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Why Submit Litigations to a Beth Din?

Published on Sunday April 4th, 2021

In general, the Beth Din (rabbinical court) is mainly used to deal with matrimonial matters (marriage, divorce, etc.). On the other hand, what is often overlooked is that it also plays a central role in litigation, commercial transactions, and other financial matters. We present you with a little reminder on this subject…

Turning to a Non-Jewish Court Is Not an Option!

Parshat Mishpatim begins with these words: "These are the statutes which you will place before them" (Shemot 21: 1). Why does the Torah emphasize that these laws must be exposed "before them"? According to Rashi, this tells us that one must submit all cases specifically to judges of Israel, but not to non-Jewish magistrates. He adds that when one turns to non-Jewish judges, one pays tribute to the object of their worship. However, all the decision-makers agree that this prohibition does not only concern idolatrous courts but all non-Jewish legal entities. Also, any legal procedure requiring a court is affected by this Torah law - not just matrimonial matters.

For what reason is it imperative to address a Beth Din? If the laws passed by a secular court do not conform to those of the Torah, it is obvious that one cannot submit to its decision, because it is likely to go against Halacha. However, as Rashi points out, even if non-Jews adopt the laws of the Torah, it is still forbidden to resort to their courts. The Rambam (Sanhedrin 26, 7 quoted in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Michpat 26: 1) even considers it as blasphemy.

A Torah of Life

At the establishment of the State of Israel, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog said, "Today, the Jewish people live on their land. But to our great despair, the civil courts adopt the laws of non-Jews. At the time of the Temple, the prophet denounced the Jews who went to the idolatrous prophets (Melachim II, 16). But this is the same principle in our time! Are there no judges who rule according to the Torah?!'' (Torah Umedina volume VII pages 9-10).

It is written in Psalms (147, 20): "[G-d.] Revealed His words to Ya'akov, His statutes, and His laws of righteousness to Israel. He did not do this for any other people; therefore, the laws remain unknown to them.'' Are non-Jewish nations not bound, according to the Noachide laws applying to all humanity, to judge equitably according to logic and truth? Why, then, do the laws remain "unknown" to them? This is because the statutes of the Torah are totally different in nature from the laws of the other nations. Indeed, it is written, "G-d stands in the counsel of judges" (Psalms 82.1) - He stands with the Sages, whose interpretations constitute the oral Torah. Their teachings are an integral part of the Torah, not less than the written Law transcribed in the Chumash.

In addition, G-d relied on the Torah to create the world. It is, therefore, the "user manual" in the same way that it was when the world was created. The Torah - written and oral - remains essential for our everyday life. When the Sages - of which the Dayanim (rabbinic judges) are the most faithful successors - decide on the most concrete questions, taking into account the smallest detail of daily reality, they thus inscribe the Torah in the very heart of existence. This is precisely the principle of the "oral Torah", which ensures the sustenance of the world through its involvement in every detail of life, and it goes to the very heart of current issues.

That is why it is essential, in the event of a dispute with a Jew, to submit the judgment to a court ruling in accordance with the Torah, and not to a non-Jewish tribunal.

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