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כ״ז בשבט ה׳תש״ע (February 11, 2010)


“That you shall Place Before Them”

Mishpatim 5770

On the verse, “These are the ordinances that you shall place before them” (Shemot 21:1), Chazal comment: “before them – and not before non-Jews.” (Gittin 88b) We learn from this the prohibition to adjudicate before secular courts. Thus, the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch (26:1) rule vehemently: “It prohibited to litigate before non-Jewish judges and in their courts even in a case that they rule the same as Jewish law. Even if the two litigants agreed to adjudicate before them – it is prohibited. Anyone who comes to litigate before them is wicked, and it is as if he cursed and blasphemed and raised his hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu a”h.”

What is the reason for the severity of this issue? The source of the Rambam is from the Midrash (Tanchuma Mishpatim #3):

Anyone who leaves Jewish judges and goes before non-Jews, first denied G-d, and afterwards denied the Torah, as it says, “For not like our Rock is their rock – yet our enemies judge us.” (Devarim 32:31) What is this comparable to? To a sick person that the doctor came to visit … The one who will live, I told him, “Do not eat this food,” so that his illness should not worsen. Similarly … to Israel I gave mitzvot and laws that are good, as it says, “You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live.” (Vayikra 18:5)

The judicial system is the system by which society lives. In addition to the specifics of the laws themselves, the judicial system is nourished by, and also shapes the culture and value system of the society. G-d was concerned to give Am Yisrael good laws and ordinances, and was particular that they should not change them with others, so that they should live by them. Therefore, one who abandons these laws and adopts another system is like on who denies the Torah.

Based on this we understand that the prohibition is not only non-Jewish judges, but also a Jewish judicial system that is not in accordance with Torah law. Thus, the Chazon Ish (Sanhedrin 15:4) writes that there is no difference between a non-Jewish judge and a Jewish judge who rules according to made-up laws. “It is even more indecent, that they exchanged the laws of the Torah for meaningless laws.” Therefore, also in Eretz Yisrael there is a prohibition of arkaot in going before the State civil courts. Instead, one should go before a Beis Din also for monetary matters.

About this we pray three times a day, “Hashiva shofeteinu k’varishona … u’meloch aleinu atah Hashem levadecha – Restore our judges as at first … and rule over us You Hashem alone.”

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