RAMAT GAN, Israel, March 7 (JTA) The Jewish calendar is replete with dates that bear the mark of national memory. Thus, for example, the upcoming festival of Purim has come to symbolize the survival of the Jewish people in the Diaspora under conditions of extreme risk and defeat. But memories of the past aren’t enough. Jewish holidays enable us, first and foremost, to take a sobering look at our current reality and gain insights that can help us build a more just and moral society in the future. From this standpoint, the Fast of Esther, which falls on the day before Purim, is no less important than the holiday of masks and the carnival atmosphere. Queen Esther, the strongest woman in the Persian Empire, used her resourcefulness and wisdom to reverse Haman’s murderous decree. Not in vain, Queen Esther’s fast has become, in recent years, a day devoted to improving the status of agunot, women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. The name of the story is women’s empowerment. Marriage and divorce take place in Israel in accordance with Jewish law, but it is important to remember that Jewish law places most of the power in the man’s hands, while the woman is liable to endure no small amount of suffering. Jewish laws state that a couple may divorce only when the man grants his wife a bill of divorce, called a get, of his own free will, and she accepts it directly from him. Many husbands who cannot be located, or who refuse to release their wives from the bonds of marriage, prevent women from seeking a new life and raising a second family. Under such conditions, countless women in Israel and elsewhere are blackmailed and abused emotionally and economically by husbands who deviously place tremendous obstacles along the road to freedom. The key to solving the dilemma lies, for the most part, with the policies of teachers of Jewish law and the Rabbinic courts. These authorities must provide swift and creative solutions to the distress suffered by agunot, because not finding a proper solution to the issue of a woman’s status severely endangers the status of Jewish law as a moral doctrine for future generations. The ability of the Jewish people to survive various Diasporas and serious existential dangers derives, in part, from the wisdom of great rabbinic interpreters who were able to keep an open mind and make more lenient decisions in light of changing realities. The principle of a “transaction permit,” or heter iska, that enables the charging of interest on a loan despite a biblical prohibition; the ability to work the land during shmita, the injunction that forbids Jews to work their land in Israel one year out of every seven, by selling it to a non-Jew; or the selling of chametz, or non-kosher-for-Passover food, to a non-Jew before Passover, are all examples where a creative and accepted solution was found within Jewish law, which is what must be done here. In practical terms, various measures can be taken to help empower those women who are classified as agunot: separating the divorce process from the division of the couple’s property by moving up the evaluation of the couple’s resources under the property relations law; signing a pre-nuptial agreement at the wedding ceremony; having the rabbinic courts employ various Jewish rules, such as renouncing or annulling the marriage as a bad transaction; rescinding the common procedure of allowing the rabbinic court to decide matters relating to the children in a divorce; and by appointing to the rabbinic courts judges with a legal background who are familiar with the entire gamut of the Israeli public. Application of any of these options must occupy the rabbinic world day and night in order to relieve the despair experienced by so many women. Queen Esther was a courageous woman. Even though she was trapped by the arbitrary rules imposed by King Ahasuerus, she took her fate into her own hands and made her Jewish brethren believe that they could be saved. Just as Esther’s distress was the distress of the entire Jewish people, so too, the cries of the agunot and women who are refused a divorce must echo in the ears of all sectors of society and the nation. This cry must not remain muted.