Rabbinic 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. Read the rest of this entry »