Editor’s Note: The recent publication on Torahweb.org of a letter by Yeshiva University Rosh Yeshiva Rav Hershel Schachter, shlita, criticized the work of the International Beit Din and advised all not to rely on their rulings, and for any associated rabbanim to resign. The original was printed in Hebrew and is available here: http://torahweb.org/torah/docs/ibd-machaa.html. We present a translation here, as well as a response from representatives of the organization he is addressing. The response from the International Beit Din can be found here.
To my Honorable Colleagues, Students, and Rabbis in every city,
A few months ago, the International Beit Din for Agunot was established. Approximately two months ago, I reviewed a 23-page responsum in Hebrew written by a member of this beit din, on the subject of agency to write a divorce against a husband’s will, that is mistaken from beginning to end. Another four-page English responsum was shown to me, permitting an agunah to remarry due to invalid witnesses, based on the Ritva’s famous view. This is not the right path and not even the right city. The prohibition against adultery is not like the laws of mourning, for which we would say that the law follows the lenient opinion. It is always possible to be lenient based on a tiny doubt. The Sages taught us that wherever there is a Chillul Hashem, we set aside respect for a rabbi. I feel an obligation to object because otherwise the public will assume that rabbinic silence implies agreement, and the students would see and establish this new approach permanently.
It is a tremendous chutzpah that these three rabbis joined this beit din. Questions of this most serious nature—permitting a woman to remarry without a divorce—were brought to Rav Yitzchak Elchanan, after him to Rav Chaim Ozer and in our time to Rav Moshe Feinstein, all of whom were recognized as the greatest of their generations. It is forbidden for average rabbis to involve themselves in these matters because whoever does not understand the nature of marriages and divorces cannot be involved with them. In our generation, we present these questions to the few Torah scholars who have specialized in these laws and apprenticed under greats, and who therefore have a tradition about where to be lenient and where strict.
I encourage my colleagues and students not to rely on any ruling from this beit din because they have no standing. I heard that one of the judges resigned and I asked the other two to also remove themselves in the future from this bad activity and to inform the public not to rely on the lenient rulings they already issued, since their entire approach is not according to the law.
(Rav) Tzvi (Hershel) Schachter, Tammuz 5775
I also agree to this objection with full force:
(Rav) Gedaliah Dov Schwartz, 21 Tammuz 5775
It is superfluous to add that there is no ruling and no judge but nonsense of fools who have appointed themselves authorities:
(Rav) Nota Tzvi Greenblatt, Memphis, 22 Tammuz 5775
The words of the above giants are clear in law and in practice, and I also join in their objection:
(Rav) Avrohom Michael Union, 26 Tammuz 5775
I also join in objecting to this brazen breach:
(Rav) Menachem Mendel Senderovitz, 3 Av 5775