Jewish feminists like to cite Blu Greenberg’s now popular saying, “Where there’s a rabbinic will, there’s a halachic way.”
It is not a statement I always agree with, but the article below by Akiva Novick in Ynet, discusses an incident in which rabbinic will did indeed find a halachic way for a woman to be divorced according to Jewish Law.
The affair began in the late 1990s. A. and D., a young non-religious Jewish couple, got married in Europe, had four children and immigrated to Israel. Seven years ago, the husband had a serious heart attack and suffered irreversible brain damage.
Due to his condition, he was defined by a court as a “ward”, and his wife was appointed as his legal guardian. She took care of him for two years and then decided she wanted to remarry and build a new life.
When she turned to a lawyer and asked to file for divorce, she encountered a complex legal problem: The divorce requires the agreement of both sides, and her husband is not legally competent to make decision. Although she is his guardian, she cannot sign on his behalf on an agreement she is a party to.
Her lawyer, Attorney Shalom Atli, turned to several famous rabbis, established an “alternative court” and asked them to look into the medical issue. Using halachic tools, the rabbis ruled that the husband was “alternately a ward”, meaning that in some situations his level of sanity is sufficient.
Atli took this opinion to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and managed to convince the judges to rely on their colleagues’ ruling and approve the divorce. A. was recently officially divorced.
“I feel like I have come out of jail,” she told her friends.
Kudos to those rabbis involved who had to resolve to find an acceptable solution to the predicament, thereby enabling the woman to build a life for herself and her children.