On Israel's Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers, we prefer to express our sadness on a national level, therefore, I postponed the publication of this story.
Recently, a decision was brought to my attention that appeared in a collection entitled "Decisions in Matters of Property and Genealogy” published by Beit Din Zedek of Jerusalem. This decision appears under the heading “Regarding the Question of the Kashrut of a Woman Who is the Daughter of an Agunah Who was allowed to Remarry by the Chief IDF Rabbi.” The title alone hints at the tempest that is about to erupt; Someone is asking questions and raising doubts regarding the kashrut of the genealogy of a woman whose mother was allowed to remarry by the Chief IDF Rabbi. What must any questions be asked here?! The woman was given permission to marry by the Chief IDF Rabbi. Period. End of statement.
Below I will quote from the relevant sections of the decision and I'll explain. Center for Women's Justice has posted the entire decision on their site for you to read.
Under the heading "Query", it is written as follows: "While examining the genealogy of the bride, Ms. A., we learnt that her mother married her father after having received from Rabbi Piron, then the Chief IDF Rabbi, certification that her husband died in combat. Upon examining the circumstances surrounding the demise of her husband, it has become apparent that her husband was "identified" within a burnt tank on the basis of his personal clothing that was found among the ashes, one week after the tank had gone up in flames. It was impossible to examine the army file in its entirety, with the exception of the above mentioned authorization from the IDF Rabbi that allowed the mother to remarry and is part of the mother’s “Marriage File.”
Snooping aroundHere’s my take on it: An IDF soldier was burnt in a tank during a war (apparently the Yom Kippur war of 1973). His body was identified (to the extent that it could be identified) by Rabbi Piron, the Chief IDF Rabbi at the time, who made the identification on the basis of the clothing found among the burnt remains of the tank. In the matter at hand, the woman received certification that her husband was a khalal, in other words, it was absolutely and without question determined that her husband died in combat and that she was free to remarry. The woman married in accordance with Jewish Law (based on the death certificate issued by the Chief IDF Rabbi), and had a baby daughter. At some point in time, her daughter turned to the marriage registrar for permission to marry. The marriage registrar noticed that her mother had received special authorization to marry by the Chief IDF Rabbi and for some reason decided that this was not enough. Why not snoop around a little?
Under the heading "Decision," it is written as follows: "One cannot rely on the authorization of the IDF Rabbi. The bride, A, should be referred to Rabbanut X, who has personal knowledge of the family and is a God-fearing Rabbi.”
Here’s my take on it: this particular Rabbinic Court was not willing to accept the official certification that A’s father had fallen in combat; and was not willing to rely on the authorization to that affect by the Chief IDF Rabbi. This Rabbinic Court is suggesting that the bride is a mamzer who cannot marry in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel since perhaps the first husband of her mother is still alive, or perhaps was alive, when her mother became pregnant by another man. This, despite the fact that the chief IDF Rabbi established that her father was burnt in a tank and is no longer among the living. This Rabbinic Court is questioning the authority of the IDF Rabbinate, and the God fearing-ness of its Chief Rabbi.
Is the bride hiding?Under the heading : "Halachic Sources” it is written as follows:
“Shulhan Aruch…’ If a murdered or dead person is found and his forehead, nose, and face exist and can be identified, that will establish his death. But if one of these identifying factors does not exist, he cannot be identified even if his personal belongings are found…One cannot testify regarding the demise of a person unless he was found within 3 days of his death or murder. Such testimony is not accepted as determinative if done after 3 days, since facial features change after that time... Under circumstances where it is given that the body of the husband missing in action was burnt in a tank, and that all that remained were a few of his personal belongings, and that the identification of the body was done about one week after his death, these are the circumstances discussed in the Shulhan Arukh. It might be that the authorization given to the mother to remarry was also based on the testimony of friends who saw the husband in the tank when its blew up on all of its troops. But we haven’t seen or heard this."
Here’s my take on it: from the Halacha it appears that it is not possible to release an agunah from her status and allowed her to remarry if her husband was burnt and his body found more than 3 days later. Even if a halachic authority found some way to solve this problem, this Rabbinic Court is not about to rely on that.
There are a lot of questions here: Who is this Beit Din Zedek that deals in Matters of Property and Genealogy? Is it an official court of the State of Israel? Does it have jurisdiction over the residents of the State of Israel? Who sent the bride to this court, and why? Do the official marriage registrars of the State of Israel send brides to this court, instead of to the official rabbinic courts?
And of course we would like to know where this bride is today. Has she been halachically “relieved” of the suggestion that she might be a mamzer? Did she run away from Israel? Is she in hiding somewhere in the world? Or perhaps she jumped off some roof after hearing that she might be considered a mamzer?
The Rabbinic Court Spokeswoman, Efrat Orbach, states that "The Property and Genealogy Rabbinic Court is not under the auspices of the Rabbinic Courts of Israel."
Rabbi Joshua Levin, the director of the Property and Genealogy Court, comments as follows: "Yes, I do indeed remember this case, and it is a particularly sad one. The bride appeared before the Marriage Registrar with a document from the IDF Rabbinate that was vague and included a large number of women. The Registrar understood that the document was problematic from a halakhic perspective, and referred the bride to our court for clarification.
"While it is true that we are a private rabbinic court, the marriage registrars send us certain cases since we are faster than the official rabbinic courts of the state and the registrars trust our halakhic judgment.
- We have no authority to make a declaration that a matter is prohibited, or to take a stringent position. The persons who come to us, come of their own volition. In any event, the District Rabbinic Court has the final word. The registrars turn to us for help to solve maters, and to take a lenient position based on our well-reasoned halakhic opinion. In the case at hand, we immediately, within one day, referred the bride to the rabbi that gave her mother permission to remarry, since we assumed that he would remember the details of the tragic case and we trusted that he acted in a pious, God-fearing manner.
- Nine years have passed since this bride appeared before us, and no member of the family returned to us for clarification or help. Therefore, it is reasonable for us to assume that the marriage took place as planned, without delays. In any event, we never received any complaint by the parties themselves regarding our handling of this file. The story that appears in the collection of opinions entitled ""Decisions in Matters of Property and Genealogy” is not complete, and does not include details that would perhaps explain things more clearly. But we felt that we needed to be careful not to include details that would allow the reader to identify the persons invloved. So the decision is written in a laconic manner that would instead emphasize and isolate the halakhic precedent set in this case."
Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinical advocate, working at The Center for Women’s Justice
Translated by Susan Weiss