Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Are RCA Rabbis Orthodox?

HaRav Ovadia Yosef, ZTL, a Supporter of the RCA Prenup
In what can only be called a shocking development, YWN reports that 44 rabbinic leaders in Israel have declared invalid the RCA prenuptial agreement. Tha document requires a recalcitrant husband to pay a hefty support payment in cases of unresolved divorce.  And if used the Get (Halachic divorce) is void. It is considered a get Me’usa – a forced divorce. Halacha dictates that for a divorce to be valid, it must be given willingly by the husband. If he is forced to give it – then he obviously is not doing it willingly. Which voids the Get

The RCA prenup as I understand it requires that in cases of a divorce, if the husband refuses to give his wife a Get, he is required to pay her support payments of $150 per day. That would make most recalcitrant husbands more than likely to grant their wives a Get.

This prenup takes seriously the plight of Agunos - women who cannot remarry because they are still considered married. No matter whether there is a civil divorce; No matter how long they have been separated. The RCA does not consider it a Get Me’usa because the husband, if he chooses, can pay her the fine and not give the Get. If used extensively - the incidence of chained women will be dramatically reduced.

The RCA prenup has its detractors here in America. Some rabbis have objected to this and consider the hefty fine a form of force that might make the Get void. But I have never heard any of them make the kind of hard core declaration the Israeli leaders have. Not to mention the fact that the Prenup has its share of legitimate supporters. Respected Poskim of high stature are listed that include Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, and Rav Asher Weiss. The RCA now requires all of its members that officiate at marriage ceremonies to use the prenup. Crafted 25 years ago by Rabbi Mordechai Willig.

And yet the declaration signed by these prominent Israeli rabbinic leaders is sharp in its rejection. They say that children of those women that remarry based on it are Mamzerim. Which according to Halacha may not marry into Klal Yisroel. And whose offspring for all time may not do so either.

Those who signed this declaration include respected rabbinic leaders of both Charedi and Religious Zionist camps. They who were not reticent in their condemnation. From YWN
In a document obtained by the Srugim website, signed by dozens of rabbonim, including chareidim such as Eida Chareidis Ravaad HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch Shlita, Rabbi Avraham Auerbach and Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Machpud, they attack the agreement and write about it among other things: “The truth is that this marriage agreement represents the destruction of religion truly, and leads to a fear of ‘eishes ish’ and mamzerus”.
HaGaon HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl Shlita has also penned his objections, citing a rav who permits signing such an agreement is not an Orthodox rav and one should rely upon his halachic rulings.
Former Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior Shlita concurs, stating the document negates halacha and may chas v’sholom lead to serious issues of ‘get me’usa’, mamzerus, and the destruction of the kedusha of the family. He adds Chief Rabbis have and remain opposed to it and a document was released during the tenure of HaGaon HaRav Avraham Kahana Shapira ZT”L and HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu ZT”L. 
I have to wonder what the motivation behind this was to come out with this declaration now. Where were they years ago when the RCA first adopted it? Why now? I also have to wonder why the widely respected (from right to left) Rav Nebenzahl has virtually declared the entire RCA membership not Orthodox? Especially after the Charedi controlled Chief Rabbinate were so willing to accept their converts? This is quite the contradiction!  You can’t be denied your Orthodox status and right to Paskin and then be told your converts are legitimate.

I am not making any accusations here. The Israeli rabbinic leaders do not make frivolous declarations. They are sincere Poskim. Sincere Poskim make declarations based on Halacha. Not politics. And if there is one thing that is known about Rav Nebenzahl - it is that he is 100% L’Shma. 

And yet I can’t help but notice a small detail in the YWN report that seems to imply that this was all about. It implies a political move. The target most mentioned is Tzohar. Tzohar has been in the forefront of criticizing what they believe are excesses of the Chief Rabbinate who they say (with good reason) has been taken over by Charedim. 

Charedi leaders in Israel are obviously not pleased with Tzohar. Perhaps Tzohar's encouragement that the Israeli public sign a prenup gave these rabbinic leaders an opportunity to completely delegitimize them. Perhaps they think that delegitimizing Tzohar is an existential issue. I don’t know. But I find it difficult to believe that Rav Nebenzahl would sign a document that is sourced solely in politics 

The question is where do we go from here? What if anything is the RCA going to do about this? How will they respond? And what happens to all the women that got divorced using this prenup and remarried and had children. These are serious questions that demand answers.

I cannot believe that these distinguished rabbis in Israel did this. Surely the RCA prenup was known to them. Surely they feared Mamzerus before now? Why did they wait?

*New Update
Upon further research it has become apparent to me that Rav Ovadia Yosef does indeed support the RCA prenup. His signature on a Hebrew version of the prenup - is legitimate. Sorry for the confusion