Israeli chief rabbi David Lau refuses to bury man’s mother until he agrees to divorce his wife

Jerusalem funeral postponed over Brooklyn-based man's refusal to grant his wife a get for 15 years


A funeral in Israel was postponed on Tuesday morning in a rare rabbinical ruling designed to pressure the son of the deceased to grant his wife a get.

Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi David Lau directed the burial society in Jerusalem not to proceed with the burial until the man ended his 15-year refusal to agree to a divorce.

Denying a Jew burial is allowed in rabbinical law only in extremely rare cases and it is almost unprecedented in a case of refusal to divorce (sarvanut get), even though such a possibility is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law.

Tuesday’s directive from Chief Rabbi Lau came after a ruling by the Beth Din of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, which stated that in this case it was “specifically applicable as the mother supported her son in refusing his wife a get.”

The mother, who has not been named, died two weeks ago in the US and the Bet Din’s ruling was issued in Brooklyn last Monday.

After her body was flown to Israel for burial, Chief Rabbi Lau was informed of the ruling and directed the chevra kadisha  (burial society) in Jerusalem not to carry out the funeral, which was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

This case has been causing controversy in Strictly Orthodox circles for years as the husband has been refusing his wife a divorce for 15 years. Five years ago he received a controversial rabbinical dispensation to marry a second wife. He did not arrive in Israel for his mother’s funeral for fear of being arrested.

The Chief Rabbinate’s Beth Din said in a statement that “after exhausting all other possibilities, we were forced to notify the chevra kadisha not to bury the mother until her son deposits a valid get.

“We are hopeful that this move will bring about a get speedily and release the woman from the ties of aginut  (being unable to remarry) after so many years.”

Following the rabbinate’s decision, a meeting was held between the woman’s lawyer and representatives of her husband’s family in which a clear commitment was made to grant her a get.

Following this, the funeral was allowed to proceed.

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