A Supreme Court panel of seven justices will hear petitions by Oded Gez and Sharon Ben-Chaim – husbands who refuse to give their wives divorces – against the social sanctions levied against them by the Rabbinical Court. The hearing will take place tomorrow (Tuesday).
In the spirit of what is known as the "Sanctions of Rabbeinu Tam," the Rabbinical Court ordered the photograph of Oded Gez to be publicized, ruling that he must be ostracized religiously and socially. Specifically, he must not be included in a prayer quorum nor called to the Torah, and others may not engage in business dealings with him, inquire as to his welfare, or honor him in any way.
Gez ultimately escaped to Belgium, where proceedings for his extradition to Israel are now underway.
In Ben-Chaim's case, the Sephardic community in Fairlawn, New Jersey, where he resides – his wife lives in Israel – was notified that similar measures must be levied against him.
It goes without saying that the purpose of the sanctions is to exert social pressure upon the recalcitrant husbands so that they will choose to grant their wives a religious divorce instead of leaving her "chained" and unable to remarry. However, the petitioners claim, the law does not clearly authorize the Rabbinical Courts to levy such sanctions.
The director of the Rabbinical Courts system, Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, had this response to the upcoming court hearing: "We hope that the Supreme Court will back the Rabbinical Court system in its uncompromising struggle against men who refuse to give their wives a divorce. Enlisting the public via the 'sanctions of Rabbeinu Tam' is a critical tool in the struggle – and sometimes the only way to rescue the woman from her 'chained' status. This is the case when the husband has escaped from Israel and cannot be placed in jail, or even when he is in Israel but jail is not possible or not a sufficiently strong sanction."