Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rabbi Kraus follows in the footsteps of Rabbi Rackman in "solving" the Aguna problem

Jewish Week    The court, called the International Beit Din, was formed in June and is headed by Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a highly respected former pulpit rabbi in Queens and Religious Zionist of America leader who made aliyah in 2005. It is interpreting Jewish law in new ways — still consistent with tradition, its leaders say — to procure a get, or religious divorce, for agunot, women stuck in marriages with recalcitrant husbands.[...]

While the number of agunot is not known, the problem has gone largely unsolved, pitting traditional Jewish law against those who feel deep empathy for women stuck in loveless marriages. At the root of the issue is the husband’s absolute right when it comes to issuing a get, or Jewish divorce. And while rabbinic authorities offer sympathy for these women, they maintain they are constrained from action in many cases by the boundaries of halacha. The result, at times, has the husband using extortion before granting a divorce, insisting on large sums of money and/or refusing joint custody of children. According to Jewish law, if the agunah marries and has a child, the child is considered a mamzer, illegitimate, and cannot marry a Jew. (This is not true in the husband’s case.)

Concerns about the moral injustice of the “absolute right” principle have led to a myriad of efforts to resolve the agunah problem, or “crisis,” in recent years. In the 1990s, the late Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, a major figure in Modern Orthodoxy and president of Bar-Ilan University, convened a beit din that issued divorces on the basis of kiddushei ta’ot, a Talmudic concept for annulment. The principle reasons that the woman never would have married her husband if she had known he would act in an abusive fashion during the marriage.

While deeply respected on a personal level by his peers, Rabbi Rackman, who died in 2008,was unsuccessful in persuading them to accept his approach, which was considered too lenient. The practical result was that many rabbis refused to officiate at the subsequent weddings of women who had been freed by the rabbi’s bet din.

Rabbi Krauss is introducing the legal concept of get zikui, annulling a marriage based on what is best for both parties. The principle operates on the premise that the divorce will ultimately benefit the husband as well as the wife.

“There is no more relationship — they have gone their separate ways,” explained Rabbi Krauss in an email. “The husband doesn’t want to give the get unless he gets money. It’s not true that he doesn’t want to give a divorce, but he wants money. Deep down, he wants to be free and pursue his life.”

The International Beit Din will not use get zikui to the exclusion of other methods, explained Rabbi Yosef Blau, another of the three judges on the panel and the spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University.

“A number of tools can be used,” he said. “Each case will be evaluated on its own merit. The goal is to free women in a way that the decision will be accepted in the broader community.”[...]

Still, despite support from abroad, the new religious court has already met with resistance here. According to a source close to the court, several leading rabbis at Yeshiva University, including Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, have already expressed reservations about the court’s methodology. The source wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid “mahchlocet,” public disagreement. [...]

Aside from methodology, the International Beit Din will also implement a new policy of transparency. According to traditional Jewish law, members of the court do not have to give any explanation for their rulings. But Rabbi Ronnie Warburg, director of the International Beit Din and the court’s third judge, explained that “transparency is an imperative.” [...]


  1. This is an interesting development. Of course, the naysayers will reject everything coming from this BD. however, threats of violence should not be made by either side. Remember, the path of Moshe and Aharon was to promote peace between feuding Israelites.

  2. @Eddie there is no feud. This is a halachic question and they are answering in a way that is unacceptable to the majority of frum Jews.

  3. I like your answer, because you are saying that it is "unacceptable to the majority of frum Jews". Thus, you accept that a minority of frum Jews might find it accepable.

    A while back you presented a very interesting point about R' Eleazar in the Tannur of Aknai saga. You said he was not obliged to follow the majority of sages,and that they only put him in Herem for sociological reasons.

  4. @Eddie - you are missing my point. In Gittin and Gerius it is not enough to find a minority view. In this case the minority is very small because their supposed source - Rav Zalman Nechmiah Goldberg - rejected this approach as legitimate in a case this summer and said he was merely commenting on a theoretical basis. In fact it might be limited to this beis and and a collection of feminists. that is an extremely poor basis for telling a woman that she is divorced.

    I don't see the relevance of Rabbi Eliezar. In that case he had G-d agreeing with him - you can't say that about this beis din. Even so he was put in cherem because he refused to follow the majority view. The Ramban said that if had been in the time of the Sanhedrin he would be a zaken mamre.

    Not sure what you mean by sociological reasons - what were my exact words?

  5. R' Goldberg most likely was trying to avoid being a modern day R' Eliezer, since he retracted his own comments, after pressure.

    I don't know the exact words you used, but you said that R Eliezer was not obliged to follow the majority, and you brought another source/gemorah, where they said they only put him in Herem for social reasons, ie to show others not to behave like that.

    in any case, the BD must make decisions on what is presented in front of it, and not succumb to external pressure, correct?

  6. I cant find the quote, it was in a talkback several years ago.

    If R' Kraus bases his psak on R Goldberg, who has in turn clarified it not being halacha l'maaseh, (practical halacha), then he has a problem.

    Zaken mamre - the reason is that it is given in the Torah. Anyway, I am not debating with you, but i will see if i can find your original quote.

  7. fedupwithcorruptrabbisNovember 23, 2014 at 4:05 AM

    what a tragedy we see in klal yisroel especially after the har Nof Massacre! Jews blatantly watering down, diluting and corrupting the Torah out of pressure from the feminist movement. The biggest tragedy IS TO STANDBY AND SEE NO RABBINIC AUTHORITY PROTESTING THIS OUTRAGEOUS BREACH OF THE TORAH. WHEN A JEW PUBLICLY DESECRATES THE TORAH BY RENDERING A FALSE AND UNETHICAL PSAK DIN WITHOUT BEING REPRIMANDED BY OTHERS OF AUTHORITY IS THE BIGGEST CHILUL HASHEM!!!

  8. Joke: the robin and the frog were arguing over who has the best voice. They agreed to have a contest.

    Just then the pig sauntered by.

    "What's up?" snorted Pig.

    "I have the best voice!" chirped Robin.

    "I sing better!!" croaked Frog.

    They all agreed to let Pig judge.

    "Chirp, chirp, CHIRP," sang Robin.

    "Ribbit, ribbit, R-I-B-B-I-T", crooned Frog.

    Pig stroked his chin with a cleft hoof.

    "Oink," Pig said. "The winner is...Frog." Satisfied with his verdict, he rolled in the mud.

    Robin started crying.

    Frog was miffed by this. "Why are you crying, Robin? Didn't I win fair and square?"

    "Yeah-Yeah-Yes," Robin managed to get out between sobs.

    "Then why are you crying??" demanded Frog.

    Robin puffed out his chest in utter consternation. "Because look at my judge!"

  9. "In general the accepted halacha is that a person does not have to follow
    the majority unless all the parties discussed their reasoning publicly
    and then a vole was taken - which was the case with Rabbi Eliezer."

    I didnt find the other quote I mentioned, but here is a post your previously wrote:

    So it seems that "majority" is not relevant in this case, unless R' Kraus' BD votes against him in the majority.

  10. @Eddie a poskek or beis din can follow a minority opinion - but it doesn't mean that it will be accepted by others. In cases of divorce and conversion it is critical that that the status be accepted by others.

    It doesn't look like the Kraus beis din will be accepted just as the Rackman beis din was not accepted.

  11. rather nasty of you to invoke the Har Nof massacre. Are you linking the 2 issues, or just appealing to emotion?

  12. fedup,
    You are not alone. My brother and I have been battling this alone for years. It is sad. But your protest is a holy thing and may you succeed. Actually, the problem is much worse than not protesting. The ones who are making a lot of damage are rosh yeshivas, such as the one in Philly who permits a woman to remarry without a GET. And nobody protests, as you said. I protested plenty in my new blog about marriage and divorce Very much, baruch HaShem, and people appreciate it, but today, it is getting worse all of the time.

  13. Will this "bet din" refuse to invite (send hazmanot to) husbands?

    Will they go zablah with other batei din?

    Will they take cases from husbands whose wives refuse to appear before a bet din?

    Will they allow toanim (rabbinic attornies)?

  14. So its not a wake up call?

  15. Is he also linking wanting to end abuse/oppression of women with fanatic feminism? I guess, then, I'm a proud fanatic feminist.


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