Protesting in Support of International Beit Din

Do you agree with Rabbi Goldin when he says: “This isn’t a democracy, it’s a halachic process… The power to make decisions has always been in the hands of the few who spend their lives steeped in its wells.”

I disagree with him. I think that the Torah belongs to all of us and the sources are there for all of us to study and learn. The very essence of the Talmud and Beit Modrash (sic) is exactly the opposite of what R Goldin is saying. The Torah doesn’t belong to a couple of rabbis in a back room who come out with papal like pronouncements and do not share their sources or the content of their reasoning. This is exactly what Rashi says on this week’s parashah (devarim 29:3). This is why the Torah was written on large stones and in 70 languages. It is precisely to counteract R Goldin’s elitist approach to Torah. The Torah belongs to all of us.

The above statement of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld reminds one of the words of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l:

Korach rebelled against authority. All Jews are equal. Hence, everyone is entitled to interpret the law… The study of the law, Korach argued, is an exoteric act, a democratic act, in which every intelligent person may engage. Moshe’s claim to being the exclusive legal authority, and the exclusive interpreter of the law, Korach argued, was unfounded and unwarranted.  (1973 shiur at RCA convention; The Rav: Thinking Aloud – Sefer Bamidbar, pp. 127-148)

While I do not want to get into the substance of the controversy regarding International Beit Din (IBD) and the letter of opposition by Rav Schachter and leading poskim (please click here for an English translation), both due to my long-time respectful relationship with a former member of IBD as well as due to the fact that such a discussion should obviously be within the exclusive purview of gedolei ha-poskim/top-tier halachic authorities, the approach of Rabbi Herzfeld and many others supporting IBD leaves much to be desired, and they perform a disservice to whatever merit the IBD could claim, as they engage in non-halachic, populist reasoning and harangues, as if Halacha is an open-ended system that can be determined by public opinion, popular referendum and preying on people’s sympathy.

A few more relevant quotes:

It is sad to see people with great minds acting like bullies and demeaning great tzadikim and talmidei chachamim like Rav Krauss. (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah president Rabbi Asher Lopatin)

We are also informed by Rabbi Lopatin that a letter of petition signed by 100 rabbis shall soon be issued to support IBD:

I, too, am one of the over 100 North American, Israeli and European rabbis who have signed the letter supporting Rav Krauss’s Beit Din. Among them are leaders of Beit Hillel and the venerated Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo. The list is still in formation but please contact Rav Zach Truboff if you an Orthodox rabbi or clergy interested in supporting Rav Krauss and show the Agunot that you will stand by them when they are freed by a Beit Din such as his.

And, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz chimes in:

I am one of the 100 Orthodox rabbis mentioned here that is standing in solidarity with this new beit din enabling immediate & responsible responses to the agunah crisis (releasing women from chained marriages). How can we stop the bullying from those fighting these efforts?

I am sorry, but letters of petition signed by people who are not preeminent poskim, be they one hundred, one thousand or one million in number, do not determine Halacha. Such an approach represents a frightening and dangerous misunderstanding of the entire halachic enterprise.

Rav Schachter’s strong support of ORA, in the face of formidable opposition, is a testament to his immense concern for agunos. (I am not expressing a position on ORA; I am merely making an observation.) Rav Schachter’s commitment to ORA, well known to the aforementioned detractors, brings into question the sincerity of their arguments and should make one think twice before considering their rhetoric.

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36 Responses

  1. dr.bill says:

    Independent of the substantive issues that IBD raises, you need not quote the Rav ztl (certainly not Thinking aloud) to substantiate your point. Rav Chaim, at least as often reported, refused a haskamah to a sefer that implied one could argue with Moshe on a halakhic matter; of course Moshe was sui generis in that respect. In fact one of the Rav’s yartzeit shiurim carefully delimited when Moshe required a BD, all outside the realm of horaah.. Beyond Moshe, machloket is intrinsic to our mesoreh. Rabbi Krauss may be off the reservation, but unlike Korach he is not arguing with Moshe.

  2. Nachum says:

    I’m reminded of what Einstein said when the Nazis got a thousand or so scientists to sign a letter condemning his theories as “Jewish science” or some such: “If they had been right, it only would have taken one.”

    In science as in halakha, it isn’t always the loudest voices but the most convincing ones.

  3. Eli Blum says:

    With fairness to both Rabbi Herzfeld and Rabbi Gordimer, the Halachic process both comes from the top and from the bottom. While it is true that we do not have Papal declarations, the final word of the Halachic Poskim of the generation, made in unison, is the final word. No one has a say after that.

    However, the process allows and requires that the “talmidim” (lesser poskim, rabbonim and even lay folk) have the right for their questions, comments and arguments to be answered. Those who disagree may not like or agree with those responses, but they have to be there. If not, a question of a Talmid could hold the P’sak in abeyance. So yes, everyone is part of the “discussion”.

    So my question to you is: Where are the Shailos U’Teshuos from both sides that lay out the questions and the answers provided by the major Poskim (such as Rav Shachter)? Until then, we don’t know who has the valid points.

    That all being said, the premise of the post is true that Rav Shachter has the final say over the 100 (or more) “Rabbis”. It would seem to me though that Rav Shachter should write a point by point refute of the 23 page Teshuva, instead of dismissing the P’sak as being written by lightweights. That way it will stand the test of time, and replicates the “Shakla V’tarya” that has been the hallmark of our Limud HaTorah.

    • Ra'anan says:

      Eli Blum & if you’d have access to their halakhic deliberation then how would YOU know “who has the valid points?”

      • Eli Blum says:

        Once both sides have their arguments on the table, the Klal can go through them and have the shakla v’tarya needed to come to a conclusion, similar to the R Belsky case or the ‘shabbos oven’.

  4. Chochom bmah nishtaneh says:

    The supporters of this beit din is informative. A group of people who are not Orthodox, rather they are “Open Orthodox”. And Yissoschr Katz only just recently clarified that they are not Orthodox.

  5. Moshe Dick says:

    With deference to all Rabbis in this matter, Rabbi Krauss has the upper hand in this dispute.The free-ing of agunot is one of the biggest mitzvot and for thousands of years, the chazal and later Poskim relied upon the flimsiest of evidence to free agunot. Do read any of the many teshuvos on that matter and you will see that to “pasken lekulo” is an intrinsic part of the process. And not only for agunot following the disappearance of their husbands but also in cases where the marriages have broken down. “Koifim Oisoi at shejoimar rotzeh ani” is not just a saying, it is incorporated into halacha.
    So, unless Rav Shechter issues a teshuvo that actually posits some concrete reasons to refute Rav Krauss psak, it is not enough to dismiss it because the authors are “lightweights”. That is truly totally irrelevant.
    Talmideii chachomim risk losing their authority when they do not tackle the relevant questions of the age and the plight of women whose husbands refuse to give a get has reached crisis proportions. To look for ways of free-ing these women is a mitzvah and Rabbi Krauss should be commended and not vilified with fake accusations.

    • Nachum says:

      Moshe Dick, you do realize that every one of those agunah cases you cite were ones in which the husband was presumed dead? They simply weren’t dealing with the issue of the husband being alive and being a jerk. That, alas, is a modern phenomenon. They were also not annulling marriages.

      And if you want to beat people, well, try it. Or move to Israel, where the problem is dealt with similarly.

      • Moshe Dick says:

        nachum, you are totally wrong. Read up on some of these teshuvos. The gemoro talks about beating the husband until he says yes,mercy. So, you are wrong in saying that it only deals with husbands presumed dead. Secondly, the gemoro and halocho has numerous instances when the kiddushin are annulled because certain conditions have not been observed and so are many instances when the initial purpose of the marriage has not been fulfilled. Unless you want to eliminate that part of the halocho for your convenience, one can surely use them,especially in dire circumstances.

      • Nachum says:

        You are mixing apples, oranges, and some other fruit:

        1. All the cases of freeing agunot dealt with missing husbands. And not all of them could be “solved,” by the way.

        2. When the Gemara speaking of beating a husband, it’s so he can give a get. That has nothing to do with all the cases of trying to free agunot that have been dealt with over the years.

        3. Annulling marriages is mentioned by Chazal, but is very rare. Applying it to a case where a husband refuses to give a get is a very, very new idea.

        You’re either trying to mix together completely different ideas to get the result you want, trying to confuse the issue, or both.

      • Moshe Dick says:

        Nachum: Not exactly correct that all cases are cases of missing husbands who may be dead.There are a number of cases where the subject is the matter of initial misunderstandings. And, correctly, the case of hunsbands refusing to give a get is a recent and modern phenomenom. But this is exactly the point. Because it has reached crisis porportions, a solution should be found. It is not that different than the many husbands who disappeared in WW2 when every effort was made to free those poor women, or after the wars in Israel,when the Rabbanut (under more lenient leadership!) found ways to free those agunot.
        Your points 2 and 3 conflate and, of course, annulling a marriage is a very serious matter and needs all the hahachic backing it could muster. My point is (see another of my comments) that the halachic leadership today does not appreciate this problem, that has grown to major proportions. This is why I appreciate the courage of Rav Krauss in trying to tackle this, within very acceptable halachic norms.

      • Nachum says:

        You say “crisis” and “major”. Those are very inexact words. Can you give exact numbers- let’s say, the total number of women worldwide who have wanted a get for, say, three months or more and still don’t have one? Same for men, by the way.

        How many of those marriages took place after the RCA introduced the pre-nup, or, better, how many of those refusals pre-date it, would help as well. I’m obviously not blaming a victim who failed to protect herself (or himself), but it would be nice to know.

  6. Eli Blum says:

    So I read the P’sak of the IBD, and have a major issue with it (since “discussion” is open to all of Klal Yisroel). The girl in question was obviously brainwashed by her upbringing and Seminary that being the “Ikeres HaBayis” was her only Tafkid in life (as per her quote in the P’sak), and she needed to get married and live with her husband even if abusive.

    “You must remember my age and background. I was very young when I met Nitva. I went to Seminary and there they taught us not to go out for a long time. Also, with this background, I didn’t really know about men. I was taught that it is important to get married, have children, and “build a house”. Furthermore, the “building of the house” is the woman’s responsibility. The crisis, if there is one, ought to be repaired by the woman. It is the woman who has to “put the house in order” and to heal the breaks.”

    The fact that after 10 years the brainwashing wore off doesn’t make her original action a “Ta’os”, it makes them what she really wanted to do at that time, but now she is older and wiser (what the Gemorah calls “Charatah”). Certainly that is insufficient grounds to undo Kiddushin.

    P.S. Can anyone tell us the difference between what the IBD is doing and Rabbi Belsky of Flatbush? Or is it the same concept (for which Rav Schlomo Miller did refute Rabbi Belsky’s points on a point by point basis).

    • Moshe Dick says:

      Eli, the “to-os’ is that he is abusive and dangerous. That, surely she did not bargain for. Whether that conduct of the husband is enough to make it “to-os” is in the eye of the beholder. What would you say if-after the marriage- she discovers that he is impotent? or that he is psychotic? Or that he is a true sociopath? Would that not be enough to make it “to-os”.
      I don;t know the case of Rav Belsky but why do you rely more upon R’Shlomo Miller? Rav Belsky is not a talmid chochom? My point is that,even amongst big talmidei chachomim there are differences and everything is in the eye of the beholder.

      • Eli Blum says:

        Moshe – yes and yes. We have no reason to believe she would have regretted her marriage with the immature mental state she had at that time, even if he were proven dangerous (not a shote, though). Besides, does she also regret her children,and wish that they never existed?

        Regarding Rabbi Belsky, I rely on Rabbi Miller because R Belsky’s points were refuted. I would expect the same from R Shachter.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    The bottom line remains-who would trust on any issue of Halacha, RHS and R M Willig, or the 100 signatories in favor of the IBD and its reliance on a Ritva in Kiddushin that RHS maintains has been misinterpreted completely? Anyone who knows the give and take of halachic argument knows that merely citing authority in favor of one’s POV is not the key, but rather whether such authority has any application to the halachic issue under discusssion. That is RHS in the name of RYBS has always insisted is the dividing line between a Chiddush and a Shinui.

    • Moshe Dick says:

      Steve, on this blog, you represent the orthodox right wing and this fine. But don’t insult our intelligence by pointing to those who support the Bais Din. That is totally irrelevant. What is relevant is the psak din and I have yet to see any response to Rav Krauss. Until then, this Bais Din has a valid point of view.

      • Doron Beckerman says:

        You have it completely backwards. A Beis Din comprising Dayanim who are not recognized top-tier Poskim – and, with all due respect, none of the members of the IBD are recognized as such – have no business getting involved in controversial hetter agunos in the first place without getting the consent of a recognized Gadol BeYisrael for any case about which they rule leniently.

        ערוך השולחן אבן העזר סימן יז

        כלל גדול יש בהתרות עגונות שכל מקום שאין הענין פשוט להיתר כל כך וצריך שאלת חכם אפילו היותר גדול בתורה לא יתיר בעצמו עד שיסכימו עוד עמו שני גדולי ישראל וכך נהגו כל גדולי עולם מעולם כמו שמבואר בכל התשובות

        Your comments indicate that you have never learned the Teshuvos or even the Sugyos that relate to these issues. No one here is qualified to assess the validity of the Pesakim of the IBD other than for their own navel-gazing entertainment, and this whole comment thread is a tremendous churban.

      • Moshe Dick says:

        Rabbi Beckerman,
        as far as having learned teshovos or sugyoa on that, I respectuflly disagree. I can point you to many teshuvos on this matter where the “tsad leheikel” is founded on very minute details.But my scholarship is not the subject here. The plain fact is that virtually no one has addressed the matter of recalcitrant husbands. If this would be some isolated case, well, I could understand the lack of response. However, this has become a real crisis , something quite new in our present world. Yet, very little has been done to remedy this. The introduciton of a (legitimate) pre-nuptial agreement was greeted by the Orthodox right with the same kind of vituperation that this Bais Din endures. Now, of course, even the so-called right wing has issued its own version of a pre-nup. But nothing would have been done if the issuers of the original pre-nup did not show courage in doing this.I hold no brief for Rav Krauss and his Bais Din but he is to be commended for having the courage to deal with this crisis,rather than putting one’s head in the sand and letting it fester. I have not seen the teshuvos by this Bais Din so it is impossible to say whether their conclusions are correct. But neither have we seen a genuine response by Rav Shechter. The hundreds-probably thousands- of agunot deserve more than hand wringing.

      • dr. bill says:

        Despite Rabbi Beckerman’s unnecessary ad hominen comments, his quote from the Aruch Hashulchan is on point. When great poskim issued innovative heterim, they would (often) require support from additional poskim.

        OTOH, it is important not to do what Rabbi Sherman did and passul everything done by a particular beis din. What I have been told, is that despite all the publicity over zikui, Rabbi Krauss has written gittin using other justifications. My worry, is that principles as opposed to individual cases will become what is disputed.

      • Doron Beckerman says:

        Were we discussing a topic about which one’s personal credentials are irrelevant, comments that relate to them would indeed be unnecessary. But since the personal credentials of the players are at the very heart of what the Aruch Hashulchan says, my comments are actually vital to the discussion.

      • dr. bill says:

        Including your comments about Moshe Dick to which i was referring??

      • Moshe Dick says:

        dr.bill- I thank you for your comments and i smiled when I just read Rabbi Beckerman’s and your comments. When one does not have a good argument, the easiest thing to do is an ad hominem attack. Which has occurred much to often in recent years in the chareid world. But Rabbi Beckerman misses my point altogether. I certainly am not a “mesader gittin” and don’t even claim of knowing every teshuvo on agunot (altought I have read a fair amount of those). My point was and is that the many hundreds and thousands of agunot deserve more than hand wringing and a passing glance. In the past, when many Jewish husbands disappeared ,whether in the two World Wars or Israeli wars, a concerted effort was made to free those agunot (rememeber the Dakar!). Yet, in our instance virtually no chareid Possek has made any major effort to break the logjam. The original pre-nup was attacked viciously by chareidi Poskim and yet, they have now issued their own pre-nup! Maybe the very commendbale efforts by Rav Krauss will encourage other Poskim to tackle this difficult task. Klal Yisroel deserves no less.

      • Doron Beckerman says:

        That’s not regarding the Aruch Hashulchan, but, I am sorry, certain of Moshe’s statements do unfortunately betray a lack of appreciation of the Sugyos and the Teshuvos involved. Since I believe this to be the wrong forum to even discuss the halachic merits or lack thereof, I feel no need to progress any further down this road.

        The plight of even one of these agunos is assuredly a tremendous tragedy that anyone with a heart would endeavour to solve in any way feasible, and numbers has absolutely nothing to do with either the will or the way to proceed on the matter.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        RHS raised the simple issue as to whether the Psak , which was based on the IBD’s reading of the Ritva in question made sense and whether the IBD was rendering a proper conclusion based on their reading of the same.

    • mycroft says:

      Re the IBD-Rabbi Yosef Blau was obviously a student of the Rav who the Rav trusted and RYB did shumush with the Rav in Boston while he was at the position of assistant principal of Maimonides that the Rav brought him to Boston to be.
      IMO RYB-Mashgiach of RIETS- brought credibility to theIBD, Why did he leave was it because he felt that the IBD was acting improperly in its Gittin-or was it due to pressure from YU administrators who pressured him for political reasons. There is a big difference IMO as to how I would feel about the IBD depending on the facts.

  8. SKJ says:

    for an unknown reason, no one is dealing with the fact that these mechanisms to annul a marriage are used in Israeli BD and in US BD as well as some Europeans (that I am aware of) are you not going to marry into these communities?

    • Rafael Hotdogburgerwithfries says:

      Here is a link to the IBD response and R’ Bechofer’s response, showing their “methodology” in rendering their lenient findings: Do you believe, Shoshanna, that a Torah Observant Jew should rely on this kind of reasoning in order save what you seem to believe is the destruction of the universe as we know it?

      Shoshanna – there is a right way to deal with Agunos and a wrong way. This, like the Rackman BD, is the wrong way!

      • Pusilanimity says:

        I believe Rabbi Bechofer somewhat misrepresented the IBD’s ruling in IBD Case #111. Rabbi Bechofer writes:

        “They regarded the ceremony as non-Halachic on the basis of the kallah responding Ani l’Dodi in a double ring ceremony.”
        “No one has ever stated categorically that such a ceremony invalidates the kiddushin.”
        “In fact, in Rabbi Chaim Jachter’s piece at
        he notes that RZNG – ostensibly, the authority on which the IBD relies – stated categorically that such kiddushin are legitimate.”
        “This is the derech of the IBD: To take Halachic positions that are followed out of stringency l’chatchila (such as avoiding double-ring ceremonies) and turn them into leniencies b’di’eved (that when not avoided they invalidate kiddushin).”

        According to Rabbi Bechofer’s representation, the ruling was that the kiddushin was invalidated by the two-ring-ceremony. But that was not their ruling. The facts of the case (as reported in the ruling) were that there were not valid eidim that saw the giving of the ring. Thus, to have a valid kiddushin we need to rely on anan sahadi. The IBD’s ruling was that we cannot rely on anan sahadi here because anan sahadi only works when the mesadeir kiddushin is reliable to ensure a proper kiddushin. If the mesadeir kiddushin allowed a two-ring-ceremony (against halacha, despite not itself invalidating the kiddushun) then he is not reliable and the anan sahadi cannot be used. That being the case, we are left with a kiddushin without eidim so it is invalid. Regardless of whether this ruling is correct, the ruling was not based on an assumption that a two-ring-ceremony invalidates a kiddushin, as Rabbi Bechofer makes it seem.

      • Sass says:

        We will agree that a double ring ceremony is valid, and that it is improper, but doesn’t invalidate the kiddushin.

        That being the case, how exactly does the fact that he allowed a double ring ceremony impact the anan sahadi that he would perform a valid ceremony? (I see no basis for such an assertion in any of Rav Moshe’s tshuvos that they cite.)

        Basically this is a “boich svara” – if he allowed a double ring ceremony, that must invalidate the anan sahadi.

        Are we really comfortable being matir an eishes ish on the basis of a “boich svara”?

      • Pusilanimity says:

        I specifically said in my previous comment that I was not discussing whether the ruling was correct. If you think it’s a boich sevara, that’s fine. My point was that R’ Bechofer misrepresented the ruling

    • dr. bill says:

      Unfortunately, not all cases of get zikui or annulment are similar. there have been cases where both methods have been used, without much opposition. it is their broader use, as advocated by Rabbi Krauss and the late Rabbi Rackman, that raises (significant) opposition. In every case, it is important to maintain civility; casting aspersions as to motivations, does not advance the dialogue.

  9. Dovid says:

    I agree with Rabbi Herzfeld.

    He absolutely has the right to study and learn the sources and then compose a detailed teshuva or give a series of comprehensive shiurim, with arguments and counterarguments, demonstrating his mastery of the relevant source material in all its complexity and with lomdus that would dazzle talmidei chachamim.

  10. Rafael Knishburgerface says:

    See this great writeup by R’ Gil Student about the issues with R’ Krauss’s reliance on the psak of R’ S Messas and the support it actually provides to R’ Schachter:

    • Eli Blum says:

      Is R Gil Student allowed to comment? Is he “qualified to assess the validity of the Pesakim of the IBD”? Or is he (and you) just engaging in “navel-gazing entertainment”?

      Personally, I’m thrilled that “the debate continues” instead of being fought with an argument to authority and nothing to back it up.

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