April 18, 2024
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What Threatens The Torah World And The Rabbinate?

In Israel, it is not the IDF “draft decree,” nor the “equality of burden” proposal, nor even budget cuts or the elections for the Chief Rabbinate that threaten the Torah world or the rabbinate in any way. If the elite members of the haredi yeshivot will serve the public in some way, their Torah world will only grow and deepen. This will be especially the case with those who are talented, especially the talmidei chachamim among them.

During my service in the IDF, circumstances forced me to engage in in-depth study of sugyot and halakhot that by and large are not generally studied, such as Hilkhot Eruvin, as I was obligated to construct an eruv in the field during training missions and to check the eruv every Friday. I also learned many laws of kashrut and Shabbat in depth in the IDF, because that is where you confront unusual circumstances. In the IDF one learns to live by the Torah in all situations, even in difficult circumstances, and on Shabbat one cannot simply call one’s posek.

If I had my druthers, I would test all of the bnei yeshiva in the country in Hilkhot Eruvin to demonstrate to the roshei yeshivot that it precisely the most talented and capable students who should serve in the IDF.

In the quota of those exempt from army service, I would only include those whose religious commitment is weak and may end up abandoning Torah observance during their service—since they won’t be asking the questions in Hilkhot Eruvin. Then being exempt would become a sign of shame, and the service in the IDF becomes a symbol of pride for the Torah world (even among non-Zionists). This is what is correct from a Torah and halakhic perspective. …

So what is the real threat to the Torah world?

The women. Just the women. And they are not the women who join the body that elects the Chief Rabbis of the State of Israel. They are the women who suffer—the women who are abused and crying—the women who are agunot and are refused a get. THEY are the threat to the Torah world, and they have the potential (God forbid) to lead that world to its utter destruction.


As the Talmud teaches (Ketubot 2b-3a) “Because of the modest women and because of the promiscuous women” the rabbis were lenient and accepted the validity of a get that was not technically valid.

In the world of truth that Chazal inhabited, one gave a get immediately. One did not wait a month or a year. A man could return and marry the woman he divorced and so there was no reason to postpone the giving of the get. Only for a Kohen who was prohibited from marrying his divorced wife, would they write a special type of get (get mekushar) so as to postpone the effectuation of the divorce in case he might have second thoughts. This also lasted a far shorter time than the quickest get procedure in today’s rabbinical courts.

It is enough simply to look at the statistics provided by the rabbinical courts themselves. In Israel, there are currently 200 women who have not received a get after a rabbinical ruling that the husband must give one. It is known, of course, that such a ruling in the rabbinical courts is not given immediately and comes only after many months and often years of deliberations. There are also 200 men whose wives refuse to receive gets. However, these men can live with other women and even sire children who are halakhically kosher. If we examine the numbers of women who have not received gets from recalcitrant husbands whose cases are being stretched out in the rabbinical courts, and who have not yet received a ruling, the numbers reach into the many thousands

What happens to the women who are agunot, whose beloved of youth has abandoned them, and whose “ex” in many cases already lives with another woman?

The “tznuot (modest)” amongst them weep, and their tears reach the heavenly throne because the gates to accept “those who are oppressed” and the gates to accept “tears” are never closed (Bava Metziah 59b). …

The “perutzot (promiscuous)” among them say, “What can I do if the rabbis and judges do not pay attention to me, and allow the man to make demands and conditions for giving the get? In such a case, I have no choice and I will also find myself a man to live with, for I cannot carry such a heavy burden, the burden of raising children and my own personal burden, all alone.

And then, God forbid, there is adultery, and it becomes viewed as justified because it is done out of a sense of “no options” available, viewed by many men and women as something akin to an “ones”—a situation in which one is coerced into a violation, so much so, that many lawyers and rabbinical advocates admit that such a reality can often spur the rabbinical court to move with a bit more alacrity.

What did chazal state? “Whoever betroths a woman, betroths on the (condition) of the acquiescence of the rabbis” (Gitin 33a). They found ways to uproot the kiddushin (betrothal) and the nissuin (marriage), if there was no other path available, such as in the case where a man sent his wife a divorce via an agent and then called him back in the middle of the mission.

Now all the rabbis in the world, all of us, teach grooms to recite the formula, “According to the laws of Moses and Israel” under the bridal canopy. “Israel” is a reference to the rabbis who stand under the canopy with the grooms and brides. But we do not stand with the women when they find themselves in their difficult hour, when they request a get.

It is clear, that in the court of Torah, the burden falls squarely on the shoulders of the rabbis and their disciples, and if the women who wait months and years, all alone waiting for their freedom, go and commit adultery, God will hold the rabbis responsible for that sin.

The tears of the modest women also will determine the judgment, and may possibly bring on the destruction of the Torah world and the rabbinate. It is impossible to know which is more serious: adultery caused by a sense of having no option, or the tears of the women refused gittin, who will never be able to live with a man without a kosher get.

If the roshei yeshivot, rabbis, rabbinical court judges and poskim thought that they would stand before the heavenly court and be held accountable both for the adultery and the tears of pain of these women, and that their entire Torah would, God forbid, be turned against them; if they understood that the Master of the Universe stands “By a wall made by a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand” (Amos 7:7 see Bava Metziah 59a), and that they do not have protection, and everything  is breached, they would immediately come together—Lithuanians and Hasidim, Sefardim and Ashkenazim, Zionists and Haredim, Moderates and Zealots—to make decisions—not about who will sit on the chair of Rav Kook, but rather on the question as to what the Chief Rabbis and the rabbinical courts should do, because they are ultimately responsible for and guilty of the adultery and tears of the suffering women.

Unfortunately those who should, do not truly believe that the Master of the Universe stands upon “the wall made by a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand.” They shut their eyes and do not see the adultery that they cause and they do not hear the cries of the “modest” women who have not received gittin.

They only see a threat from women included in the body to elect the Chief Rabbis, and quote what Rav Kook wrote about women being elected or having the vote, without understanding the full import of the position of Rav Kook and his son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda, on this serious question.

For many years, rabbis and dayanim have told me that it is only permitted to teach Tanakh based upon the midrashim of the sages. Listen carefully to what the rabbis stated about the destruction of Shiloh together with the Tabernacle that existed in Shiloh.

In the book of Shmuel 1 (Ch 2:22) it states: “Eli was very old and heard all that his sons were doing to all of Israel, and that they would sleep with all the women who would congregate by the Tent of Meeting.”

Rashi and Radak interpreted the text according to its plain sense and then cite a midrash of chazal. However, most rabbis in our day only teach this according to the words of chazal. The Talmud (Shabbat 55b) states: “Whoever says that the children of Eli sinned is mistaken…rather because they tarried and did not bring the sacrifices of the women who had given birth (in a timely fashion) thus causing them not to be allowed to be with their husbands, the Torah considers it as if they slept with these women.”

It is a clear kal vachomer (a fortiori argument) that if the Talmud considered the sons of Eli as having slept with women they prevented from procreating with their own husbands for a number of nights until the terumah was paid (see Shmuel 1:2:12-16)), the judgment of the rabbis and dayanim who postpone and prevent the giving of gittin for months and years will be judged the same way. According to the sages, delaying gets can be considered similar to the actions of the sons of Eli, as they harm the women who congregate at the doors of the rabbinical courts—those who beg to receive a get according to halakha.

It is for these actions and inactions that the Torah world and the rabbinate may, God forbid, be destroyed just as the Tabernacle at Shiloh was eradicated.

Rav Yoel Bin Nun is the former rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Kibbutz Hadati and a founding faculty member of Michlelet Herzog of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and a faculty member at Yeshivat Har Etzion and other Torah institutions. He was one of the paratroopers who liberated the Kotel in 1967 and was in the first machzor that founded Yeshivat Har Eztion. Rav Yoel, as he is popularly known, is a pioneer of the modern day study of Tanakh in the Religious-Zionist world in Israel and beyond and a leading thinker, rabbinic leader, activist and educator in the Torah world. This essay originally appeared in Hebrew in the June 20th edition of Makor Rishon. It appeared originally on the Morethodoxy blog at www.morethodoxy.org  and appears here with the author’s permission.

By Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun  (Translated into English by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, edited by JLBC for brevity)

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