||Letter by R. Zvi Pesah Frank to the Chief Rabbi of Haifa requesting that a husband who has abandoned his wife in Jerusalem (agunah) be forced to write his wife a divorce. The condition of the agunah is a particularly sensitive issue in halakhah. An agunah is defined as a married woman who, for whatsoever reason, is separated from her husband and cannot remarry, either because she cannot obtain a divorce from him or because it is unknown whether he is still alive. The term is also applied to a yevamah (a levirate widow; if she cannot obtain halizah from the levir or if it is unknown whether he is still alive (Git. 26b, 33a; Yev. 94a; and Posekim). The problem of the agunah is one of the most complex in halakhic discussions and is treated in great detail in halakhic literature.
R. Zvi Pesah Frank (1873–1960), chief rabbi of Jerusalem and halakhic authority, was born in Kovno, Lithuania. His father, R. Judah Leib, was one of the leaders of the "Haderah" society in Kovno which founded the village of Haderah in Erez Israel. He studied under R. Eliezer Gordon at Telz and under R. Isaac Rabinowitz at Slobodka. He attended the musar discourses of R. Israel Lipkin of Salant. In 1893 he proceeded to Jerusalem where he continued his studies at the yeshivot of Ez Hayyim and Torat Hayyim. He acquired an outstanding reputation, combining a profound knowledge of the Talmud with sound common sense. Despite his youth, he was encouraged by R. Samuel Salant, the rabbi of Jerusalem, who consulted with him in his halakhic decisions. In 1895 he married Gitah-Malkah, granddaughter of R. Hayyim Jacob Spira, head of the Jerusalem bet din. Subsequently he taught at a number of Jerusalem yeshivot. In 1902 he moved to Jaffa in order to be able to devote himself entirely to study. R. A. I. Kook had already taken up his appointment there, and later he and R. Frank associated in the efforts to establish the rabbinate of Israel.
In 1907 R. Frank was appointed by R. Salant and the scholars of Jerusalem as a member of the Bet Din Gadol in the Hurvah synagogue. Although he was its youngest member, the burden of the bet din, and the religious affairs of the city fell mainly upon his shoulders. He conducted single-handedly the spiritual administration of the city in the difficult days of World War I. The Turks tried to send him into exile in Egypt, but he hid in an attic from where he directed the rabbinical affairs of the city until the entry of the British (December 1917). The rabbinate was in a perilous state and Frank made strenuous efforts to raise its status, both materially and spiritually. He understood the importance of founding a central rabbinical organization, and immediately after the British occupation, took steps to found "The Council of Rabbis of Jerusalem." This organization, however, was shortlived. Later, however, he established the "Rabbinate Office," which became the nucleus of the chief rabbinate of Israel, and on his suggestion R. A. I. Kook was invited to become chief rabbi of Palestine in 1921. In the violent controversy which resulted, fomented by the extreme religious section which saw no halakhic precedent for such an appointment, R. Frank brought proof to bear. In 1936 he was elected chief rabbi of Jerusalem. In consequence of his preeminence as a halakhist, the appointment was accepted by all parties, including those who opposed him on political grounds.