Parshas Mishpatim.


The laws of Jewish court – Bais Din.


1. The Creator gave us in His Torah not only the laws of prayer, marriage and divorce – these laws are understood to come under the domain of religion even by the nations of the world, but even the laws of commerce, financial decisions by the court and guarding other people’s property are also defined by the Torah. In certain ways the laws that guard our relationship with others may be even more important than the commandments that have to do only with our relationship with the Creator. The one who violates the prohibitions regarding others is also transgressing his obligations to the Creator. When he tries to repent he does not reach forgiveness until the person he offended is compensated and forgives him. Moreover, those that transgress the laws guarding our relationship with other people cause “Chilul Hashem” – profanation of the Divine Name. We will be discussing some of the Torah’s financial laws here and more in Parshios Vayikra, Kedoshim and Behar. These laws are quite complicated and in any case of doubt one has to consult a competent Rabbi.


2. If two Jews have a monitory dispute it is preferable to decide it peacefully between themselves. Sometimes the best solution may be a compromise. However if no concession was achieved and they need to go to court, they should only go to a Jewish Bais Din. It is strictly forbidden to go to non-Jews for judgment. Only if one of the sides repeatedly refuses the summons from the Bais Din the other side obtains permission from a Bais Din to go to a secular court. In general anyone who has to go to a non-Jewish court whether as a plaintiff, as a lawyer or as a witness should consult a Rabbi beforehand regarding what he is allowed to tell without breaking the laws of Torah.


3. During the judgment in Bais Din one is forbidden to lie even if he knows that he is right in this dispute and he thinks that by lying he will get his fair share. It is also forbidden to give bribes even if one knows that he is right and he is not trying to get more than he deserves. The witnesses are also forbidden to lie even if this will cause restoration of justice. For example a person is not allowed to ask his friend: “You know I never lie. Such and such actually borrowed from me $1000 and does not want to pay. I have only one witness, can you also come with me to Bais Din so he thinks I have two witnesses and will admit that he owns me the money.”


The laws of helping to load and unload an animal.


1. If one sees that somebody’s animal fell under its load we are required to help the owner unload it. This law is one of the examples of the Torah’s commandment to avoid causing suffering to animals, see Parshas Emor. After helping to unload the animal, there is another commandment to help load it with the weight it is capable of carrying. However, one is allowed to ask for a payment for the loading. After this, one should walk with the owner for about 2.5 miles to make sure the animal does not fall down again. He is allowed to ask for payment for this as well. Of course if the owner says he does not need further help one can leave him.


2. If the owner does not want to unload the animal asking that we alone do the mitzvah, we are not required to do it. The Torah only commands us to help him – not to have to do everything ourselves.


3. If a group of people are traveling together and one’s car broke, if the fixing will not take a long time he should not be left alone.