Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shafran, a Gerer chassid who serves as the senior judge of the Ha’Yashar V’Hatov rabbinic tribunal in Jerusalem, a major posek, and Rosh Yeshiva of Noam HaTorah yeshiva in Bnei Brak, on Tuesday added his name to the dramatic verdict of three separate rabbinical courts against Eliezer Berland, a prominent rabbi who confessed to having committed rape and was sentenced to 18 months’ incarceration for his sexual attacks on two women, as well as for ordering an assault on husband of one of the women he had sexually molested.
On June 24, 2019, a rabbinical court issued an order “to stop immediately all hatred, persecution, arguments and slander, in writing and in speech, and in all form of media and publication” against Berland, signed by Moishe Sternbuch, Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, and others.
But last week, three of the world’s most prestigious Haredi courts issued a harsh and unprecedented ruling against Berland, under the headline: “He who values his souls shall keep away from him, and action in this matter is obligatory.”
The Dayanim stated: “It is clear that according to the opinion of our holy Torah, anyone who does not observe staying away from the three severe commandments (which one must martyr oneself rather than violate) – anyone who values his soul must stay away from him and action is obligatory.”
The need to establish the special rabbinical court arose after the Berland’s followers argued that his conviction in a secular court was not admissible in religious terms, and that the rumors about his actions were the result of an internal conflict within the Braslav movement. Aware of the sheer scale of the problem and the need to send a crushing religious message to correct Berland’s perversions, the world’s three most prestigious Haredi courts came together to establish a special court to investigate the case.
Concerned about violent reactions from Berland’s followers, the special court invited witnesses and complainants to give their testimony in secret. Only after sufficient evidentiary infrastructure had been established was Berland formally summoned to confront his accusers. The subpoena was backed by nine of the most important poskim of the generation, who expressed their full confidence in the special court.
Berland dragged his feet and refused to appear before the tribunal, sending instead his two grandchildren and a rabbinic advocate.