Rabbi's fury as Beth Din overruled in brit case

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 4, 2014
Yitzhak Yosef

Yitzhak Yosef

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that a Beth Din - a rabbinical court - cannot order a mother to have her son circumcised as part of a divorce case.

Last Sunday, a specially expanded forum of seven judges examined the case of a divorcing Netanya couple locked in dispute over the late circumcision of their son.

The boy was not circumcised when he was eight days old, but a few months later, after the couple separated, the father demanded that their son undergo a bris.

The mother - who has custody of the boy - refused, but the regional Beth Din ruled in favour of the father and handed her a fine of NIS 500 for every day she refuses to have her son circumcised.

The Supreme Court's Judge Miryam Naor ruled that a dispute between parents over a nonreversible surgical procedure on their son could not be part of divorce hearings and that the Beth Din had no authority to rule on it. Six out of the seven judges concurred with that view.

Judge Naor accepted that in some circumstances a court could order a parent to have his or her son circumcised, but that the proper venue for such proceedings should be a civilian family court.

The ruling follows previous decisions by the Supreme Court to limit the authority of the dayanim (religious judges) - the only ones allowed to grant divorces by Israeli law - while giving additional powers to the family courts to rule on actual disputes between divorcing couples.

The ruling caused anger in religious circles.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who is also president of the Supreme Beth Din, said: "This symbolises the worrying trend of shrinking the authority of the Beth Din.

"As the court president, I call on the Supreme Court president to hold another hearing on this issue, and reverse this troubling decision and end the erosion of the rabbinical courts' power."

Arye Deri, leader of Shas, said that "the ruling is no less than scandalous".

Last updated: 1:45pm, July 4 2014