Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Sivan 5764 - June 9, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Shock Over Former Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron's Call to Cancel Marriage and Divorce Law
By Betzalel Kahn

Former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron issued a shocking call to cancel the Marriage and Divorce Law in the State of Israel, claiming that it makes many secular Jews despise Judaism. Leading halachic authorities were astonished to hear the former Chief Rabbi continue to make declarations on the fundamentals of religion after arriving at his ideas independently, without consulting leading rabbonim.

"The Marriage and Divorce Law, which serves to a large degree as a showcase of Judaism for many, makes many secularists despise Judaism and religion," the former Chief Rabbi said at a speech he gave during a conference on marriage registry, attended by rabbonim from the National-Religious camp. "The Marriage and Divorce Law is an archaic law and has lost its validity. It only causes damage. All of the people who cannot marry or prefer not to do so through the Rabbinate can get married in Cyprus or through other means."

Rav Bakshi-Doron added, "Coercion creates antagonism among secularists, and there is no reason why, in 2004, the law should require marriage and divorce through the Rabbinate alone. Just as brit milah is not done through legal force and over 95 percent of parents in Israel circumcise their sons, I believe that if marriage is not under a framework of law and coercion it would draw more people to marry through the Rabbinate."

Upon hearing former Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron's remarks, maranan verabonon said, "Based on what authority does he express positions on these issues in an independent manner? This is a breach in the very act of intervening and uprooting the authority from beis din. He is trying to take the authority over kiddushin and geirushin away from the botei din. This is a breach that will lead to terrible abandon among the general public, in one of the fundamentals of the religion. It also provides an excuse for all those fighting against religion to step up their war following this announcement."

Rabbonim and dayonim said any breach or circumventing of the rabbinical establishment and the botei din will lead to terrible decline among the general public in the area of marriage and divorce. The remarks also drew harsh reactions from the political establishment. Most of the speakers reacted with harsh criticism, particularly figures from UTJ, Shas and the NRP.

Degel HaTorah Chairman MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said, "Things people wouldn't dare discuss in the streets of the city in every academic field like medicine or any other profession, people do dare to take out into the city street, both ignoramuses and sonei Yisroel. How can rabbonim hold a public discussion on matters that belong in the beis medrash or to gedolei Yisroel? Someone who believes this issue should be discussed must turn to gedolei Yisroel and address them."

Degel HaTorah Secretary MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said, "On this issue of marriage and divorce, most of the public in Israel is traditional and wants to see the unity in Am Yisroel remain. There are very divisive figures in society, but there are principles according to which the vast majority wants to live, to keep Am Yisroel from turning into several nations within the Jewish people.

"This proposal to cancel the Marriage and Divorce Law, particularly when Shinui is a central element in the coalition and has an interest in damaging the laws of the holy Torah and in bringing about the assimilation of the Jewish people-- in days like these to make such a proposal is highly irresponsible and stems from a lack of courage to confront the difficulties this law creates among the anti- religious segment of the country, totally abandoning the vast majority of the Jewish people in Israel, who are traditional.

"If indeed he believes the law is archaic and creates problems--[though] I and all of the religious MKs and above all gedolei Yisroel disagree with him firmly--but if indeed he holds this way, why didn't he suggest this during the ten years he served as Chief Rabbi, including five years as president of Beit Din Hagodol?"

Shinui and Reform and Conservative figures quickly pounced saying, "The rabbi's remarks are proof that there is no halachic obstacle to civil marriage in Israel and that the rabbinical establishment's opposition stems only from considerations of power."

MK Chemi Doron (Shinui) expressed enthusiastic support for Rabbi Bakshi-Doron's statements. "He demonstrated courage at the rabbinical conference when he called for the cancellation of the Orthodox monopoly on marriage in Israel. MK Doron praised Rabbi Bakshi-Doron "both for the courage he demonstrated in his remarks and the change in thinking within the religious establishment as these remarks indicate." MK Doron went on to say, "I am happy that finally a representative of the deeply-entrenched religious establishment has begun to see the reality of the situation. I call on HaRav Bakshi-Doron to join the struggle the Shinui Party is leading, for the sake of freedom of religious choice and the struggle against religious coercion."


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