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
"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."