Sephardic Chief Rabbi: Do not fear the women's organizations

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef calls on rabbinical judges not to cave in to pressure from interest groups.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Rabbi Yosef at Rabbinical Convention
Rabbi Yosef at Rabbinical Convention
Court's Spokesman

Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef related for the first time to attacks aimed at him by women’s organizations following the bill of divorce episode involving a woman from Tzfat in northern Israel.

In 2014, S. was given a get (halakhic divorce) in a rare and unprecedented move by a religious court in the northern city of Tzfat, seven years after her husband was severely injured in a car accident and left in a vegetative state. A halakhic divorce must be granted by the husband and accepted by the wife. The rabbinic court in this case decided that they could be the husband's legal guardian and that he would have wanted to grant the divorce, calling it a get zicui.

That halakhic concept's only precedents were when the woman receiving the divorce needed someone to take her place, but have never been used actively by someone who is in a position to grant a divorce. The late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog was opposed to the use of the concept, as is YU's Rabbi Herschel Schachter; the rabbinic court judges consulted with other well-known judges in Israel, but not with the Chief Rabbinate.

Shortly after the ruling was issued and the divorce granted, Reuven Cohen, who opposed the decision but is unconnected to the couple in question, filed an appeal with the Supreme Rabbinic Court – the Chief Rabbinate’s highest judicial body – to challenge the divorce on halakhic grounds.

Upon the decision to reopen the case, the Rabbinical Court was met with vocal opposition from women’s groups and Knesset members. In addition, there was criticism from other sources about reopening a get which had already been granted and about the plaintiff not having standing in the case. The Chief Rabbi intends to convene a committee of rabbinic judges to decide on halakhic policy regarding the get zicui.

At the opening of the annual convention for rabbinical judges, taking place this week, Rabbi Yosef told the other judges: “We hold by the standard among ourselves of ‘Fear no one [when making a judgement].’ If there are women’s groups that want things from us, that we should allow them to do anything - do not be afraid! Fear no one. Be strong.”

“They’re representing me as if I was stringent on a matter, which I was not. Almost all the rabbis were stringent on this matter. I spoke for the sake of heaven without personal concerns and they stood and disgraced me. I fulfilled the injunction of ‘Fear no one.’ I call on all judges of Israel - do not fear the women’s organizations, hold by ‘Fear no man’ and adjudicate only according to Jewish law.”


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