Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality introduces the English-speaking public to the scope of rabbinic authority in general and the workings of the institution of the beit din in particular. In this work, published by Urim Publications, Rabbi A. Yehuda Warburg presents ten rulings in cases of Jewish family law and civil law which he handed down as a member of a beit din panel. In each decision, the author offers a rendition of the facts of the case, followed by claims of the tovea (plaintiff), the reply of the nitva (defendant) and any counterclaims. Subsequently, there is a discussion of the halachic issues emerging from the parties’ respective claims and counterclaims, followed by a decision rendered by the beit din panel. To preserve the confidentiality of the parties involved in these cases, all names have been changed, and some facts have been changed and/or deleted.
These decisions touch on issues of employment termination, tenure rights and severance pay, rabbinic contracts, self-dealing in the not-for-profit boardroom, real estate brokerage commission, drafting a will, a revocable living trust agreement, the division of marital assets upon divorce, spousal abuse and a father’s duty to support his estranged children.
Accompanying these presentations isan examination of the notion of rabbinic authority, the business judgment rule and an agunah’s ability to recover for the infliction of emotional stress.
Writing the foreword for this work, the late Rabbi Aaron Levine, z”l, notes: “For a number of decades, I have been involved on an ad hoc basis as a dayan. In this capacity, I have often crossed paths with R. Warburg and served together with him on the same judicial panel. In each panel we served on together, R. Warburg’s outstanding Torah scholarship was always in evidence, scholarship motivated by a perfectionist’s drive to achieve new vistas in advancing… truth that stands as the ideal for the halachic-judicial process.”
Since 1999, Rabbi A. Yehuda Warburg has served as a dayan on various beit din panels in the chassidic, Modern Orthodox, Sephardic and yeshiva communities in the N.Y.-N.J. metropolitan area. For over two decades, Rabbi Warburg has delivered halachic shiurim to Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan’s semichah students. Rabbi Warburg filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School, Michigan (2010) on behalf of the institution of beit din as a vehicle for resolving matters for the American Jewish community, and his essay dealing with the halachot of child custody was cited by Israel’s Supreme Court in Nir v. Nir (1980).