Sentence First… Trial After…
When I first started learning Dayyanut some seven years ago, there was a common question that everyone asked me. ”What stance are you going to take on Agunot?” Yup… it was a hot button issue then, and it is a hot button issue today. However, at the time I found the question quite jarring. What do you mean? I would ask, and the invariable response was, well are you going to go the liberal route and try to free Agunot, or are you going to go the conservative route and fight for the husbands.
Did I mention that this was when I first started learning Dayyanut? Back when I had even really cracked Even HaEzer yet. Back when I was still trying to wrap my head round how we constitute a Beit Din, what authority Dayyanim do and don’t have ect. Yet everyone, and really it was everyone, wanted to know what my stance was going to be. The conversation would go like this: They would ask, “Why do you cut out of Yeshiva at 1?” I would reply, “Because I got into a Kollel Dayyanim in the afternoons and I have to get over there.” To which they would respond, “So. What’s your position going to be on Agunot, you going to be a liberal or a conservative?” As if to say that you pretty much had to be pre-determined.
While my views weren’t(and still aren’t to be honest) determined on all the facets of the issue(while I have cracked Even HaEzer at this point, still haven’t dealt that thoroughly with Gittin, I figure my views will firm up about the time I am ready to test in it). So I would always respond, “I don’t know. I’m going to learn the Halakha and apply that, whatever the halakhic consensus is that is where I will be.” If figured that was a safe answer… Oh how wrong I was. The first guy I told that to, gave me a disgusted look, said, “I never woulda pegged you for a lefty liberal.” Took an angry puff on is cig, turned on his heel and stalked off. He didn’t talk to for a week, and we were in a small halakha shiur together. The second guy I said that to said, “Awesome we always need more liberal dayyanim, I should put you in touch with my mother she deals with Agunot issues all the time.”(His mother is a semi-famous Rebbetzin at a fairly large sem) He through his arm around me and started acting like my new best friend.
You know that if you tried that with any other area of halakha you would be called things that would make a salty sailor blush, however it is fully acceptable on this one issue. Which brings me back to the attempted conversations I have had on this regarding the Tamar Epstein affair. After some thought and post-seder introspection as I was walking to the learning session(as well as discussing the issue in general terms with a few Rabbanim), I have come to the conclusion that really it is not about facts or halakhot, it is about pre-determined positions. Really it has nothing to do with Mamzarut, Eshet Ish or any of the other things that those who are burning up the wires of the blogosphere with pejoratives, explicatives and deprecations, it has to do with what they(or someone else entirely) has told them the accepted position ought to be. It doesn’t matter that greats like Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shternbuch, the Late Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Yaskil Avdei, the Ben Ish Hai, or Rav Ovadia Yosef feel(or felt) and wrote differently. If they do not herald the pre-approved position they must be mistaken, and don’t bother me with your pilpul thank you very much.