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Rubin’s Retail received a letter of claim from Gross Suppliers, demanding payment for a shipment of merchandise. Mr. Rubin sighed. “I’ve already explained to them three times that I don’t owe them for that order,” he said to himself.

Mr. Rubin contacted his lawyer. “We received an official letter from Gross Suppliers about the questionable order,” he said. “Please respond with an official letter of denial. If this keeps up, I’m going to seriously consider switching suppliers.”

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A month later, Mr. Rubin received a summons to Rabbi Dayan’s beis din regarding the disputed claim of Mr. Gross.

At the din Torah, each side presented its position. The issue proved more complex than it initially seemed and litigation carried on for a number of sessions. Finally, the lawyers presented their summations.

Rabbi Dayan and his colleagues deliberated the issue. The halacha clearly was in favor of Mr. Gross – that payment was due for the shipment. However, there was a certain element of unfairness in the way the order was handled and delivered. Furthermore, the sum owed was a drop in the bucket for Mr. Gross but a significant amount for Mr. Rubin. Paying the full amount due was liable to threaten the viability of his store, which was already in a precarious financial position.

The dayanim reached the conclusion that Mr. Rubin was legally liable for the full sum. Rabbi Dayan issued the ruling to the parties.

After issuing the ruling, Rabbi Dayan called Mr. Gross into his private office. “You are entitled to full payment,” he said to Mr. Gross. “However, for the benefit of your ongoing business relationship, and on account of Mr. Rubin’s difficult financial circumstances, I would advise you to suffice with 75 percent of the amount.”

 

 

“If I am entitled to collect the full amount, why should I settle on 75 percent?” asked Mr. Gross. “Anyway, the time for mediation was before we came to beis din. Isn’t the role of beis din to rule?”

“The Gemara in Sanhedrin 6b teaches that beis din should offer the option of compromise and can sometimes even impose one,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Once the verdict has been issued, though, the dayanim cannot impose a compromise. That would be an injustice. If they were to do so, some consider it a taus b’dvar mishna, a blatant misruling, which is null and void.” (C.M. 12:3)

“Moreover,” he continued, “Tosfos and many other authorities maintain that once the judge knows what the ruling is, he should no longer advocate compromise. However, the Shulchan Aruch rules that until the verdict is issued, the dayan can still advocate compromise. The Shach (12:4) supports this position, since it is a mitzvah to achieve a peaceful resolution.”

“But you already issued the ruling,” said Mr. Gross. “Why are you suggesting that I compromise?”

“The Shulchan Aruch [C.M. 12:6] cites from the Agudah (Sanhedrin 1:6) that one who is not a dayan can mediate even after the ruling has been issued,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “He further cites from responsa of Rashba [1:1113], in name of Rav Hai Gaon, that this should be done elsewhere from beis din. The Shach [12:6] is even more lenient and writes that if the dayanim do not impose the compromise upon the litigants, but rather gently persuade them, not in an authoritative capacity, they are also allowed to do so. Most authorities do not accept this, but some still allow a word of advice. A story is told of the Chazon Ish, who ruled in favor of a landlord. Afterward he said, “Although you are right, you should let him off.” (Pischei Teshuvah 12:5; Moznayim Lamishpat; Ma’aseh Ish vol. 5, p. 30)

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.