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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brutally Honest

If you have not seen this interview with Rabbi Schacter of AMI magazine, then you should head on over to VIN and check it out for yourself. I'm absolutely blown away that it was a) spoken and b) published.

I simply don't know enough about Batei Din to even comment or weigh in with an opinion. However, I was just discussing with my husband the fact that when you have a dispute with a frum owned business, e.g., that you are simply stuck between a rock and a hard place. American small claims courts are inexpensive, but you risk your reputation to use them to settle a claim. To take a person who owes you to a Beit Din is costly (or at least that is my impression based on the amount my friend and her former husband paid to have a get written up after all was settled in family court) and the cost is underwritten by the litigants. Rabbi Schacter talks about a million dollar dispute. Those with multi-hundred or a couple thousand in dispute have little choice but to sit it out and hope that they get something someday. And, if they do, they have to wonder if what they get will be taken back in a bankruptcy proceeding. Unfortunately I know of far too many cases where people have not been paid, but they simply have no leverage. And, yes, I'm bitter about it. It destroys the foundation of a trustworthy and honest society!


JS said...

No personal experience with beit din, but a close family friend is a CPA and went after some frum clients in beit din because he felt it was the right thing to do. The former clients were very wealthy and well-known in the community. They were engaged in all sorts of business shenanigans and wouldn't give the CPA proper information. He didn't want to risk his license and reputation so he stepped away and asked for his fees for the work he did.

The beit din ended up saying he owed his clients money! They reduced his fees, chose to believe the client as to work done, and in the end declared the whole thing a wash (fees he was owed were equal to what he owed his client).

Our family friend was SO ANGRY. He's such an honest person to a fault and the former client was a complete scofflaw doing shady business deals. But, the former client had connections and he didn't.

BenSira said...

I was surprised to read this. It seems the main complaint is that lawyers mess up the system, and they should be outlawed. Coming from an American perspective, this sounds very surprising. Of course people want to bring lawyers with them to a court case! Personally, I would feel much more confident of justice in a secular court which is much more well-regulated and open to scrutiny than a beit din.

aaron from L.A. said...

It's a sad day when you have a better chance of getting justice from a secular court than a Jewish one.I shudder to think what Hakadosh Baruch Hu is thinking.I often try to find some humor in things,but I'm at a complete loss with this.

Mike S. said...

My comment seems to have been swallowed.

BenSira: Yes it is strange. That is because beit din is supposed to be not only, or even primarily, a dispute resolution mechanism. it is about both parties doing what is proper in God's eyes and repairing the relationship with Him. The gemara in Sanhedrin says that both parties should leave court singing. One because he has the money in dispute, the other because he no longer is in possesion of stolenb property.

Larry Lennhoff said...

It seems to me that the first half of the article is about how it is a bad idea to allow litigants legal representation, because they restrict the power of the dayanim to make ruling based on the ignorance of the litigants. Then he spends the second half talking about how the dayanim are corrupt. So why is it a good idea to leave the litigants defenseless against corrupt dayanim?

What he appears to me to be saying is that if the dayanim were living up to their responsibilities, it would be better if they didn't have any external checks on their power. I'm sorry, but I think Lord Acton explained the flaw in that reasoning centuries ago.

Miami Al said...

Let me see if I follow the logic:

1. Current Bais Din system does not focus on getting the actual facts, it therefore rules correctly.

2. Many dayanim are prejudiced, dishonest, and act on behalf on one side.

3. The representatives of the clients aggressively protect their clients, in dispute of the dayanim.

4. His example of a "proper" resolution was his example where the Yeshiva veiled to pay their recruiter (referred to by the derogatory term head hunter), and while he ruled on his behalf, he shamed the man into not getting paid... This is justice?

And his solution:

Get rid of toanim and leave the litigants completely at the mercy of the dayanim that he claims are corrupt...

WOW... I am terrified that this is his logical thought process, given his standing in the Modern Orthodox world...

I think the BIGGEST problem that Rabbis like him have is that they exist in an echo chamber of yes-men. The greatest intellect, unchallenged, will become less logical and less sharp over time. His solution is NOT a solution, it only makes it worse.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, dayanim are not supposed to be corrupt, so any rationally reorganized system has to weed out the corrupt. Likewise, toanim who abuse the process or the people in it should be disciplined or blacklisted. Fixing a decentralized, voluntary system with all these problems will be a challenge.

JS said...

I really don't know the various laws surrounding the beit din system, but it would seem to me based on this article that it lacks a lot of the rules and procedures that are in place in a Western court or arbitration process. The Western legal system has evolved over centuries and has developed rules and procedures for dealing with corruption and improper advocacy. Obviously the Western system is not perfect, but it seems it's way ahead of the beit din system (at the very least this seems to be acknowledged by Rabbi Schachter who says the US civil system is preferable).

Again, I don't know the laws behind beit din, but if at all possible under the halachic system, they should reform it along the lines of modern day court and arbitration processes if they wish for the beit din system to become respectable and the go-to system for frum Jews.

Sometimes the best course of action isn't to look in a book and see how it was done centuries or millenia in the past.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al,
He was clearly saying that both corrupt toanim and corrupt dayanim are the problem. And the solution was not to leave everything in the hands of corrupt dayanim, but to somehow get tid of them and use only honest dayanim.

Al, Just because a Rabbi said it doesn't mean you have to attack it. It's really irritating. Do us all a favor and try to overcome your biases for once. Grow up.

Miami Al said...


Yes, he fully identified a problem, and in detail provided examples of it and what is wrong.

However, his proposed solution does not address the problem.

That's the part that concerns me. I applaud his leadership in identifying the problem, but am terrified that his proposed solution fails to address it.