After facing withering attacks from leading haredi rabbis, the Safed state rabbinical court headed by Rabbi Uriel Lavi has (albeit politely) lashed out at one of its critics in an almost unprecedented publicly released open letter.
Originally published at 11:34 pm CDT 6-24-2014
State Rabbinic Court Lashes Out At Haredi Rabbi In Controversial Divorce Case Fallout
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
After facing withering attacks from leading haredi rabbis, the Safed state rabbinical court headed by Rabbi Uriel Lavi has (albeit politely) lashed out at one of its critics in an almost unprecedented publicly released open letter, Ha’aretz reported.
Lavi and two other judges on the Safed rabbinical court issued a ruling earlier this year that allowed a 34-year-old woman to be divorced from her husband.
The husband had already been in a coma for seven years following a motorcycle accident when the rabbinic judges ruled.
Doctors saw little to no chance the man would ever regain consciousness and his family reportedly supported his wife’s request for a Jewish divorce.
The rabbinic judges issued what is known in halakha (Jewish law) as a get zikui, a rarely used and controversial device to give a Jewish divorce to a woman through a messenger – in this case, the rabbinic court – that the man did not appoint but would have agreed to if were able to do so.
Before issuing the get zikui, the rabbinic court consulted with several other rabbis, including the leading posek (rabbinic decisor) for the hasidic world, Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.
Goldberg endorsed the Safed state rabbinic court’s ruling issuing the get zikui, but later retracted his endorsement after the ruling became public and Goldberg was threatened by haredim.
Now, in a 14-page open letter the three Safed rabbinical court judges have defended their ruling issuing the get zikui and attacked one of their critics, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, who heads the haredi Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Like many other senior haredi rabbis, including haredi rebel faction leader Shmuel Auerbach and top “mainstream” haredi faction leader Ahaon Leib Steinman, Farbstein publicly lashed out at the ruling and at the three rabbinic judges who issued it without speaking to those three rabbinic judges first or learning the details of the case.
The three Safed rabbinic court judges – Lavi, Haim Bezek and Yosef Yagoda – reportedly refuted each point Farbstein made in his public letter and chastised Farbstein for offering a halakhic opinion on a case whose details he doesn’t know and for publicly criticizing the Safed rabbinic court and its judges without trying to speak with them first.
Israel’s two chief rabbis, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef — both haredim – have done nothing to defend the Safed court which operates as part of the state rabbinical court system they preside over in alternating five-year terms.
Yosef reportedly privately told the Safed rabbinical court before the ruling was issued that he opposed their ruling.
The sharply critical attack by the three Safed rabbinic court judges on Farbstein can be seen as a proxy attack on even more senior haredi rabbis, like Auerbach and “mainstream” faction head Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, who cannot safely be chastised.
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