Rabbinical Judges Chip in for Chained Woman

A woman sobbed that she couldn't afford what it would cost to get divorced – and the rabbis opened their wallets.

Hillel Fendel,

Rabbinical Court
Rabbinical Court
Flash 90

It happened today, Thursday, in the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court: A year-long saga of a woman waiting for a divorce came to a happy end, thanks to rabbinical sensitivity and generosity.

A couple in their 60's from central Israel had been in and out of the rabbinical court for a year, during which the woman demanded a divorce, while the husband refused to grant it.

Finally, however, the husband agreed – on condition that his wife pay him 2,000 NIS ($530). The judges had expected the woman to be pleased, but instead she burst out in tears. She said she would be happy to pay the amount, but she simply does not have it.

At that point, two of the judges – Rabbis Yitzchak Elmaliach and Yitzchak Marvah - surprised everyone in the courtroom by opening their wallets, pulling out 500 NIS each, and giving it to the woman. The woman's lawyer then joined in, and supplied the rest of the money to her happy client on the spot.

It should be stated that according to normative Jewish Law, the situation could also have been the opposite: A man cannot get divorced unless his wife agrees. In fact, in 2007 it was reported that there were 180 women who were "chained" to their estranged husbands – and 190 men suffering the same from their wives.

The Rabbinical Courts system has released figures regarding the special unit dealing with women whose husbands have disappeared in Israel or around the world. The unit succeeded in obtaining divorce papers from 184 such husbands in 2014, as opposed to 159 the year before.