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September 20, 1991 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

INI ■ 11 NEWS

Rabbinical Court
Voids Marriage

Jerusalem (JTA) — A
Jerusalem rabbinical court
set a notable precedent re-
cently when it voided the
marriage of an American
couple performed by a
Reform rabbi.
The ruling, which has po-
litical as well as halachic, or
Orthodox religious,
significance, could affect
future cases involving per-
sonal- status that reach
Israeli courts.
The three-man panel of re-
ligious court judges decided
2-1 to dissolve the marriage
of some years' standing,
declaring the wife free to
remarry without obtaining a
get, a Jewish divorce.
The married couple were
Americans living in Israel
who had been in the process
of obtaining a divorce. The
husband left the country
before it became final.
The rabbinical court,
headed by Rabbi Shilo
Rafael, acted to protect the
woman from the status of
"agunah," or abandoned
wife, which would leave her
ineligible to remarry under
religious law.
The judges determined
that her marriage was in-
valid, even though the cou-
ple had lived together for
years as husband and wife.
The judges made their rul-
ing after questioning people
who had been present at the
wedding ceremony. It was
discovered that the bride's
relatives had been the offi-
cial witnesses to the wed-
ding, which Halachah does
not recognize as valid.
They also found that the
groom did not pronounce the
"harei at" (behold thou art
consecrated to me) ritual
declaration when placing
the ring on the bride's
finger.
The majority opinion may
have been influenced by the
late American Orthodox
sage, Rabbi Moshe Feins-
tein.
In a responsum authored
in the 1950s, Rabbi Feins-
tein suggested that all
Reform marriages could be
presumed invalid. In that
way, a woman would escape
the Talmudic burden of
mamzerut —illegitimacy —
if the wife in a Reform mar-
riage has children from a se-
cond marriage without hav-
ing obtained a halachic
divorce from her first hus-
band.
That approach has never
been applied in Israeli
courts, and it has prompted
considerable interest in both
judicial and rabbinic circles.

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