Tuesday, October 11, 2011

R' Schachter Slams Batei Dinin

In an interview with Ami published on VIN, R' Herschel Schachter slams battei dinin (Jewish courts of law). [Hat tip: Eliezer StrongBad]

There is less of a surprise in the content of the interview (sadly) than in that he so openly discussed it, particularly the issues which he finds to be the most problematic (including to'ainim, people choosing and paying off their own judges, and the like). He offers a number of small suggestions that would help improve things, but overall he seems to feel that it depends on the people and their intent coming into beis din. If they have no interest in yashrus or justice then it is very difficult for a beis din to be formed properly and to mete out justice appropriately.

The most telling quotes:
Q: Would you call then the problem in the bais din system a crisis? A: It’s worse than a crisis. They tell me that there is a prominent talmid chacham in Flatbush who tells his baalei battim to go to a secular court because they stand a better chance of yoshor [justice] in a goyishe [non-Jewish] court than in a din Torah. If you ask him, he’ll deny it, but that’s what he tells people. Unfortunately, I think that the comment about yoshor is true.
Q: How do we bring public awareness to these problems? A: Rabbonim should speak about it. Why is there so much cheating in business? Rabbonim should get up once a year in shuls and speak about Lo sigzol, that you’re not allowed to cheat in business, and that you’re not allowed to cheat on your income tax. If you talk about it long enough it will have an effect on some of the baal habattim. Rabbonim have certain topics that they talk about in hashkafa. Let them give chizuk about gezel.
Q: Could there be a watchdog group, with rabbanim getting together to examine how the batei din are behaving? A: It’s a safek sakana [possible danger] for the watchdog group; they’re going to be killed.


  1. The only problem with having rabbanim speak about these issues, is that SOME of the rabbanim are the ones causing the issues- like the corruption in SOME batei din etc.

  2. Anon - Don't disagree, though I still wouldn't object to them talking about it. :)

  3. This is an extremely important issue for women in particular, both in ordinary disputes and the often shockingly-conditional deliverance of a get. Forget the Rabbis-- many times, women are at the mercy of corrupt or at least jaded to'ainim, and are left without the defense of anyone interested in helping them receive justice. There are a heartbreaking number of problems with the system, but this seems to me to be the best place to initiate reform. (And by "reform", I mean, "return to the actual system of objectivity and fairness designated by halacha.")

  4. Not a huge fan of this interview, especially his rant against lawyers. The secular courts resolve these problems through the rules of evidence and ethical requirements for lawyers.

  5. My dad says Jewish Beis Dins are extremely corrupt. I myself have no way of knowing or not knowing this but i cannot say I'm overly surprised.

  6. Proceedings in the "zabla" system can lack rules of order, permitting every known abuse of the principals and their time. This system also promotes the scandal of client-paid, essentially pre-bribed dayanim. And if one party wants instead to use a proper standing Bet Din, the other can tell him to buzz off, because the standing Bet Din has no way to pull anyone in against his will.

  7. This article is very informative about the Jewish judicial options in America:

  8. Nephtuli - I think he explains the point well; the issue is that lawyers essentially "lawyer" it, whereas the people themselves would more simply just talk about what happened honestly.

    i.e. lawyers are trying to win, whereas that's not what Beis Din is about, according to him.