The recent case appears to be a first of its kind: The Chief Rabbi of Israel, in his role as president of the High Rabbinical Court, is attempting to bring about the revoking of a get issued three years ago based on halakhic prescriptions. In simple and painful words: A state-sanctioned court might turn back the wheels of time against their natural course, and thus be partner to a disturbing tragedy in which a divorced woman will suddenly resume her status as a married woman or agunah, without her having done a thing. Simply unbelievable.
At this stage, at least, the intervention of the Supreme Court, an opinion given by the Attorney General, and public pressure have had an impact; the planned action has been temporarily put on hold and this shameful course of affairs has ground to a halt.
Some facts are in order: A man was injured in a traffic accident and has been in a coma for many years. His wife appealed to the court, requesting that she be released from her marriage, and the Rabbinical Court found a creative halakhic solution based on sound halakhic foundations. The detailed and reasoned judgment of a sensitive and brave judge, Rabbi Uriel Lavie, acting as the husband's proxy, awarded her an absolute divorce and released her from her "chained" status. Nearly three years passed. The divorced woman, trusting the court's decree, began a new life and entered into a relationship with a man she had met, when she suddenly found herself in a terrible and illogical situation. Someone had submitted a legal appeal in an attempt to undermine her very home and life.
The legal appellant is an unknown messenger, a type of "fake front" completely unrelated to the family who has no connection to the case. The halakhic issue taken is ascribed to the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who objects to the reasoning of the Safed Court. By virtue of his position, he sought to convene a special court to discuss the sensitive and substantial issue. This is a precedence that might have far reaching implications. There is of course no room to disallow a fundamental debate by an extended court of law, but at the same time it is necessary to emphasize that this can in no way include the retroactive revoking of a court ruling. Any first-year law student is familiar with the basic concept whereby litigation must come to an end.
Notably, in recent generations Jewish Rabbinical leaders have made an effort to find solutions, even when these are strained, to complicated issues of aginut. Rabbi Akiva Eiger, an influential scholar and posek considered among the greatest of his generation in the late 18th century, found a way of releasing an agunah and explained that "the times demand that a daughter of Israel be released from the binds of igun, and that the daughters of Israel not remain unclaimed." One of the most conspicuous in the recent generation was no other than the late Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, who throughout his entire life followed the rule that gives precedence to the permissive position. Indeed. The father and teacher of the current Chief Rabbi was known for preferring permissive halakhic solutions to unnecessary strictness and restrictions, as evident in his writings and teachings.
The current issue, although it may momentarily seem purely halakhic and a private matter, surpasses its immediate circumstances and raises tough questions – both legal and halakhic, as well as moral and precedent-setting. Is a person who receives a court ruling to live under constant fear that the case will be reopened and the ruling reversed? Are judges who make every effort to rule leniently to live in fear? Is it appropriate that a judge who voiced his opinion in public on a matter under legal consideration, heads a court of law convened to revisit the same issue? Do legal and logical considerations have no place with regard to issues of personal status?
And the most important question: Is it not obvious by now why the Rabbinical courts arouse such a sense of repugnance? I see myself, as well as the significant movement I represent, as guardians of halakha and of halakhically sanctioned personal status as upheld by the state-religious establishment. Regretfully we find ourselves, time and again, in a defensive position - due to improper conduct, deficient considerations, and the loss of any connection to real life.
For all these reasons, an innocent woman and her family are now beset by a formidable threat of destruction and tragedy.