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Aug 16, 2012

The Cellphone That Dissolved The Marriage

The other day Rav Yaakov Chai Yosef took a hard line, similar to Rav Wosner, saying that people who use "open internet", meaning without filters, and use unapproved devices (cellphones, etc) are evil and not valid witnesses. Rav Yosef actually said over an incident in which Rav Wosner invalidated a witness under a chupa because he had an unapproved cellphone.

The initial statement made waves, as it seems pretty extreme. It also raised questions - if such a person is really not a kosher witness, does it affect weddings and other testimonies retroactively? Are people no longer married because one or both of the witnesses at their wedding, x number of years ago, had cellphones that were not approved or without internet filters? Is there a scenario that this would cause children to be mamzerim? Will this release agunot from such a status, as we could invalidate the wedding retroactively?  etc.

Rav Yaakov Yosef gave an interview on Radio Kol Chai and explained that he was not just being theoretically extreme to make a point. he said that what he said is actual halacha. And yes, having an invalid witness means there will be repercussions. However, one must also take into account that most weddings will not be invalidated by this issue, as someone with a non-kosher phone being the witness - well, there are many other people present who might have seen the wedding and witnessed it, and there would be enough with kosher phones to make the wedding valid with witnesses.

That makes me scratch my head, as I always understood that we, the groom, the rabbi, appoint two specific witnesses and thereby exclude everybody else from being a witness. this solves the issue of the fact that relatives are also witnessing the wedding, and perhaps others invalid for other reasons, yet they do not invalidate the wedding as unkosher witnesses, as they are not being witnesses at all. And, most people do not actually see what is going on under the chuppa, as they are too far away, not at the right angle, blocked view, etc. So, we use that to keep the wedding kosher, and now Rav Yosef is using the opposite logic, to include other non-appointed witnesses, to keep the wedding kosher.

Anyways, Rav Yosef says, this only applies to someone who did this on purpose - he heard the rabbis say such devices are prohbited but he continued to use it anyway. if a person, however, was accidental, he did not know or hear, then it would not invalidate him from being a witness.

And yes, Rav Yosef says, this would be a factor considered among other factors when deciding whether it would be possible to release an agunah or a mamzer from such a status.
(source: Kikar)

This issue would not help people get out of marriages or mamzer or agunah status going back hundreds of years. The internet is only around in general use less than 20 years, and they probably wouldnt invalidate people from the times before there were filters - it didnt exist then so they cannot be passul. As well, cellphones became common far less than 20 years ago, and kosher phones are only a few years old. So, this "loophole" could only be used to dissolve marriages for a short period going back just several years. Some might breathe a sigh of relief, while others might be upset at that...

I do recommend that those batei din and rabbonim who work hard to find solutions for agunot might take advantage of this psak right away, before it gets altered, and use ti to help many women who have been unable to find other solutions to release them..

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  1. My father used to say about rabbonim who came up with rules like this that the Satan would straighten them out during their long stay in Gehinom as punishment for all the misery they caused people in name of so-called piety.

  2. Wow, what an interesting religion. I'm sure as hell glad it's not mine.

  3. I heard him speak on Kol Berama about this yesterday and the shocked interviewer tried pressing him (though not hard enough in my view) to say flat out that such an eid is 100% posul with all ramifications (no need for a get to get remarried, no mamzerim, etc.), but he refused to say it and the interviewer didn't overly press the point. He left enough loopholes that he seems to view it as l'chatchila don't use such an eid, but he wouldn't go on record as 100% invalidating such a witness come what may.

  4. I forgot to add that I totally think this whole idea is off the wall...

  5. WRT to the designating two witnesses, to the exclusion of everyone else: that is really a brisker chumra. According to normative psak (and especially sephardi, which R' Yosef is), having other, invalid, witnesses does invalidate the action. Similarly, having two invalid witnesses observe a murder would not allow the murderer to get off.

  6. That makes me scratch my head, as I always understood that we, the groom, the rabbi, appoint two specific witnesses and thereby exclude everybody else from being a witness
    IIRC this is a Brisker chumrah.
    Joel Rich

  7. Anonymous: not only Briskers do it - I did at my chasuna, and neither I nor the mesader Kiddushin are Briskers.

  8. under what criteria is the eid pasul? usually to declare that someone is pasul eidot, it has be under the rubric of being willing to do anything for money (for example, someone who deals in mozrei shivit) or someone who gambles full time (doesn't take part of yishuv h-olam). where does having a smart phone fit in to this?


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