High Rabbinic Court ruling on State of Israel stationary says "all Jews" must listen to haredi gedolim.
Rabbi Sherman annuls another conversion
Rabbi who already disqualified thousands of conversions questions Jewishness of female convert, orders her to divorce her husband and declares her children unfit to marry other Jews
Kobi Nahshoni, Ynet
Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who last year retroactively disqualified thousands of conversions that had already been recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, recently annulled another conversion.
This time Rabbi Sherman declared a conversion granted by the Rabbinate to a woman null and void, questioned her Jewishness, ordered her to divorce her husband immediately and stated that as of now her children are to be branded "unfit to marry" other Jews.
Sherman revoked the conversion after he found "flaws" in the process of conversion, which was conducted by the rabbinate. In the ruling Sherman wrote that according to the woman's husband, she paid NIS 10,000 ($2,500) to a rabbi for a "speedy conversion." He also alleged that the woman was not sincere in her acceptance of mitzvot, as she did not go to the mikvah after menstruating.
State will have to decide
Rabbi Sherman's ruling prompted strong reactions among members of the religious administration. Rabbi Moshe Klein, former deputy head of the Chief Rabbinate's conversion program, said that the ruling was "one of the last nails in the burial coffin of conversions in Israel."
Klein called on people seeking to convert to Judaism to wait, because in light of the present situation there was no guarantee that their conversion will eventually be approved.
Dean of Sha'arei Mishpat College Dr. Aviad Hacohen, who appealed Sherman's conversion annulment to the High Court of Justice, said that the current ruling proves that "the Rabbinical Court of the State of Israel could turn into a tiny branch of an extremist, stringent Lithuanian beit midrash."
Hacohen added, "The State of Israel will now have to decide whether matrimonial law is conducted according to these norms, or according to the traditional halachic ways of living Torah, which are peaceful and pleasant."
And now the Ha'aretz report:
Rabbinical Court proves subservience to ultra-Orthodox
By Yair Ettinger, Ha'aretz
A decision published on Monday by the High Rabbinical Court exposes how the state's official rabbinical courts view themselves as subject to the decisions of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and leaders of the Haredi public.
"All the Jewish people view them," referring to the ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the decision, "as appropriate and authorized to instruct the Jewish people, and all the Jewish people are subject to their decisions to do what they teach and not to stray from their teachings," wrote the rabbinical court in its ruling.
The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel of dayanim (religious court judges) headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who last year nullified all conversions performed by the state's religious conversion court system headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman. Sherman's ruling on conversions is now being considered by the High Court of Justice.
Yesterday's ruling came in another conversion case, of a couple from the Tel Aviv area. The decision, made a month and a half ago but only published yesterday, related to an appeal by the woman, who the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ordered to be divorced from her husband, and that property matters in the case would only be heard at a later time. During the divorce proceedings doubts were raised as to whether the woman was actually Jewish, as she had converted before her marriage.
The High Rabbinical Court, the highest of the official state Jewish religious courts, decided to not recognize the woman's conversion - even though she had accepted Orthodox Jewish religious practice when she converted. There were also doubts as to the husband's Jewishness. Even though all these issues cast a doubt on whether halakha, Jewish religious law, requires the couple to divorce, the court decided to follow the strictest interpretations and force them to divorce.
At the same time, the couple and their children will be placed on the rabbinate's blacklist of those who have restrictions on who they may marry - which effectively prevents them from marrying in the future through the rabbinate.
Most halakhic decisors over the generations have ruled that religious courts ("batei din") do not have the authority to overrule other rabbinical courts, but Rabbi Sherman and the two other dayanim in the case, Rabbi Haggai Izrir and Rabbi Zion Algrabli, preferred the more conservative position of modern ultra-Orthodox decisors. That is the main innovation of the present decision, which relates to the important question of the source of the rabbinical courts' authority.
The 35-page judgment, with the words "The State of Israel" at the top of every page, gives a clear answer: ultra-Orthodox rabbis. The decision also places the leading rabbi of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox faction, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, at the top of the pyramid.
The ruling stated that all the Jewish People, including rabbis and dayanim, are subject to the rulings of the great ultra-Orthodox decisors.
As opposed to the regular format of rabbinical court decisions, Rabbi Sherman did not settle for quotes from previous rabbinic rulings, but instead quoted extensively letters and opinions of the ultra-Orthodox rabbis he follows, who oppose the present Israeli system of conversions.
This ruling is troubling on several counts:
1. The idea that non-Zionist anti-state haredi rabbis are the be all and end all of Jewish law as applied in a Jewish state.
2. The idea that testimony of one party in divorce proceedings could be used to void the conversion of the other party in those proceedings. Divorcing couples are often bitterly fighting, and each side has what to gain from misrepresenting the truth or lying.
3. The idea that a decision of one religious court that still sits and still rules on cases can be overturned by another religious court.
4. Before this ruling, Rabbi Sherman had already shown himself to be biased. He should not be sitting on any state religious court, let alone its High Rabbinic Court of Justice. Yet he is still a member of that court and still rules – even on cases where his bias is clear.
What is happening on a national level in Israel is happening at a communal level elsewhere. Accepted halakha (Jewish law) today is much stricter than it was 30 years ago, and today's rabbis believe and act as if this new largely unprecedented strictness has always been the norm when it has not.
The best way to combat this – short of walking out of Judaism altogether – is to bring back the moderate rulings now forgotten.
In part, that is what I hoped to do with the site I unsuccessfully tried to launch last year, OpenSourceHalacha.com. But I tried to do this with very little money and it it failed.
What we really need is a national project to recover these 'lost' rulings and democratize them by publishing them in ways that reach the largest number of people.
If anyone wants to help me do this, or if you have other ideas on what we could do to help, please let me know.
[Hat Tips: Ben Max, Joel Katz.]