Aug 31, 2014

should a beis din express sympathy to the victims?

I've been following the scandal/conflict regarding the four seminaries, with Elimelech Meisels and the two batei din on different continents and the other rabbis who somehow got themselves involved in the middle...I have read [probably] almost every post from both blogs dealing with the issue intensively.

I admit, I have been asked by many people why i have not written much about it (nothing at all except for one post at the beginning of the story). My answer has been that I have been following the story but find it so complicated to follow and understand all the nuances and details that I don't feel I can write about it. There is just too much that doesn't make sense to me.

That has not changed.

This post is not going to be about the case itself. The batei din and rabbis seem to have devolved into an argument based on nuances in the wordings of the various documents regarding who has the right to hear the case. Truth is, they seem to be trying to kill the public interest in the case by turning the discussion into one so mind-numbingly boring that people will eventually just move on to the next story.

The one thing that bothered me was that with all the arguing, with all the fighting over who has authority to hear complaints, to decide relevant issues - among all that arguing, I don't remember ever reading a statement expressing sympathy for the victims, offering them a "shoulder to cry on" of sorts, offering to direct them to people (probably professionals) who can help, nothing about  a wish for healing or an offer to help the healing process.

And it is not because they are disputing if anything happened.

The IBD, that is accused of protecting the Meisels interests, seemingly took it for granted that the accused was guilty - the arguing is about what has happened after that regarding sale of the businesses, er - I mean seminaries, and future merchandise - er, I mean young women who want to learn Torah.

Perhaps that's the key - the arguing is only about what happened later, so they haven't had to deal with the issue of the affected young women. But that's not true either. Arguing about the situation keeps the story in the public and fresh and opens the wounds for the victims. That is besides for what actually affects the women more directly - such as attacks on specific victims who have stepped forward, such as those attacks on one of the blogs (which is really what prompted this post).

Can't anybody find a moment to offer and express some human empathy among all the nitpicking over the other stuff?

The same question applies to more recent victims - there are lots of young women whose families have struggled to save or raise in the range of $20,000 for tuition, and they are at risk of losing that money. That is significant money for most people in the world.

Can't the batei din, arguing about issues that will have a direct affect on whether all those families lose all that money, or an affect on the seminary administration might lose a lot of money from cancellations, express some sympathy for the people on either side that will be financially devastated from a decision in either direction? This I understand a bit more because it is current - the issue has to be decided objectively, and such a statement might be inappropriate, rather than a statement for victims of the original situation which is no longer being dealt with.

Maybe it is just not in the job description of a beis din. They have to judge the case before them and that's it. I would find it hard to believe that it would be wrong of a beis din to act like automatons and not express some empathy for the affected people, when it does not affect their objectivity. If the arguing of the batei din would have no affect on the victims, it would not be necessary, so why ask them to do it.. but when the arguing dregs it all up and puts victims back on the pedestal in front of the public - then I think a word of sympathy might be warranted.

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  1. A question that should be dealt with.

    Do members of a Beis Din have the responsibility to bring emotions of sympathy, empathy, concern - into the halachic decision? or does empathy play a part in the Beis Din's dealings?

    1. definitely not. psak din needs to be just and fair, not sympathetic. but that does not mean the dayanim should not have empathy for the people hurt

  2. the idea that a legal system - any legal system, has no place to color their judgment by empathy/sympathy for victims is a problem. We are not robots living in a technocratic society. Laws are designed to make society a better place. There is a difference between blind justice and heartless justice.

    Like an innocent man who stays in jail because his appeals have been exhausted even though new evidence has come to light.

    A legal system without a heart is not a legal system worth having.


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