Although it is a very big mitzvah to lend money, some people are reluctant to do so because they know of loans that proved difficult to collect. Must you lend someone money if you are not sure it will ever be repaid? What do you do if you lent money to someone who seemed very honest and sincere, but now that it comes time to repay, he informs you that he is penniless? What may you do and what may you not do to collect your money? How can you guarantee that you get your money back?
Our parasha opens with the pasuk, “These are the statutes that you shall place before them” (Shemot 21:1). This is the source for Chazal’s derasha that adjudication is to be done in front of a Jewish beit din and not before non-Jews or those who are not trained in Torah law (Gittin 88b). The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 26:1) rules this way, including in cases in which both sides agree to the non-Torah arrangement. Not only that, but one who is not careful on this matter is called a “rasha” and like “one who blasphemes the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.”
As we customarily do on Parashat Mishpatim, we will discuss an element of our approach to the challenges of jurisprudence at the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit rabbinical courts. This time: what is the halachic status of a corporation, and how do our batei din handle the matter?
In the past, we presented sources on the topic of an appeal’s court in a beit din system and the policy of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit network. The echoes from the big dispute that accompanied the establishment of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Courts reverberate to this day. It started between the rabbis of Yerushalayim and those of Yafo, and it turned into a machloket between supporters of the Chief Rabbinate, founded by Rav A.Y. Kook z.t.l., and opponents, led by Rav Chaim Zonnenfeld z.t.l.
Our parasha has many references to matters of proper jurisprudence, which we like to focus on. This time we will explore some of the parasha’s more general instructions given to batei din and their proximity to another mitzva that is dear to us. In Shemot 23:6-8, the Torah warns not to tip justice against the poor, to stay away from falsehood, and not to take bribes. The Torah (ibid. 9) forbids harming foreigners/converts. This is followed by three p’sukim on the Shabbat of the land (=Shemitta) and on standard Shabbat. Some of our great thinkers searched for connections between these matters.