Halachic disqualifications

New ruling states smokers, reckless drivers can't be rabbinic witnesses.

crash 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
crash 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Orthodox Jews who commit traffic violations or who smoke are just as ineligible to serve as witnesses in rabbinical courts or in Jewish weddings as pork-eating, Shabbat-desecrating secular Jews, according to a leading religious Zionist rabbi. In a halachic opinion made public ahead of a conference on road safety, Rabbi Re'em Hacohen, head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Otniel, near Hebron, said that reckless drivers and smokers show a callous disregard for human life - whether their own or others - and are therefore considered invalid witnesses. "Anyone who blatantly and intentionally commits traffic violations, thus endangering human lives, is also purposely transgressing Halacha (Jewish law)," said Hacohen in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post, "and this disqualifies him to serve as a witness." Hacohen said that smoking also constituted disregard for human life. Only men are permitted to serve as witnesses according to Jewish law, but men who intentionally disregard Halacha are disqualified. Normally, this rule has been interpreted as referring solely to religious observance, such as adherence to Shabbat. That's why Orthodox rabbis who conduct wedding ceremonies for secular couples routinely bring along a partner who observes Shabbat and can therefore serve as a witness. Hacohen published his halachic opinion ahead of a conference on traffic safety for the religious and haredi public. He said that both former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and Chief Rabbi of Hebron-Kiryat Arba Dov Lior agreed with him. The conference, which takes place on Tuesday, was organized by the National Commission for Road Safety and will focus on driving habits in the religious community.