For the first time in its history, the Supreme Rabbinical Court will hold a hearing shortly with all of its members to judge whether a rabbi in northern Israel was correct in granting a Jewish bill of divorce to a woman whose husband is in a coma.
In Judaism, in order for a divorce to be valid, a husband must present his wife with a special writ of divorce, known as a get.
In the case in question, the woman was an agunah, or “chained woman,” after her husband was left comatose nine years ago. In a precedent-setting ruling in 2014, Safed’s rabbinical court said the woman can consider herself divorced even without receiving a get from her husband, and can thus remarry.
The Supreme Rabbinical Court is convening in order to rule on whether a rabbinical court can grant a divorce in place of a husband if the husband is not able to do so.
The Supreme Rabbinical Court is headed by Yitzhak Yosef, Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi, who gave the order to reexamine the case, and convened all the members of the court to hear it.
While it is not clear how the court will rule, the late Ovadia Yosef, the leading Sephardi rabbinic figure of his time until his death in 2013, and the father of the current chief rabbi, wrote his own precedent-setting ruling when faced with a similar situation following the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The older Yosef decreed that soldiers who went missing during the war, without any evidence as to whether they were alive or dead, could be presumed dead for the purposes of freeing their agunot wives, allowing the wives to move on with their lives and remarry.