Divorce refusal to be considered when applying to be rabbinical judge

Having refused to give a divorce will not, however, automatically disqualify a candidate

November 5, 2017 14:15
1 minute read.
Council of the Chief Rabbinate

The rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate. (photo credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)

On the initiative of Chief Rabbi David Lau, men wishing to qualify as rabbinical judges will now have to declare whether they have ever refused to grant their own wife a divorce.

If they have, their candidacy is likely to be disqualified, in line with Lau’s perspective that such behavior is unbecoming of someone aspiring to be a rabbinical judge.

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Last month, during a session of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, Lau recognized the name of one of the candidates as someone who had refused, for many years and against the instructions of a rabbinical court, to grant his wife a divorce.

The candidacy of the man in question was therefore blocked by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate in October, although it is possible that he will still be able to qualify in the future.

Lau has now introduced a new clause into the application form, scheduled to be approved by the Council, which specifically asks a candidate if he has ever been in divorce proceedings in which the Rabbinical Court instructed him to give a bill of divorce.

Lau pointed out that one of the requirements in the official Regulations for Rabbinical Judges is that a candidate’s lifestyle and character be commensurate with the status of a rabbinical judge in Israel.

Qualification as a rabbinical judge also bestows upon a man the right to serve as a municipal chief rabbi.

The chief rabbi is of the opinion that refusing one’s wife a divorce is not commensurate with the status of a rabbinical judge or municipal chief rabbi, and has therefore sought to put in place measures that will prevent, or at least make it more difficult, for such a person to qualify as a rabbinical judge.

However, having refused to give a divorce will not automatically disqualify a candidate, and the Chief Rabbinate will look into the particular circumstances of the case through the Rabbinical Courts Administration before making a decision.

“Disqualifying candidates to be rabbinical judges for having been divorce refusers constitutes a values-based statement that a man who does not listen to the instructions of a rabbinical court can never be allowed to be a judge in a rabbinical court,” said an official in Lau’s office.

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