April 23, 2024
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Newest Warburg Book Tackles Jewish and Civil Legal Issues

Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality (Jerusalem: Urim) is the second in a series of volumes intended as an introduction to the scope of rabbinic authority in general and the workings of the institution of the beit din (Jewish arbitration) in particular.

In this work, R. A. Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg presents 10 rulings in cases of Jewish family law and civil law that he handed down as a member of a beit din panel. In each decision, as a dayan (rabbinical court judge) he offers a rendition of the facts of the case, followed by claims of the Tovea (plaintiff), the reply of the Nitva (defendant) and any counterclaims. Subsequently, there is a discussion of the halachic issues emerging from the parties’ respective claims and counterclaims, followed by a decision rendered by the beit din panel. To preserve the confidentiality of the parties involved in these cases, all names have been changed, and some facts have been changed and/or deleted.

These piskei din (decisions) address family matters such as spousal rape, retrieving electronically stored information incidental to divorce, and the halachic consequences of “a dead marriage” as well as commercial issues such as piercing the corporate veil, non-compete agreements, the validity of a real estate binder agreement, real estate brokerage agreement, dual real estate commission and a matter of yerusha, inheritance. In short, these cases reflect some of the issues that affect our community.

Accompanying these decisions, attention is focused upon a number of issues that the Torah-observant community have grappled with during the last 15 years. How does Halacha envision the professional responsibility of investment brokers vis-a-vis their investors? Is a manager of a “feeder fund” permitted to place money into the hands of a third party?

Given that there are brothers who contest in beit din the right of their sisters to receive a share in the inheritance bequeathed by their father in a will, how does Halacha view the propriety of a civil will? Will the estate be divided up as per the father’s instructions as suggested by Rabbis S. Schwadron, M. Feinstein, Y. Soloveitchik and a few other authorities or will the brothers as the Torah heirs receive the lion’s share of the yerusha, the inheritance as argued by the majority of Poskim, decisors? Given the latter position, which reflects the view adopted by the overwhelming majority of battei din in the metropolitan area, how ought members of our community deal with their estate planning? Does the execution of a civil will remain a viable halachic option for transferring assets upon one’s demise to the next generation?

With the advent of more incidents of spousal abuse and child abuse being perpetrated by members of our community, Rabbi Warburg addresses how the institution of beit din may serve to harness its authority and render monetary awards to the victims of abuse. Furthermore, the author addresses whether there are any halachic grounds for imputing institutional liability for acts of child abuse committed by employees such as principals and/or teachers of our yeshivot? Does Halacha recognize a statute of limitations in advancing such a claim for employer responsibility?

Finally, the author deals with the role of a to’ein, a rabbinical advocate in the beit din process. Given that from time to time, a dayan may encounter a to’ein of dubious credentials, has the institution been banned? Despite the awareness by authorities of the problematic nature of this institution, a review of the rulings of Rashba, Ritva, Shakh, Elyashiv and others leads one to the conclusion that they failed to ban the institution. As halachically objectionable as some rabbinical advocates’ conduct may be, how does a dayan remain “above the fray” and arrive at an informed and credible decision?

Since 1999, Rabbi Warburg has been serving as a dayan on various battei din panels in the Hassidic, modern Orthodox, Sephardic and yeshiva communities in the NY-NJ metropolitan area. For over two decades, R. Warburg has delivered shiurim (classes) in Hoshen Mishpat and Even ha-Ezer to Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan’s semicha students. Recently, R. Warburg filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in the case of EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School, Michigan (2010) on behalf of the institution of beit din as a vehicle for resolving matters for the American Jewish community.

The book is available in local seforim stores and on Amazon.com.

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