Oct 31, 2011

Divorcing A Witch in Beis Din

Here is a crazy story if I ever heard one. Divorce stories, sad as the situation might be, can get really crazy as each side accuses the other trying to get the upper hand in negotiations. The timing of this story is perfect for Halloween!

Mynet reported on a decision in divorce proceedings in Haifa. The woman was claiming from her husband the full value of her Ketuba, being 180,000 NIS, claiming that her husband had cheated on her with another woman prior to the divorce. The husband, on the other hand, claimed that she had been dealing in witchcraft and refused to stop despite his asking her to. He says he only had his relationship with the other woman after she had already requested the divorce.

The beis din sent the couple for a polygraph test. The lie detector test found that the woman had lied when she  denied that she had been performing witchcraft in her house and that she had refused to stop when her husband had asked. It also found that she had lied when she claimed she would cook for him a lot. The polygraph also found that the husband was telling the truth when he claimed he only had his relationship with the other woman after the divorce had been requested.

The beis din ruled that she should be paid only half the value of her Ketuba - 90,000 NIS. They said even though the husband might have had his sexual relationship with the other woman after the divorce request, but it is likely he was already beginning to stray towards other women prior and that might have made his wife angrier. His claim that she didn't cook enough for him is not a reason to make her lose her Ketuba.

The main issue obviously being the witchcraft she was supposedly involved in, the beis din had to research what halachic effect engaging in witchcraft can have in a divorce. They found that there is no rule about witchcraft being a cause for her losing her Ketuba.

What they did find on the issue is that Rebbe Nachman writes that a woman who deals in witchcraft causes her children (and husband) to die. They compared that to a different statement in the poskim that a woman who makes vows causes her children to die and then she can be divorced with no Ketuba payment. Comparing the two statements, they decided that they should implement a compromise and split the payment of the Ketuba.

I wonder.. if she is really a witch, does he really want to short her the payment and get on her bad side?

Talk about strange divorce cases!


  1. A number of comments:
    1) Lie detector tests are not scientific (ie their sensitivity and specifity are not that great), as such they are not admissible as evidence in an Israeli court of law. If you should ever be asked by the police to do such a test - refuse, as it is not reliable.
    2) If the Bet Din really thinks that a woman dabbling in witchcraft can cause things to happen to her family, then we are in a very sad situation. I say this as a Haredi individual living in Jerusalem.

  2. they didnt say (or I didnt notice it at least) whether or not they believe it could have caused things to happen. As a claim in a monetary case they found a source that it is cause to diminish her payment...
    from a monetary halachic perspective their finding and comparison seems kind of flimsy to me...

  3. "Lie detector tests are not scientific "

    Good grief, we're discussing sorcery here, and you point out that lie detectors are not scientific?

  4. how good of a witch could she have been if she couldnt beat a polygraph???

  5. Well obviously a she forgot to gargle with Wolfsbane that morning, or a sprite was interfering with her mojo.

  6. S.,

    Point taken. OTOH, I thought it was obvious that witchcraft is ridiculous; many people think that lie detector tests can tell lies 100% of the time, which is totally false (I can back up this statement with a lie detector test ;-))

  7. Derech agav... There's a story I've heard in frum circles about a self-proclaimed "witch" who was invited to be a guest lecturer at a major university. The story alleges that she was able to conjure personal details about random people in the audience, but that she refused to look in the direction of a frum Jew who was there, raising his hand. When finally forced to face him, her "powers" would not work, and she vomited and passed out in front of the lecture hall. When asked what happened, she said that next to a religious Jew who prays to God, her powers are nothing. (The story is usually used to show the "koach of tefila" or "koach of Hashem" over the "koach ha'tuma".)

    I'm all for stories that give frum people chizuk, but even if the story is true, I take issue with the naive belief in the power of witchcraft. If it "works" it is only because of the psychological/placebo effect, and/or (as in this case) techniques of "cold reading" used by psychics. If there's any "tuma" it is the susceptibility to being mislead/influenced by people claiming to possess powers.

  8. Maybe the issue is not whether or not there's any substance to witchcraft, or whether practicing witchcraft can really endanger the family of the "witch," but rather, whether or not her husband reasonably believed that based on the statement of Rabbi Nachman, her "witchcraft," whatever it was, was endangering him. I think that might put this case in a different light. Moreover, I think one should hesitate before judging the judgment in this case, since the dayanim presumably saw the parties and their demeanor, and undoubtedly knew more of the details of the case than any story in the media is likely to convey.

  9. Baruch - considering how few details of the story we actually know, I doubt anyone is judging the actual judgement and ruling. rather, just commenting on the absurdity of the case itself.

  10. "Sam! Don't use your witchcraft!"

  11. Look I am a physicist. I know there is no such thing as witchcraft. But if I came home one day to find my wife attempting or pretending to practice some (more than just some sort of prank), I'd be mighty disturbed. And not because I'd worry her 'spell' would have some real effect; because I'd take it as a sign of instability. I wouldn't be so sure that either the husband or the court is behaving irrationally, at least without knowing a lot more than I do.

  12. Rafi - yeah, I see your point. It is pretty funny, or absurd, or both.

  13. Sorry, that last comment was from me, not anonymous.

  14. Oh joy, we're turning into 13'th century Christianity!


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