Feb 19, 2009

Interesting Machlokes: Civil Marriage

I am not one to way in on this argument with an opinion, especially as I have never understood what the whole big issue with conversions are (the actual halacha is not nearly as machmir as we make it out to be nowadays on conversion - like on most things I guess), but I will say I find this very interesting.

The political situation with Yisrael Beiteinu coming to the table from a position of power and demanding a solution for civil marriage has brought to the forefront a situation that has long been swept under the rug and ignored. There are many people in Israel who want to get married but cannot. they cannot get married because they wish to marry people with whom they are not allowed to according to halacha, and the Rabbanut controls all marriages, conversions, and deaths in Israel.

They are not allowed to get married because they are non-Jews, or they might be Jews but marrying someone they are not allowed to (e.g. a kohein marrying a divorcee). The solution until now has been to either just live together and not get married, convert if that is relevant to your situation, or go to Cyprus and perform a civil marriage ceremony there and then come back to Israel married.

Because of the political situation, the civil marriage issue has been brought up. An interesting machlokes has arisen from it. Rav Elyashiv is against allowing civil marriages, while Rav Bakshi Doron (form Sefardic Chief Rabbi of Israel) is in favor of a civil marriage solution.

Rav Doron, and Rav Amar, have gone on record in the past supporting a solution. The reasoning is that when the Rabbanut disallows such people from getting married, the pressure on the conversion system is extremely great as people try to convert so they can get married. Then there are conversions that are done improperly, leading to even greater issues. That along with problems of the marriage itself, not adhering to the "holiness of the family" which can lead to issues of mamzerus and eishes ish. Since intermarriage happens anyway, as anybody who wants to can go elsewhere to get married, or convert in a fake conversion, we might as well solve the problem for many more. So according to these rabbonim, a secular marriage solution is desirable and worthy for our society.

Rav Elyashiv rejects such a solution. According to Rav Elyashiv, the Rabbanu has to continue controlling all marriages. The benefit of this is that as long as everyone has to get married halachically, anybody with a problem (specifically immigrants from Russia) works hard to prove that they are Jewish. This minimizes any future problems, as they have already proven their Jewishness, and anybody who can't is rejected. only they will remain with a marriage problem, but in the meantime we caused many people to prove their Jewishness. Rav Elyashiv reasons that if we allow civil marriage, all those people will have no reason to work to prove their Jewishness, since they are not interested in judaism anyway, just do it so they can get married - once it is not necessary, they will not bother. So while a civil marriage solution might technically be possible, Rav Elyashiv reasons that it creates a greater problem by causing possible Jews to vie for that solution as well.

I find the reasoning behind these opinions to be truly fascinating, as the machlokes really is not on the halacha itself. they both seem to agree that technically a civil marriage solution would be acceptable. the machlokes is on the psychology of people - will people take advantage of it or not?

(source: Ynet)


  1. The thinking speaks volumes about the differences between litvishe vs. sephardi charediism.

    Rafi- 90% of the things charedim make up have nothing to do with halacha. This is not surprising.

  2. ALLOW IT. Just shows how far the ashkenazi heredi world is from their common brother. Halacha is supposed to work with the people and with the times, not working against. RAFI you are starting to sound like you're drinking the same koolaid as Mr MBD - keep up the good work.

    Let the Jewish Ashkneazi Modern Orthodox Rabbis control the conversion issues, have R' Lichtenstein from Gush and R' Steinsaltz run the show on it. Both of those guys are minds and know the halacha and know the times.

    On a side note, someone tell RAv Eliyashuv to tell his constituancy to get jobs. That would do much better.

  3. I'm not sure the Rabbanut controls deaths.

  4. can anyone tell me what is the difference between the army and lenient rabbanut gerut and conservative conversions?
    both accept people who do not keep mitzvot but identify with the Jewish people

  5. I am not sure I would put R' Dorn/Amar on the same plane as R' Elyashiv.

    THis is not due to any religious zionist bias.

    I think say, R' Waldenburg, R Hershel Schechter, R' Nebenzahl, R' Ovadia (many of his piskei din indicate he clearly has religion zionistic tendencies and he was the Chief Rabbi) and many others from the Religious Zionist camp, can indeed be considered as worldclass TC's just like R' Elyashiv.

    But just because one is in the Chief Rabbinate....I mean this is a position voted on by people whose main considerations are not necessarily who is the greatest scholar. So such an election does not confer - world-class scholar status. I mean how can one begin to compare the aforementioned Rabbanim to say people in the class of R' Waldenburg etc. Were it not for there election to this office we would never of heard of them.

    In any case, this is obviously a public policy issue and not halacha. It is just a question of what will the consequences be and I think it is obvious that each side has it's own set of pitfalls. A very dificult question.

  6. Marriage, death and taxes are important functions of every civilized society. It is an embarrassment that Israel will recognize marriages that took place in other countries that would not be recognized if they took place here.

    The other problem is that the Rabanut is becoming much stricter with their conversion criteria. How many people are faking being Haredi to get past the Rabanut? How many of those people are going to be turned off of Mitzvas after the experience? How many conversions are going to be overturned years later, leaving people in Halachic limbo. When are conversions going to be directed for not following a Daas Torash Psak on how to vote or for riding on a mixed bus or using a mikvah under Rav Spector?

    We need to be able to function as a society. This means providing basic needs for people that may be rejected by the Rav Elishavs and Rav Ovadiah Yosephs of the world.

  7. Rafi the rabbanut controls marriages between Jews. It has no control over marriages between non Jews or Jews who marry in a different religious system (e.g. a Jewish woman who marries a Muslim man via the Muslim religious court).

  8. I just read an excellent article about this on Jpost blog by Rabbi Farber (YU)


    He makes a lot of good points that support the civil marriage argument.

  9. Rabbi Avraham Weinfeld ZTL of Monsey ("The Lev Avraham")wrote a teshuva on why he beleives there should be a compelte seperation between religioin and state in this country. He even encourages secular marriages.

    What's more:
    Reliable sources told me that he used to encouraged peopel to vote Meretz in order to achieve this goal.

    His Teshuva is somewhat well circualted and can be found with little difficulty.


  10. a democracy guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom FROM religion. All of us in the states understand this. You cannot force religious dogma down someone's throat, even though you might personally be angered or hurt by their actions.

    There are ALOT of jews around the world who get married by various means so I don't quite understand the argument here....

    We should give secular pple the same rights and entitlements that we have so generously received from the good ole US of A.

  11. the thing is, Israel is not the USA. Not everything right for the USA is right for Israel. Israel is not just a democracy, but is also a jewish state. That means Jewish values also need to be considered somehow in the design of the country.
    How they work together is always a debate and argument, but they have to.
    If this is a solution that fits with being a Jewish state, then fine I have no problem with it. But if it is only good for a democracy, but not for Judaism, then perhaps it would be good for the US but not for Israel.

    Just because we are a demmocracy does not mean "anything goes".

  12. Rafi, you can't have your cake and eat it too. ...shabbat shalom

    just my opinion

  13. you can try...
    obviously sometimes one will get priority over the other, and other times the other will... but it cant hurt to try...

  14. right rafi, it can't hurt to try...except when it does.

    and what does "jewish sate" mean? most jews are secular and most secular jews see charedim as being less jewish not more....sort of the way charedim think lubavitch is not so jewish. so shouldn't the rabbanut be majority conservative/reform? and if you have a cult/sect that demand a geder lifnay than you are welcome to go that route.


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