Thoughts on the Beth Din of Rav Dovid Feinstein re: RSK and RNG
By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
When I first heard of the Beth Din of Rav Dovid Feinstein, I was fearful and negative, for the simple reason that I felt he was doing mission impossible, to satisfy Rabbis Shmuel Kaminetsky and Noto Greenblatt, and the halacha. As I understand it, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky asked for this Beth Din. Now, he asked for this Beth Din to save his reputation which is now in tatters because great rabbonim in Israel, America and Canada have clearly written that Tamar has no right to remarry without a GET and if she does she lives in sin and her children will be mamzerim. If so, how can Rav Dovid make RSK and RNG happy unless he says what they want to hear, that Tamar may remarry without a GET. And if Reb Dovid would permit this, it would be a major catastrophe, not just for Torah, but for Reb Dovid, because at this point, the whole world knows the darker side of Reb Shmuel, and even Rav Dovid cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Susequently, I heard that somebody was working very hard to improve things, and based upon that, I had more confidence and was willing to give things a chance. Yesterday, I found out that nothing has changed, and that the situation is dragging on now for two weeks, and nobody sees an end to this for the above reason. As one very prominent person told me, Rav Dovid will surely not permit Tamar to remarry without a GET, but if he phrases his negative attitude in a manner that shows that RSK is still a Gadol, or if he phrases it in a way that does not clearly indicate how bad it was and how wicked it was, this will be a great problem. I spoke yesterday at length with two major poskim, and both were very upset about the Beth Din and wished that it would disappear.
As I understand, those in opposition to the Beth Din are ready to start speaking out against it. I don’t know where all of this will end up, and it may drag on and it may dissolve or it may succeed somehow. But what exactly will happen nobody knows. I want to express here what I heard from major poskim who have extensive experience with the world of pesak and Torah.
First of all, there is outrage that Reb Dovid did not immediately order Tamar to separate from her boyfriend. Even if we hold that a woman who was told by a Beth Din to remarry without a GET is not a sinner, because she followed the established Beth Din, and is ONUS, like a forced woman, Tamar was not forced to marry, and was clearly aware that the greatest rabbis opposed her remarrying without a GET. A major rabbi in Philadelphia went to Israel and spoke to the elder and Gaon Rav Nissim Karelitz about the case and was told that she may not remarry without a GET. This major rabbi returned to Philadelphia and told Tamar and her mother, but they were not interested. Now, the opinion that permits a woman to remarry talks about a case where there was only one Beth Din and it was the accepted Beth Din and it permitted the woman with no question. But when a very senior Rov and his Beth Din forbid the woman to remarry, but somebody comes along, without a Beth Din, and permits her, and she knows that the great rabbi forbade it, she is not forced to remarry. And therefore, she is an intentional sinner and surely was never “forced” to marry.
The fact that Rav Dovid has been sitting on this case for two weeks whereby nothing has been done, and Tamar is living with her boyfriend in very serious sin, is a great complaint against the Beth Din. On the other hand, this Beth Din is not there to tell people that RSK and RNG erred in their pesak. Everybody knows that all ready and many great rabbis have clearly stated this. The Beth Din of Reb Dovid is to try, if it is at all possible, to make a statement that RSK and RNG will accept to the extent that they will openly admit that they were wrong. This would be a great achievement because these two rabbis are very prominent and many women would accept their opinions if they do not change their minds. This is the main benefit of this Beth Din.
The question though is, whether satisfying the two rabbis is right. If as is widely assumed that they did some very bad things, how can they be honored by Rav Dovid and his Beth Din after they encouraged a woman to remarry without a GET, and have a child that will be a mamzer?
The great problem is the Agudah. If the Agudah is pressuring Reb Dovid to go easy on Reb Shmuel, we don’t know what will happen. Therefore, at this point, the reputations of RSK and RNG and the Agudah is at stake, and nobody knows where the wind will blow. The great rabbis that I spoke to are furious that Reb Dovid is silent on the issue of Tamar staying with her boyfriend. They are also very upset that Rav Dovid may temper his criticism of the Tamar heter to somehow hint that RSK and RBG are really prominent rabbis and maybe what they said was not based on lies, etc. That would be a great problem.
I have written this briefly, to present the situation. One thing is for sure: If at this juncture, Rav Dovid will release a statement that erases or even eases the evil done by these two rabbis, it will not be accepted, other than in Agudas Israel, which is the only one who has a dog in this fight because the Agudah treats Reb Shmuel as a great gadol. And if Reb Dovid criticizes him it would besmirch the Agudah. So it is unlikely that this episode will end quickly or in a way that everyone will accept. It will probably just feed the fumes of another round of ferocious criticism of the rabbis who permitted Tamar to remarry without a GET, but this time, if Reb Dovid backs them, he will be the target, but whether he is worried about those things I don’t know.