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Fire-ravaged Israelis ‘may no longer be married’ if crucial documents are destroyed

A remark made by Rabbi Mordechai Abramovsky, the Chief Rabbi of Israel’s Zichron Yaakov community, casts status of thousands of marriages into doubt.

    Families living in a wide swathe of Israel’s southern flank – from the Dead Sea to Nahariya – have been affected by over 1,700 interconnected wildfires that have been raging for almost a month.

    But now they have an additional problem. They may no longer be legally married.

    The Rabbi of Zichron Yaakov, Mordechai Abramovsky, in an interview with Charedi website Kikar Shabbat, said that in cases where a married couple’s ketubah had been destroyed they should no longer live together as man and wife.

    In Haifa alone, 1,600 people have had their homes destroyed by fire in November. No figures are available on the percentage of couples that had managed to rescue their ketubah from the destruction of their homes.

    Abramovsky went on to say that that although a ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi, exempted Sephardi Jews from the prohibition against living without a ketubah, Ashkenazi Jews could rely on no such statement and would need a new document prepared before continuing with married life.

    A later statement, issued by Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau on Monday, tempered Rabbi Abramovsky’s words.

    They announced that couples could continue living together even if their ketubah had been burned because local rabbinates would have copies of their ketubah on file.

    In such cases, though, a ketubah d’Irkasa (replacement ketubah) should be procured as soon as possible.

    The rules regarding ketubot date from the Talmudic era, and are designed to protect the rights of a woman within marriage.

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