In Rare Ruling, Wife of Comatose Man Granted a Rabbinic Divorce

Jewish religious court in Israel rules that the husband's failure to disclose his history of mental illness prior to his marriage invalidates the union.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Bnei Brak’s ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court.
Bnei Brak’s ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

In an unusual step, an Israeli rabbinical court on Wednesday granted a divorce to a woman whose husband has been in a vegetative state since a suicide attempt in 2011.

The court, headed by rabbinic judge Maimon Nahari, pronounced the marriage dissolved on the grounds of "mekah ta’ut" - fraud or false pretenses.

The Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronoth reported on Wednesday that Miriam Katz filed for divorce after discovering after her marriage, in 2011, that her husband had a history of mental illness. The husband, whose name was not reported, subsequently tried to kill himself by hanging. He was rescued from death but has remained hospitalized and comatose ever since.

While liberal rabbinic authorities, such as the U.S. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, have ruled that mekah ta’ut can be revoked in situations where fundamental details about the groom, such as mental illness, were concealed from the bride before their wedding, in Israel the principle has only been revoked twice in the past decade.

The two earlier cases did not involved a man who could not present his position in court because of his physical condition.

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