Rabbinical court voided marriage by invalidating witness

The fact that one of the witnesses was not religious at the wedding provided a perfect opportunity to invalidate the marriage.

A chain, symbolic of women chained to marriage (photo credit: REUTERS)
A chain, symbolic of women chained to marriage
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following the decision to void the marriage of divorce-refuser Oded Guez on Monday, the Rabbinical Courts Administration stated explicitly on Thursday that the ruling was made on the basis that one of the designated witnesses to the wedding was invalid.
By invalidating the marriage, the court released Guez’s wife from remaining an aguna, that is, from being “chained” to a marriage from which the husband refused to grant a divorce.
Voiding a marriage is very rare step that the rabbinical courts are usually very hesitant to take. The Haifa court therefore banned publication of the controversial decision and the reasoning behind it.
Following an inaccurate report by another media outlet on Wednesday, the Rabbinical Courts Administration on Thursday explained the circumstances behind the decision. It has nevertheless kept the ruling sealed.
According to a statement to the press, the rabbinical judges interviewed one of the designated witnesses at the wedding and found that he was non-religious at the time of the marriage and lived a life “that was in total opposition to the Torah and commandments.”
The judges found that the witness violated Shabbat in public, including turning on lights, cooking, traveling and working on Shabbat. They also found that at one stage he had sexual relationships outside of his marriage. However, all this information was unknown at the time to the rabbi performing the wedding.
Two friends of the witness also testified to the rabbinical court about the extent and nature of his non-religious lifestyle.
For a Jewish wedding to be valid there must be two valid witnesses who observe Jewish law, particularly Shabbat.
Because of the unique circumstances of the divorce case, and the vehement and unyielding position of Guez not to give his wife a divorce, the court sought a reason to retroactively void the marriage.
The fact that one of the official witnesses was not religious provided a perfect opportunity to invalidate the marriage.
The Haifa Rabbinical Court was praised for its decision freeing Guez’s wife. She had been an aguna for at least four years and could very well have been chained to the marriage for many years to come, given he ex-husband’s stance and the fact that he has fled the country and has not yet been extradited home.