matter what, Religious Zionist voters have a broader view of the issues.  The average Chareidi doesn't care about foreign policy, the average religious Zionist does.  Ditto for economic policy, environmental initiatives and the like.  What the Mafdal learned too late was that they had to become a comprehensive full platform party in order to retain their sector.  With the recent electoral success of the HaBayit HaYehudi party this might change.
Naftali Bennett and his party, including their guiding rabbonim, need to see HaBayit HaYehudi as a governing altnerative, not another fringe party.  They need to be able to stand before the Israeli electorate with a full platform, one devised by poskim to be consistent with halachic requirements.  The more Torah gets into the legal area the more it will come to be seen as the comprehensive nation-running system that it is.  And if that happens there will be a return of ritual to its proper place in the grand scheme of things.
Therefore there must be encouragement from the Dati Leumi public to its leaders to begin pushing things in this direction, encouraging the developing of more Religious Zionist dayanim,  bankers and accountants.  In this way Torah Judaism ceases to be a ritualistic rote and becomes a proper way of life moving things forward towards the final redemption.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Ritual Uber Alles Part 4 - The Real Problem

In the previous three posts I've tried to work with a simple point: the Jewish obsession with ritual is leading to a plethora of problems and creating a system in which immorality can comfortably co-exist with behavioural perfection.  The trend to see the ritual part of Judaism as the whole thing is a problem that affects the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy from the right where seating arrangements on buses are now ritualistically separated to the left where the entire movement of Open Orthodoxy revolves around egalitarian services and the subtle promotion of homosexual marriage.
If this perception of Judaism is correct, and I assert that it certainly isn't, one has to ask about God must have been  thinking to set up His system in this manner.  Certainly Judaism in such a form is incapable of doing much other than keeping its adherents busying running around doing small tasks all day long.
Here's something else to consider.  The average pulpit Rav is asked questions on various matters, both spiritual and legal.  When it comes to the legal ones they tend to fit into one of four categories: kashrus, taharas mishpachah, ritual and Shabbos.  When's the last time a congregant walked up to his Rav and asked a question about the legality of a financial arrangement he'd made or whether or not his recent transactions at work were in line with halacha?  Once we leave the ritual areas of Judaism it's like we leave the Torah behind.
This is a huge mistake.  As the mishnah in Avos teaches us, everything is in the Torah.  I'm not using the word in the sense of the scroll we pull out to read in shul.  I'm talking about Torah as God's blueprint for the universe, the collective understanding of what He wants from us and how He runs the world, that's the Torah I mean.  But if everything is in Torah then why do we seemingly only apply it in narrow areas?
I would suggest, a la Rav Kook, ztk"l, that this is because of being in golus.  The biggest change to Judaism in the last 2000 years occured about 2000 years ago when Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai altered Judaism from a nationality to a faith.  His innovation saved Judaism from destruction, true, by making it portable.  Until then Judaism was tied to national icons like the monarchy, the Temple and the Sanhedrin.  A Jew living in Cappodicia was a citizen of Judaea.  He might been observant of general Jewish requirements like kashrus and Shabbos but he wasn't living a full Jewish life away from home.
With the destruction of the Temple, may it be speedily rebuilt, and the innovation of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai this all changed.  Much of the Torah went into hibernation.  Think about it.  There are six orders to the Mishnah but with the end of national sovereignty the orders of Kodashim and Taharos became irrelevant to practical life, with the exception of niddah of course.  Other than the dwindling community in Israel most of Zera'im, with the exception of Berachos, was no longer something people needed to be fluent in.  Much of Nezikin similarly became obscure in places where the dominant authorities allowed Jews legal autonomy on a very limited basis.  That really then left parts of Nashim and Mo'ed but really only the ritual parts that could be performed outside the Temple.  In other words, 2/3 of the Talmud no longer mattered except for the purpose of general limud Torah.
What then happened over the next 2000 years is that this hibernation became ossified.  We had nothing but ritual so ritual became everything.  A beis din was likely to encounter issues when it came to deciding on divorces and marriages but not business deals since it had no authority over them.  Judaism became what was available to it.
With the dawn of the 20th century something changed.  World history moved forward and the land of Israel was reopened to us as a nation.  The response from many important authorities to this show of mercy from above was one of rejection.  There were a few reasons for this, certainly, but looking back one sees whose side history was on.  Despite all the crying and shouting of the evils of Zionism today we can clearly see that history's plan was for a national Jewish rebirth in the land God wants us in.
Despite this there is still tremendous opposition to the concept of Israel as the first flowering of our redemption in the Chareidi community.  Some of this is due to Israel's secular nation and I agree this is a great concern.  Our forbears did not pray for 1900 for a country in which pritzus and chilul Shabbos were common occurences and part of the general culture.  However part of this opposition is due to an inertia that has left large swaths of the leadership stuck in the post-destruction model.  This is where ritual has led us astray.  For 1900 years it was a ritual for us to pray for and hope for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in Israel.  We simply had no way to handle the situation once that actually occured.  This ritual of hoping is our mesorah while actually participating in that restoration is the heresy!
The effect this has had on us as a Torah nationality is frightful.  Is it any wonder that the longer Israel exists the nuttier the right wing of Orthodoxy gets?  As the realization of God's hand in our lives becomes more and more obvious it also becomes a threat to the established understanding that we can only be hopeful for Him to intervene in history.  It also explains the increased efforts in the last few years of the left wing of Orthodoxy to break away from tradition and imitate the Reformatives.  That group is looking for something more than the traditional ritual we've had for 1900 years.  They sense there is a greater purpose for Judaism afoot but like the right, all they know is ritual so that's where they innovate.
What then is the solution?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Ritual Uber Alles - Part 3 - Ladies and Tefillin

I was going to make this a more halachic piece but I'm on call in the local ER right now, it's an obscenely early hour in the morning and I don't have my seforim with me so my usual stylistic ranting will have to do.
Recently two Modern Orthodox schools, SAR Academy in Riverdale and Rabbi Haskel Lookstein's Ramaz school made waves within the Jewish world by announcing that girls who wished to wear tefillin during davening would be allowed to do so.
Naturally this has resulted in waves of outrage from the right side of Orthodoxy and waves of outrage at the outrage from the left side.  On the right folks like Rav Steven Pruzansky and others like him can see nothing good in this.  They note the lack of approval for this practice amongst the halachic sources and remain concerned that letting young women wear tefillin is a first step towards Reformativism and a meddling with the mesorah.  For folks on the left any opposition to these girls is unacceptable and presents an exclusionary Judaism that they don't want to be part of.
Let's cut through a few things.  Technically there's no issur to prevent these young ladies from putting on tefillin whenever they want.  There is an issue over whether or not they can make a beracha since they are not obligated but these kinds of things have been argued about for years when women decided they wanted to start waving a lulav at Sukkos but nowhere does it say in Shulchan Aruch that women are outright forbidden to put on tefillin.
That doesn't mean the classical codes have nothing to say on the matter.  While acknowledging the technical lack of an issur the Rem"a clearly states his discomfort with the idea.  There are, in fact, no sources I could find while reviewing the subject over Shabbos that are comfortable with the idea or even say "Well, if she really, really wants to..."  In other words, while the lack of prohibition exists the concept of women putting on tefillin is not recommended by the authorities.
Now for many on the left this is no barrier.  They will point out that Michal, the daughter Shaul wore tefillin.  They rarely point out the next part of the Gemara where Chazal said that the contemporary authorities protested against her.  They'll point out that Rashi's daughters wore tefillin.  Well, once your father knows as much as Rashi...
In fact there is no answer to give a woman determined to wear tefillin.  She's going to do it and if a Rav pushes back she might use the rebuf to jump ship to the local Conservative synagogue.  Certainly the Rav will be roudnly criticized by the relevant folks for daring to deny the young lady her "right" to get closer to God through the tefillin.
Leaving this aside one must then ask: why does a young lady want to wear tefillin in the first place?
Let me point out that there is one reason why men wear tefillin: because God said to.  When I get up in the morning, before I daven Shacharis I put on my tefillin because I have to.  If I decide one morning that the tefillin aren't doing anything for me it doesn't matter.  I still have to put them on.
What's more, despite popular appearances tefillin aren't tied to the daily prayers.  If one wakes up on a desert island one morning bereft of one's possessions one still must daven, even without any tefillin in sight.  And in the reverse, if I decide I don't want to pray one morning I still have the obligation to put my tefillin on.  Yes, we make a connection between the two because nowadays that's the only time we wear them but really one does not depend on the other.
Which brings us back to these young ladies.  I have no doubt that they pray every morning with great sincerity and conviction.  As far as their actual obligations go al pi halacha they fulfill them. So why the need to put on tefillin?  They are not chayav in the mitzvah.  They don't get the same reward as if they fulfilled something they are obligated to do.  They annoy many people by doing it.  So why the urge?
I will suggest that there is a simple reason: because the boys do it.  Remember what I've been saying about the role of ritual in Judaism nowadays: it's everything.  The more rituals you do, the more Judaism you're doing.  When a boy goes to pray he puts on his tefillin.  When a girl goes to pray she just gets to open a siddur.  In a ritual-centred model of Judaism why wouldn't the young lady get the impression that the boy is doing more than her?  If she sincerely desires to have the best prayer experience possible why wouldn't she see adding tefillin to her prayers to bring them up to the same level as the boy's?
The actual halachic position is simple: a girl without tefillin and a boy wearing them are both in the optimal position for davening.
The perceived ritual position is also simple: the more you do, the frummer you are.  Until that perception is changed one cannot argue against the "Morethodoxy" folks and their desire to change Judaism to suit their underlying secular liberal values.
Once again ritual has taken over reason and become the defining feature of our practice of Judaism.  That doesn't mean it's correct.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Ritual Uber Alles - Part 2 - The Max Factor

Menachem "Max" Stark was a Satmar chasid.  He was also a slumlord and involved with disreputable types and bad loans.  These associations cost him his life a little over a month ago after he was found murdered.  So nasty was his business life that, according to the New York press, it was hard for the police to narrow down the list of possible suspects to a reasonable number.
What made people sit up and pay attention, however, was the way in which The New York Post presented the story.  Under the headlines and the question "Who didn't want him dead?" was a picture of Stark dressed in full Satmar regalia.  This caused some to scream "Anti-semitism" but really it posed a far more difficult problem.
Not knowing Stark I'm conjecturing but I think that the picture of him dressed as a chasid, a pious Jew, is exactly how he would want to be portrayed.  It's probably how he saw himself.
One could ask how a man reputed to be guilty of all sorts of financial and landlord-related offences could come to think that way.  How is it that one could be so reputedly vile when it came to one's business dealings but still portray oneself as a pious individual?
If you point out that a person with no conscience would have no problem doing such a thing you'd be right so I'll take it to the next level.  The funeral Stark was given, complete with the local Satmar rebbe (remember there's a couple of 'em) crying over his coffin and at the shiva was worthy of a hero, not a scumbag who'd pushed another scumbag too far and paid for it. 
Yes Italian mafiosos get state funerals with the local clerics eulogizing them as heroes and champions of the community.  But the Satmar rebbe with his self-righteous indignation over any perceived violation of "Toyrah" he sees?  Here's a man who thinks the existence of the state of Israel is an abomination.  If you're a Zionist you're scum to him but if you're a thief and oppressor of the poor you're fine?  Isn't Judaism supposed to be different than that?
Now when it comes to mafiosos the reason for the high honours at burial is obvious: fear.  Who wants to be caught disrespecting a man with a mob at his beck and call?  What priest is going to stand up and say "No way I'm gonna do his funeral!  The man was a murderer and a thief"?
With Stark such considerations were not relevant.  Yes he was entitled to a kever Yisrael like any other Jew but why the high kovod?
I would suggest it's because, from the Satmar perspective Menachem Stark was, in fact, a completely righteous man.  He wore the right clothes and headgear.  He swayed the right way during prayer.  I don't doubt that his Yiddish was acceptable and that every time he saw an Israeli flag he spit on the ground in disgust.  He did his "learning", ate only the most mehadrin foods and all his meat was Satmar-style shechita
That he threw out most of Choshen Mishpat in his business dealings was simply not part of the equation.
As I noted in the previous post we have, after 1942 years of golus, compartmentalized Judaism into the parts we still do, which is mostly ritual, and the parts we don't, which is pretty much everything else.  Yes, the Shulchan Aruch has four sections but there's a Mishnah Berurah only on Orach Chaim which gives people the impression it's the only part that matters other than some areas of Yoreh Deah one can't avoid like kashrus and taharas hamishpacha.  The rest is a closed book to most Orthodox folk, especially Choshen Mishpat where the laws of financial crimes are encoded.
Menachem Stark ignored Choshen Mishpat, something only the greatest of scholars learn.  The average person has no idea what's in that volume and in this case ignorance is bliss.  If you have no clue you're sinning you can't see yourself as not righteous, can you?
So once again we see the same pattern: Stark was ritually correct.  His actual sins didn't count because of that.  For his friends and the Satmar rebbe he was a better Jew than a Dati Leumi guy who is completely honestly in business because the Dati Leumi ritual is despised by Satmar. 
It is a twisted mindset where how you dress and what poltical/religious views you espouse define your piety.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Ritual Uber Alles - Part 1 -Getting the Get

And we're back.
Over the next few posts I want to develop a thesis using recent examples of 'bad frummies in the news", something of which there is no shortage, chalilah.  It is my hope to build up a common theme between all these incidents and hopefully raise some insight that might lead to discussion on how to change what I feel is the fundamental problem of Orthodoxy today.
The first example is the divorce saga of Avrohom Weiss and Gital Dodelson.  Now this tragic story has been dealt with in greater detail elsewhere and it is not my intent to take any sides or delve into greater details or underlying reasons.  In brief, Weiss and Dodelson were married after a brief shadchan-induced relationship, life turned out not to be ideal for either from the get-go and after several months and one child Dodelson said "enough" and left.
Here's where things got tricky.  Dodelson, as might be expected, demanded a get immediately, even before the conclusion of the divorce proceedings.  According to reports Weiss refused and wanted to wait until those proceedings were all done.  In the absence of any beis din saying so Dodelson went public, took her story to major non-Jewish news outlets and presented herself as an agunah.  With the help of some PR folks she quickly painted Weiss as the villian and even got as far as threatening a boycott of Artscroll Mesorah Publishers, the employer of a close relative of Weiss who was supporting him in his refusal to give a get.
Now when it comes to the giving of a get it is difficult to have a rational discussion.  The plight of the agunah is a well-known one and the idea that there is a one-sided facet to Jewish divorce in which the man has all the power and the woman is chained to him is the foundation of the public perception that the man who refuses to give a get is an evil villian trying to ruin his wife's life.  This is something that unfortunately occurs all too often but frequency of occurence does not mean that all instances of the man not quickly handing over the get are examples.
In this case, for instance, the Weiss family made a good case that the reason for get refusal was because they were still in process through the courts and were hoping to negotiate a better custody and alimony deal.  Weiss reportedly had no problem with giving the get but wanted to wait until the end of the process.  This was not sufficient for Dodelson who reportedly wanted the get immediately on demand.  The question must be asked then: al pi halacha does she have that right?  Did Weiss have an obligation to hand over the get as soon as he was told to?
Let me point out the following: no he doesn't.  Al pi halacha divorce proceedings are initiated and completed by the husband.  A wife's request for a divorce, as legitimate as it might be, carries no legal significance.  Yes, in a reasonable relationship the man would hand over the get as soon as possible but if divorces were reasonable there would be a lot less family law lawyers gainfully employed.
What's more, the status of the husband as a get refuser is established when the beis din handling the divorce instructs him to hand it over and he refuses.  In this particular case (please correct me if I'm wrong) there was no order from beis din
If this is the case, why did Dodelson react the way she did when her initial requests were refused?  Why did she immediately engage in a destructive PR campaign that presented Orthodox Judaism to the greater North American public as a sexist, backwards religion and threaten to cause financial damage to a major publishing house as a response?  What made her think that her request for a get was all that was needed?
I would suggest it's because we in the Orthodox community have long ago forgotten something very important about Judaism.  Judaism is not a religion.  It is not an ethnic identity.  It is a national entity complete with a constitution and full legal code covering civil, criminal, ritual and interpersonal matters.  However, after 1914 years of exile something interesting has happened to our understanding of this.  For pretty much all of our exile we haven't had much of a chance to exercise authority in criminal law.  Civil law usage has also been pretty minimal.  In fact, other than ritual acts along with some interpersonal matters like marriage and divorce most of our law has remained dormant.  Yes we study it but the bottom line is that we don't realize it has a place in our daily lives like the ritual does.
In fact, since the ritual is easily 90% or more of our contact with the legal aspects of Judaism we seem to have quietly subsumed the final 10% (or less) into it.  I would suggest that this is the case in the Dodelson-Weiss divorce.  Dodelson didn't see the get or the need for beis din to order it handed over as necessary.  For her and her supporters it was a ritual matter.  The marriage was over as soon as she said so and according to ritual when a marriage ends the husband hands over the get.  It's like refusing an aliyah or putting on tefillin before Shacharis.  You just do it because it's part of the ritual!
Weiss, on the other hand, seemed to understand that the get is the final part of the divorce and since the courts were still involved and there were outstanding issues the marriage was technically not over, therefore there was no reason to hand over the get.  This did not save him because he was still portrayed as violating his ritual requirements.
It would therefore seem that much of the friction between Dodelson and Weiss arose from this conflict between ritual and legal understandings of Judaism.