Jewish law states unequivocally that a Cohen cannot marry a divorced woman, but there are exceptions. The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court last week ruled that it would approve the divorce of two people who married in a civil service in the US – but that the divorce would not interfere with the woman's marriage to a Cohen.
Israeli law determines that the act of divorce between two people must go through the Rabbinical Court. The couple married in January 2006 in a ceremony with a Christian judge, in the presence of the bride, the groom, and one of the bride's friends.
Both sides and their relatives testified that they were told the marriage was for the purpose of getting the woman a work visa in the US. The couple lived together for four months.
Now the couple sought to end their marriage and define themselves as divorcees – without the husband giving her a 'Get' (Jewish divorce document). The woman testified that she has been in a relationship with a Cohen for over a year and that she wishes to marry him according to Jewish tradition. The husband also stated that if he were to marry in the future he would choose to marry according to Jewish tradition.
In light of the circumstances, the court decided to respond to the couple's request. The Dayanim ruled that the woman's request to marry a Cohen meant that she was in the halachic state of 'Shaat Dachak' (time of distress) where it is possible to facilitate their request and enact a divorce without a 'Get.'
Attorney Maggy Halperin who represented the sides said: "We have been witnessing a growing trend of couples who marry in civil ceremonies without being aware of the fact that the marriage is valid (from a Jewish perspective) with all that implies, and when this involves Jewish Israeli residents – the authority (in charge of) divorce is the Rabbinical Court alone….
"We are very happy with the court's worthy decision which allows the woman to marry the man she wishes to raise a family with and this in spite of it being a case of divorcee and Cohen."