Halakha should state that being an aguna is not permitted!

Agunot – A Sharp Indictment of Israel’s Rabbinic Courts

“This should have been the mission of the halakhic decisors: to make sure no woman finds herself for even one day or one night without a divorce!”

Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin-Nun at special Knesset session on agunot (“chained women”) (March 23, 2022)Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin-Nun at special Knesset session on agunot (“chained women”) (March 23, 2022)

The words above are the astute and bold words of an Orthodox scholar, Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin-Nun, at a joint meeting of the Constitution Committee and the Committee on the Status of Women, which was held last week to address agunas and divorce refusals on the occasion of Agunah Day

At the start of the meeting, the participants were exposed to Rebecca's heartbreaking testimony. For eighteen and a half years she has unable to get the rabbinical courts to grant her freedom from a marriage, which was clearly doomed to failure from the very beginning, but she was caught in it by mistake and due to deception. Her husband has long since married again overseas and made it clear that he will not give her a get - out of vengeance. Some years ago, a State Rabbinic Court annulled her marriage, but her newly gained freedom was short-lived. Following attacks on the Court from ultra-Orthodox rabbinic circles – the Court retroactively cancelled its ruling and left her chained once again, with no recourse in sight.

Her testimony constitutes a sharp indictment against Israel’s rabbinic establishment and Rabbinic Courts, to whom the State entrusted a monopoly over the dignity and rights of women like Rebecca, as well as over all Jews on matters of personal status.

The Legal Adviser of the Rabbinical Courts, Dr. Rafi Reches, refused to answer the questions of the chairman of the Constitution Committee and explain how it is possible that although a court ruled to dissolve Rebecca's marriage, it then cancelled its ruling after finding itself under ultra-Orthodox attack. It was Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin-Nun, one of the founders of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut, who illustrated that this harsh indictment does not just come from the direction of the women's organizations and human rights organizations, but also on behalf of the Torah and Halakha, insofar as it has not been frozen in time by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinical establishment.

Those who apply the Halakha should have clearly stated that the state of being an aguna must not be permitted!

Listen to the testimony of Rebecca and the words of Rabbi Bin-Nun [in Hebrew], who says:

“The discussion should have been reversed. It was the halakhic decisors that should have fought to make sure that no woman finds herself without a divorce for even one day or one night! This is an unacceptable state of affairs according to Halakha. [It is not] as though there is halakhah, and liberal organizations and women's organizations are coming to change it. It should be the other way around. [Those who apply the] Halakha should have clearly stated that the state of being an aguna must not be permitted! If [the Dayanim] were to hold and believe, as is stated in the Talmud, that all the risks that confront such a woman for over eighteen and a half years - her tears or, God forbid, other things [that may occur] - were on their heads; if they believed that this was not an agenda of women's organizations, but rather the truth of the Torah and Halakha - this problem would have already disappeared - and I pray every day that this will happen.”

The time has come to take the monopoly out of the hands of the Chief Rabbinate, which is under the control of extremists in the religious world due to the unholy alliance between religion and politics in Israel. It is long overdue to institute freedom of choice in marriage and divorce. A large majority of the Jewish public supports this, and open competition that allows the public to choose would also contribute to the Rabbinic Courts being more considerate and humane towards those who choose to come before them of their own free will, rather than due to State coercion.

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