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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Achrei Mot

Do Not Do Iniquity in Judgment

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Twice in our parasha (Vayikra 19:15; 19:35), the Torah stresses the commandment, "Do not do iniquity in judgment." This is certainly a sign that having a just judicial system is a major part of the success of society. This is so basic to a society that Hashem chose having a judicial system as one of the seven Noachide laws. However, for those who have an intricate Torah upon which to base their rulings, the fairness of the process is all the more stressed. We are told that when we are sitting in justice, Hashem is among us (Tehillim 82:1) and, to a great extent, we are representing Him.
We will take a look this week at the concept of compromise (p’shara) and its place within the framework of a din Torah (a Jewish court case). According to Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yossi Hagelili, a judge who renders a compromise ruling is a sinner, as he is required to arrive at the true judgment that the letter of the law mandates. The gemara (Bava Batra 133b) criticize judges of chatzatzta (of half, according to the Rashbam’s interpretation), who don’t know how to rule and, therefore, regularly award each side with half of their claim. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha, though, praises the judge who rules based on compromise as one who combines the concepts of truth and peace (see Sanhedrin 6b). According to him, beit din should incorporate the need for peace and friendship into the goals of the judicial system. In practice, we accept the view that beit din is supposed to urge the sides to agree to a compromise before they start hearing the case. However, they are not allowed to impose compromise on the sides. Certainly there should not be judges who have no choice but to compromise because of their ignorance.
One should realize that the judicial process can be a long and tiring one, sometimes requiring outlays of time and spiritual and physical resources. It sometimes requires uncovering business secrets, including strategies and one’s actual financial state, which may be different from what people on the outside think. Sometimes both sides have legitimate claims and the decision, thus, may not always be able to be black and white. Therefore, it is worthwhile for the litigants to consider strongly whether it pays for them to go through the entire process. Often, coming to a meeting of the minds that takes both one’s own and his counterpart’s interests and needs into account is wiser.
We pray that Hashem will grant our beit din, Mishpat V’Halacha B’Yisrael, which works hand-in-hand with Eretz Hemdah, His help so that we can succeed in "judging our counterpart with justice" and always avoiding violating, "Do not do iniquity in judgment."
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