Review of Rabbinic Authority

By Rabbi Johnny Solomon

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The process of interpreting Jewish legal texts and applying Jewish legal precedents is highly complex especially when dealing with Jewish civil law, and in almost all cases, the textual sources being interpreted are written in rabbinic hebrew and are hard to comprehend for the non-expert. Given this, the English speaking public have rarely had the opportunity to delve into the nuanced analysis of halakhic reasoning that are required of, and expressed by, a Beit Din when issuing halakhic rulings. It is precisely this lacuna that Rabbi A. Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg has sought to fill with his Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality – Beit Din Decisions in English.

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Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality Vol.2

RabbinicAuthorityVolume2 web1By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Once again, Rabbi Yehuda Warburg gives us an insiders look into  a number of actual cases that transpired in his Beit Din. There are both Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat related cases. There is much reference and comparison to precedents and principles in secular law.

Here is the table of contents:

Part I: Rabbinic Authority: The Vision

Chapter 1: The Multifaceted Halakhic Identity of a Jewish Investment Broker

Chapter 2: The Propriety of a Civil Will

Chapter 3: Harnessing the Authority of Beit Din to Deal with Cases of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Chapter 4: An Employer’s Vicarious Liability for an Employee’s Sexual Misconduct

Chapter 5: The Status and Role of a To’ein Rabbani in the Beit Din Process Continue reading “Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality Vol.2”

A Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality

by Daniel D. Stuhlman, AJL ReviewsRabbinicAuthorityWeb1

Halakhah embodies the legal and communal traditions that began when the Torah was given and transmitted through Moses, the elders, and the rabbis. This book attempts to introduce English speakers to the concept of rabbinic authority. The author is a legal scholar in both secular law and Jewish law; this book is written based on both bodies of knowledge.

Warburg’s book is excellent overall, but it has several short comings. First, it is a very slow read as it is tedious to read the text with several hundred footnotes. Second, the book is lacking a glossary and a topical or subject index. Thus, this book is not for the beginning student, and the audience listed in the preface is not the audience who will understand the text.

Rabbinic Authority has two parts; each reflected in the title. The first part “vision” defines rabbinic authority and attempts to put authority in a communal or global context. The second part “reality” summarizes cases brought before a beit din (religious court) with explanations and decisions. By the time an issue is filed in court, the parties are so far apart only a legal decision can solve the problem. Warburg chooses cases in both business and family law. In one family law case a brother is sued by his two sisters over the estate of their father. While Warburg treats this as an academic example for explaining the law, the reader is left to wonder how the family dynamic could deteriorate to a point to where the court needed to decide the disposition of the estate…. I enjoyed reading it because I have a deep, personal interest in the law—Jewish and secular, business and family. Rabbinic Authority is recommended for libraries that seek to collect academic Jewish law books and have well-educated readers.

Endorsement for Rabbinic Authority

RabbinicAuthorityWeb1œ”Rabbinic Authority: the Vision and the Reality, by Rabbi A. Yehuda Warburg, is a deeply learned and lucidly written description and analysis of the inner workings of the beit din. It will be of interest to rabbinic scholars and to academic scholars alike for the originality and thoroughness of its arguments and to all educated readers who wish to better understand the halakhic institutions and concepts that stand at its core.”

– Rabbi Professor Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law at Yeshiva University Fellow, American Academy for Jewish Research

A Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality

RabbinicAuthorityWeb1Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality (Jerusalem: Urim) introduces the English-speaking public to the scope of rabbinic authority in general and the workings of the institution of the beit din (Jewish arbitration) in particular.

In this work, R’ A. Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg presents ten rulings in cases of Jewish family law and civil law that he handed down as a member of a beit din panel. In each decision, as a dayan (rabbinical court judge), he 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 the 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 or deleted.

These piskei din (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 halachic 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. In short, these cases reflect some of the issues that affect our community.

Among the scenarios that are addressed in the beit din cases are the following: In one case, a wife demands a get (Jewish divorce) because her husband coerces her to have relations with him so frequently that she is left sleepless and exhausted. Consequently, she left the home with their children and seeks spousal and child support from her husband until she receives her get. The husband, citing the Talmud, claims that he is within his rights and that she is not entitled to receive her get. Continue reading “A Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality

Beit Din Decisions in English – A Major Breakthrough!

By Rabbi Chaim JachterRabbinicAuthorityWeb1

The publication of Teaneck resident Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg’s work Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality is a major event. The Halachic world has seen major advances in many areas such as medical Halacha where Halacha has very capably addressed virtually almost all challenging circumstances and situations. In the area of technology Halacha has been applied to the fullest extent and has thereby brought a sense of pride to every Torah loving Jew.

Creating a fully viable Beit Din in the contemporary context has proven to be challenging. Great strides, however, have been achieved in this area in the past decade. One of the leading figures in making Beit Din an integral part of Jewish life, especially in Modern Orthodox circles, is Rabbi Dr. Warburg. Rav Warburg’s encyclopedic knowledge of the contemporary Beit Din literature, significant familiarity with civil law and broad experience in the business world have facilitated his emergence is one of the major Dayanim, rabbinic judges in the United States.

The publication of ten of Rav Warburg’s decisions in his recently released work are the product of Rav Warburg’s extensive experience as a rabbinic judge in the Hassidic, Modern Orthodox, Sephardic and Yeshiva communities of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. These rulings are complemented by three important essays, including one which provides Continue reading “Beit Din Decisions in English – A Major Breakthrough!”