Jan 2, 2014

Proposed Law: Rabbis cannot charge for officiating at weddings

MK Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) has proposed a law this week that is being prepared for its first reading.

Moalem-Rafaeli has proposed that rabbis of neighborhoods or towns, working for either religious councils or municipal authorities, will be prohibited from charging money, or taking anything in return for, for officiating at weddings. The prohibition would be for taking money from any constituent living within the area under the responsibility of that religious council or authority.

Some issues with the law include:
 - the need to offer a wedding couple a number of options of rabbis available. They would have to offer rabbis from a variety of "ethnicities" (for lack of a better word), and of different religious lifestyles (e.g. haredi, dati leumi, etc.)
 - who would fund the travel expenses for the rabbi, and payment for his time when he has to travel far and out of his jurisdiction (e.g. a couple from within his jurisdiction is marrying in a wedding hall somewhere else in the country).
 - as part of the role of being a certified rabbi, there would be a quota of weddings that he must officiate at.
 - the rules of this law would apply only to rabbis whose job includes weddings (e.g. community rabbis), but not rosh yeshivas who get invited privately and specially to perform a wedding service.

MK Miri Regev (Likud Beyteynu) said the law is a good one that will save couple up to thousands of shekels.. MK Moalem-Rafaeli said this will encourage people to marry properly, according to Jewish law (as they won't have the excuse of an expensive rabbi to use to avoid a Jewish wedding ceremony).

Moalem-Rafaeli is meant to be working on solutions for these various issues that need to be resolved, in preparation for bring the proposal to vote.
(source: Bechadrei)

I do think it is a good idea, but I do have some questions about it.

Why is it ok for the couple to have to pay thousands of shekels on flowers, a band, drinks, food, a hall, etc. in order to get married, but not the rabbi? Why do all those expenses not prevent Jewish wedding ceremonies, but the expense of the rabbi might? Maybe we should also pass laws forcing florists and musicians and caterers to provide their services for free?

If officiating weddings was in the job description of the rabbi until now, weddings should already have been free - as he was already being paid for that service within his salary. If it was not in his job description, but is now being added, with a quota, maybe relevant rabbis should receive pay increases for the additional work they will be taking on. This can potentially take rabbis away from their houses and families and other tasks and responsibilities for many additional hours each month. Why should they not be compensated for that? I understand residents pay arnona and other local taxes, and this is a service they shouldn't have to pay extra for, but the rabbis should be compensated for the additional work they are taking on.

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  1. What happens when Rabbis refuse to perform weddings once they have met their quota? People will be forced to to pay to bring in Rabbi's from other jurisdictions to perform weddings.

    Unless I am missing, something if this legislation passes it is going to go the same way as the fine for companies who techs miss their appointments. I remember one telecom company that charged customers a service call fee equal to the fine they had to pay the customer if their tech was late. If the tech showed up on time the fee would be waved.

  2. "who would fund the travel expenses for the rabbi, and payment for his time when he has to travel far and out of his jurisdiction (e.g. a couple from within his jurisdiction is marrying in a wedding hall somewhere else in the country"

    Which is why using the place of residence of the marrying couple (and what if they live in two different places, e.g. a man from Yerushalyim marries a woman from Tsfas?) makes no sense. It should be the Rav where the wedding takes place. Otherwise, someone could make their "local" rabbi travel quite far -- what if they want to marry abroad?

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