Sunday, August 26, 2012
The Problem With Beis Din
"You set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment.
You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words." --Deuteronomy 16:18-19
Rashi, the most authoritative commentator on the Bible and Talmud, expounds on the verse "You shall not show favoritism," explaining that even during the preliminary petitioning, judges should not direct one litigant to stand while allowing the other to sit -- the appearance of favoritism for one might cause the other litigant to lose faith in the court and assume that there is no point in arguing his case.
According to Jewish law, in most circumstances, it is forbidden to litigate civil disputes in a secular court. Instead, we are required to argue before a rabbinic court, also known as a Beis Din. Historically, traditional Jews took this prohibition very seriously and throughout the generations have continuously resolved their disputes in rabbinic courts.
Lately, there has been a shift, and many people in the United States are reluctant to appear before rabbinic courts, believing them to be unsystematic, disorganized and perhaps even outright corrupt.
It is true that many rabbinic courts don't keep transcripts or records of proceedings.
Another major issue facing rabbinic courts is the lack of geographical jurisdiction. Many rabbinic courts hear cases in the same geographic area and there are often disputes over who has true jurisdiction.
Additionally, some rabbinic judges are paid by the hour, and I know of several cases of unexplained prolonged litigation.
Each of the sides chose two rabbis, and Rabbi Rosenberg from Monsey was hired to be Chief Justice.
After many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to both of the parties, the Rosenberg court ruled that only two of the rabbis currently on the disputed court were legitimately elected and instructed the community to hold elections for a third rabbi.
The Rosenberg court set out several qualifications for those seeking to run, including the need for rabbinic ordination, and was responsible for vetting the candidates.
Obviously, the implications of this story were very embarrassing to the Rosenberg rabbinic court, whose job it was to vet the candidates, but the impact goes beyond the Rosenberg court, in that such events undermine public confidence in the entire rabbinic court system.
A complaint was also filed to the Rosenberg court questioning their ability to be impartial.
Since if the elections are overturned, they may be responsible to refund the thousands of dollars their apparent mistake cost the community.
The Rosenberg court did not recuse themselves at that point. Instead they delivered a majority ruling that the Rabbi-Elect was indeed ordained properly.
Reb Mendel told them the verse states, "Pekudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev," which translates to, "The edicts of God are just, and gladden the heart" (Tehillim 19:9.).
By Yaacov Behrman Huffington Post.