During his weekly lesson on Saturday night, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas Party spiritual leader, harshly criticized the Israeli justice system, labeling it a “court of gentiles,” using a Talmudic term. Rabbi Yosef stated that according to Jewish law, judges presiding over Israeli courts should not be allowed to be witnesses at Jewish marriage ceremonies, implicating religiously observant judges as well.
Rabbi Yosef has bashed the Israeli justice system numerous times in the past, from a halakhic standpoint. This time, however, he went as far as labeling judges “wicked,” “incompetent witnesses,” and stating that they should not be allowed to lead synagogue prayers.
To support his assertion Rabbi Yosef referenced the High Court’s move to overturn the Tal Law, which largely exempted ultra-Orthodox men from conscription in the Israel Defense Forces, and claimed that the Israeli court judges “hate the Torah.”
“Whoever presides over a court of gentiles, and judges using the laws of gentiles, gives up the Torah of Moses, and is called wicked,” said Rabbi Yosef on Saturday night. “They judge according to the laws of the nations, not the Torah. They accept testimony from women. This is against the Torah,” continued Rabbi Yosef.
Rabbi Yosef related an incident presented to him, in which a couple married with an Israel court judge as a witness. Rabbi Yosef ordered them “to marry again, with a different ketubah. That ketubah is invalid. Why? He [the witness] is wicked, and incompetent to testify. It must be known.”
“They hate the torah, so they are incompetent as witnesses. There is no doubt. Any judge that presides over a secular court is invalid as a witness. They must not be used to witness matrimony, to sign the ketubah. It is forbidden,” said Rabbi Yossef. He went on to call such a marriage invalid, likening it to living in sin with a prostitute.
It was noted that the panel of Supreme Court judges that overturned the Tal Law contained religiously observant judges. Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who was central to the majority decision to overturn the law, included numerous texts from traditional Jewish texts in his written ruling.
According to Rabbi Yosef, “A fitting witness is a kosher person, a righteous, God-fearing person, an observant person, is an appropriate witness. Matrimony is a very serious thing. First and foremost a witness should be a serious, appropriate person.”