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Divorce

(JNi.media) An Israeli Jewish man, 80, filed an appeal with the Netanya Rabbinical Court, to be allowed to marry a second wife, citing the condition of his first wife as the reason, Psak Din reported. During the hearing, the husband described his first wife’s difficult situation, being under 24 hour care, tied to a wheelchair and requiring help with every personal need. Other than her husband–the plaintiff, the wife does not recognize anyone, not even their grandchildren. When people come to visit she starts screaming or responds inappropriately and is not able to control her bodily functions.

The husband submitted a medical opinion attesting to his wife’s physical, mental and intellectual condition. The document determines that the woman is suffering from various diseases, including multiple sclerosis and severe dementia. Her illness is visible in both her physical and mental conditions, she experiences severe memory lapses, “is not interested at all in her surroundings, barely speaks, does not watch TV, and is occasionally restless.”

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The plaintiff also reported that “due to her physical and intellectual disabilities she is unable to manage her own affairs and care, and therefore needs a guardian for her person and property.” In response, the court appointed a guardian for the wife, to make sure her rights are observed.

“Death do us part,” said the husband and explained that it is vital to him not to hurt his first wife, to whom he has been married for 50 years. He takes care of all her needs and is committed to continue this in the future. “I pledge to protect her … I buy medication and bring food home and everything.”

However, despite the difficulties he is already facing, the husband said that at his old age he wants to live with a woman, “who can make him a cup of tea,” hence the request from the court.

The Dayan (rabbinic judge) Rabbi Shneur Pardes reviewed various halachic opinions on the issue and concluded that the husband should be permitted to take another wife. The main discussion was over the rabbinic concept of “a woman who lost her faculties irreparably” who may not be divorced according to Shulchan Aruch (Ev. A:10).

“This situation of women diagnosed with dementia who is unable to take care of her basic needs, has lost sphincter control and cannot be intimate with her husband, fits the definition of a wife who lost her faculties and her husband is given permission to marry an additional wife,” the Dayan ruled.

In this context, the Dayan noted that it is acceptable to rely on doctors’ opinion.

The Dayan noted that he chose to avoid issuing a get according to the Ashkenazi custom, which requires the approval of 100 rabbis, forcing the husband to pay triple alimony for the rest of the wife’s life. However, to guarantee the first wife’s rights—dwelling, sustenance, medial care—the Dayan decided that the first wife will continue to live in the couple’s apartment until she dies. To that end he placed a permanent lien on the couple’s apartment. He also required the husband to deposit a sum three times the amount in the Ketuba (the marriage agreement) with the court.

The presiding judge, Rabbi Michael Amos, and Dayan Rabbi Haim Victor Vidal joined the ruling, permitting the husband to marry again, subject to approval by one hundred rabbis and confirmation by the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Obviously Jewish wedding ceremony does not say anything about “till death do us part”. I’m all for divorces when people just can’t make it work anymore. But divorcing a spous on grounds of old age, dementia and what not? Most important: Is there a difference if it’s a man or a woman who wants the divorce? – None of my business; I’m not a Jew, just interested to know exactly how democratic Israel really is, since I constantly point out that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

  2. Halacha is halacha. The man may not be a mench but halachically, a man may have two wives. It is like a case in American court that I read about once. A man was angry that his wife wanted a divorce and so he destroyed their home. It was legal. It was his house was he normal or a mench no. But what he did was legal. Same here.

  3. For those who are upset by this, may I suggest taking a different perspective, as follows: This man is not divorcing his wife, and intends to care for her for the rest of her life. But he also wants to have companionship and love in his life, and has found an elderly woman who wishes for this as well. She has feelings too you know, should she also be alone for the rest of her life? Jewish law used to permit multiple wives; for a thousand years this was forbidden, but the thousand years are up and now the ruling is, he may have a second wife. Men die on average 7 years earlier than women, globally; so older women find themselves alone. This is a perfect example of halacha being wisely applied for the benefit of all of those involved.

  4. The judge ordered my dad to dispose of the house and its effects; so he tore down the house he had built with his own hands, sold the scrap lumber, sold the lot back to his sister for $1.00, gave the refrigerator back to the store (he was making payments), and presented the receipts and $164.26 USD to the judge, to divide up between them. The judge looked at him, angry at first; and then he smiled, and counted the money into two piles.

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