Kiryat Ono Chief Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, head of the Chief Rabbinical Council’s Marriage Committee, said that “it is true that in the Torah a man is allowed to marry more than one woman. But it is wrong to think that besides Rabbeinu
Gershom’s ban the phenomenon was widespread” .
Rabbi Arussi presents the Torah's permission as an exception. Sure, no man is obliged to marry several wives, but anyone is allowed to do so with no restriction other than being capable of supporting a large family and sees it as a Mitzva of national importance.
Arusi noted as proof the fact that Yemenite Jews, who never accepted the ban, rarely took more than more wife, and even when they did it was only in extreme cases such as infertility .
Jewish communities have always been very keen on protecting their daughters and widows. No woman was abandoned and left single to fend for herself and so men would marry several wives for social necessity and other reasons besides that of infertility.
But in modern Israel, a rabbinic court would not allow a Yemenite man to take another woman, even when his barren wife insisted that she wanted him to, he said.
At the inception of the State, Yemenites and Moroccans were allowed to come on Alyiah with their wives, but Israel "mordernized" its books and today the second wife is requested to separate! The sources of the laws of the State
of Israel are the British laws and the American Constitution, sprinkled with Christian morality. That is how modern Israel "modernized" its laws, and the rabbinate followed suit…
How can the public be expected to accept (and respect) the rulings of Rabbinic Courts that forbid what the State laws forbid, rather than allow what the Halacha allows?!
Don’t think rabbinic courts aren’t very careful about not letting one bring troubles into his home. A rare case in which a second wife would be allowed would be if the first one were in a coma, and it would be impossible to divorce
her according to Jewish law. And even then, the rabbis would ensure that all the comatose woman’s rights were ensured, should she awake from her coma
This "rare case" condition has no ground in Halacha, to make polygamy an exception. Rather, the man's right to take another wife is so much grounded as a common fact that he does not need his wife's permission to do so. Since today, a couple marries with the understanding the husband will not take a second wife, her permission would be required and her consent can and should be acquired by teaching the Halacha!
Arusi was concerned that such a phenomenon would increase the rates of unregulated marriages and divorces in Israel, which could lead to severe pedigree problems .
There is no doubt that rabbinic supervision is of paramount importance to regulate marriages and divorces in Israel. But the way to establish the Jewishness and family status of the citizens of Israel is NOT by giving in to the dictates of
the Ministry of Interior which grants Israeli citizenship to the non-Jewish partner and the children of mixed marriages who are not Jewish.
As it is, the Rabbinate is trying by the skin of its teeth to save what can be saved in establishing its authority in order maintain the integrity of the nation as a whole. However, its authority is undermined and its power is crushed by the
increasing secularization of all our national institutions. From time to time, we do hear rabbis who threaten to resign but no one ever went through with the threat for fear it would create a free-for-all situation where indeed the whole
nation would drift and lose its identity as the Jewish people.
The greatest breach of trust of the public in the rabbinic authorities is the bickering of rabbis of different trends of Judaism slamming one another over any and every halachic topic and abandoning issues of national concern to the government. The public gets a very negative image of Halachic authority and this gives the upper hand to the State's police forces.
Woe to all those who take the law into their own hands and create facts on the ground, and seek ways around the rabbinate with private weddings without getting permission from the rabbinate and the leading rabbis.
If the Rabbinate failed its responsibility and if it commands to respect state laws which are contrary to Halacha, it
can hardly demand of the public to abide by its rulings… we have an internal war over the Jewishness of the state of Israel and rabbis have to be fighters in this war.
To illustrate my point, why is it that the public demonstrated support of the rabbis who were submitted to police investigation? Why did their colleagues not come out and cry out???
They are not solving problems, rather creating them. By registering marriage in Israel, we can monitor things and ensure there are no mamzerim marrying. Can we have that supervision with unregulated weddings? And how can one be sure that the divorce is carried out for such a person who wed off the books would be entirely by Jewish law? This is narrow mindedness that should not be allowed.
This argument is pleading to the conscience of someone who cares. It will not change the mind of someone who doesn't! As it is, the rabbinate has many ways of checking the marital status of Jews who enter the land and it could work in hand with the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Interior to open registers of Jewish descent. Interestingly, am orthodox Jew is at the head of the Ministry of Interior. What an opportunity to get the Knesset to define the Jewish IDENTITY of the Jewish state!
There is an internal halachic debate on this, but these people should not deceive the public into thinking that without Rabbeinu Gerdom's ban any Jew can go and marry as many wives as he wants .
This is a most surprising statement!
First of all, the "internal debate" is not about the (in)validity of Rabbeinu Gershom's ban on polygamy, but on how to uproot what has become an accepted custom among the public. It has shaped, especially in the minds of women, that monogamy ("he is MY husband") is the ideal. Now that the feeling of "possession" has become ingrained, and overlooking its psychological disasters within the family, it is very difficult to uproot it! But that attitude is contrary to Torah morality.
Secondly and mainly: Of course, without this ban which has made of polygamy a crime in the state laws, any Jew could marry as many wives as he can support! That is the halachic requirement, and not his "wanting".
The Torah does NOT consider a man's "wanting" but rather teaches "make what HaShem wants your wanting". If the
rabbinate would do just that, it would act upon the urgency of upholding Jewish Law rather than in a state of emergency to try and save what can still be saved which is the deep and praiseworthy concern of Rav Arussi here.