Friday, 20 March 2009

Civil Marriages in Israel

The problem also exists outside of Israel. How to respond to two Jews wishing to marry not according to Halacha or, more correctly, live their lives not according to Halacha even as the Halacha imposes upon them. This is how I really see the issue in Israel. The question is not whether we should let a kohain marry a gerusha, a divorced woman. Perhaps it is better to state that this type of question is not the only question. The further question is whether I should participate in a bond of marriage according to Halacha when the individuals involved do not take Halacha and the marriage bond created according to Halacha seriously. thereby leading to greater challenges and problems.

This is a problem I continue to face as a rabbi. I may receive a call to perform a marriage between two non-observant individuals. What should I do? What standards should I set in agreeing to perform this marriage? Should I insist on the bride going to mikvah before the wedding, knowing full well that she most likely will not fulfill any of the requirements necessary to remove a woman from the state of being a niddah? Should I create this halachic bond between these two individuals recognizing that there may be a possibility that these same individuals will not treat this bond in a halachically serious manner? If the woman commits adultery in the future, the halachic status of the relationship will only make the repercussions more severe. If the marriage ends in divorce, should I be concerned that they may not search out a proper get thus rendering any subsequent relationship halachically adulterous and subsequent children mamzerim. Should my concern solely be to marry them according to Halacha, thereby at least removing some level of prohibition?

This are issues I face here in Toronto but they also represent the issues that are faced in Israel albeit with some differences. Since divorce is, for Jews, only al pi Halacha there is less of a chance that people will skip the necessity of a get. Yet how many Israelis going through a process of divorce live with others before their get? Should that be our concern? How are we to understand the imposition of Halacha on individuals who do not take it seriously or, even worse, are strongly opposed to this imposition? Kol Yisrael aravin zeh l'zeh and so I do have some obligation to impose halachic standards on fellow Jews yet, should I also not be concerned with long term implications of this imposing behaviour and potential backlash?

To many, it often seems that there is a nice, simple straightforward Torah answer to such problems -- and so keeping gittin and kiddushin in Israel al pi Halacha is most important. Sometimes, while recognizing the value of this, I wonder if it is?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

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