Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Woman Obtains Divorce from Comatose Husband

The Israeli Rabbinical Court has granted a rare divorce to a woman whose husband has been in a coma for the last 7 years

By: Graham Sigurdson

Published: May 23rd, 2014 in News » Israel

In Safed, Israel, a Rabbinical Court has granted a divorce to a woman whose husband has been comatose for the last seven years, reports Haaretz.

Traditionally, Jewish law attests that both parties must consent and, though it also allows for marriages to be dissolved in the event of something like a coma, it is not widely practiced, with only rare permissions.

In this case, however, the Rabbinical court invoked the rare procedure of “Gett Zikui” or, a ‘divorce of credit,’ allowing for the 34-year-old woman’s marriage to end. Given the rareness of the procedure, the court published a 93-page ruling that explained the decision.

“Gett Zikui,” usually used in civil disputes, is a halakhic law wherein one party benefits from the ruling despite their absence-or without explicit consent. With the divorce case, it was considered whethered the will of the husband would be to grant his wife the divorce, and would thus benefit from the divorce, despite its being imposed without explicit consent.

Three dayanim (judges) heard the case, with them originally seeking support from Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who refused. The case was then overseen by Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, a dayan from an ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court outside the state system.

The case, both in using Gett Zikui and turning to authorities outside usual channels, is something of a major stride for the rabbinic courts and agunot – women that are ‘chained’ to their marriage. The case is expected to set a precedent for Jewish divorce in Israel. Haaretz reports that, in their ruling, the rabbis “acknowledged that this is a ‘huge innovation,’ and that some of its foundations in halakha (Jewish law) are ‘controversial,” while noting that the decision is still halakhically valid.

The wife also received help from Mavoi Satum, an agunot support organization.

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