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Shabbat Parashat Bereishit | 5769

The Rabbanut Court System as a Set Court

P'ninat Mishpat



(based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 47- A Condensation of a P’sak by the Supreme Rabbinical Court, from Shurat Hadin VII, pp. 461-2)

 

Case: One of the litigants, who lives in Beit Shemesh, wants a matter adjudicated at the Eidah Chareidis of Jerusalem’s court. The other litigant wants to adjudicate in the Rabbanut Regional Court of Jerusalem (Beit Shemesh is within the Rabbanut’s Jerusalem region). It is hard to tell from the initial presentation of the sides who is considered the plaintiff and who is considered the defendant.

Ruling: In this case, it is irrelevant who is the plaintiff and who is the defendant based on the following source (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 3:1): “Three can judge a person against his will … if the defendant refuses to appear before the court or does not want to adjudicate in their city. However, if he wants to adjudicate in their city but does not want the three judges that the plaintiff chose, then each one chooses one judge.” The Rama adds: “It seems to me that this is true only when the dayanim are not set, but if there are set dayanim in the city, one cannot say: ‘I will not adjudicate before them but I want to choose one.’ And this is the practice in our town.” We see from the Rama that when there is a set beit din in the city, that beit din should be used.

The next question is what constitutes a beit din kavua (set court). The Supreme Rabbinical Court ruled that specifically the regional courts under the Israeli government’s auspices qualify. Outside of Israel, the bodies that choose the batei din do not necessarily consist of religious representatives. However, in Israel the law mandates that a panel that picks dayanim is comprised of a predominant majority of religious people. Therefore, the Rabbinate’s chosen panels are considered like “the authority of the place.”

It is true that beit din allows a defendant to say that he belongs to a certain local subgroup within the Jewish community. However, this is when it is clear that his request is not based on ulterior motives. In our case, the situation is different for two reasons. 1) The Eidah Charedis constitutes a separate subgroup only in Jerusalem, which is based on a situation that existed already at the time of the British Mandate. Every other place in the country has only one community, with one religious council and one local rabbi [Ed. note – it is not clear that this is still the situation]. Since the litigant who requested the Eidah Charedis court is a resident of Beit Shemesh, it is clear that he does not belong to the Eidah Charedis of Jerusalem. 2) Since the litigant who requests to adjudicate before the Eidah Charedis holds a rabbinical position within the regular religious council, it is absolutely clear that he does not belong to the Eidah Charedis.

Therefore, the case shall be heard in the Regional Rabbinical Court of the Jerusalem region.

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