The strange story of the Get of Kleve (or Cleves) rocked the rabbinical world of the 1760’s. What commenced as an innocuous question regarding a young man’s mental faculties, and his resulting capability of participating in a divorce ceremony, soon exploded into a general dispute about a rabbinical courts sole jurisdiction over a halachic dispute and the imposing of majority opinion among rabbis.
While the Frankfurt rabbinical court maintained that the groom in question was insane and therefore the get which he delivered was invalid, an increasing number of rabbis across Europe agreed with Rav Yisrael Lifshitz regarding the validity of the get. Eventually Rav Yechezkel Landau of Prague, the Noda B’yehuda, entered the fray, insisting that the divorce document was valid. The dispute can be viewed within the larger context of events of Jewish society of the 18th century, with loosening control of the kahal and early signs of modernity causing instability within the circles of established authority.
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