- Question: [Tuesday, 13th Sivan, 5781]
There is a well-known individual in my community who owes me a large sum of money already for several years, and everything that I have tried to do to get him to pay has been futile, with him giving one excuse after another, and practically not paying me any of the sum that he owes. Obviously, I’m quite upset at this person and would like to take him to a Beis Din, although am very reluctant to do so in order not to create Machlokes. I would like to know how severe it really is to take someone to Beis Din, and do I have to feel any guilt for doing so? Will I be held liable in heaven for making Machlokes?
Not only is there no issue with taking someone to a Jewish court of law if you have a monetary claim against him, but on the contrary, it is considered praiseworthy to do so, so long as it is done in a respectful manner without arousing unrelated enmity between the parties, as brought below from the Pela Yoeitz. [Obviously, a person has the right to let go and ignore and forgive petty claims against an individual for the sake of peace, and for the sake of his own mental tranquility, and doing so is praiseworthy, nonetheless, if the claim is very severe such as it involves a large sum which he cannot forgive and ignore, then it is praiseworthy for him to take it to Beis Din, and doing so is not considered to transgress a prohibition of holding onto a Machlokes, or creating a Machlokes, and on the contrary he’s taking the right steps in trying to solve it. At the same time, one should make all efforts in solving the issue with the other party on his own in a loving and peaceful way prior to resorting to taking him to court, which can cause both parties much unnecessary expenses, time, and mental exertion. In the event that one is taking the person to court after exhausting all other efforts, one must exert effort to avoid having the monetary claim in court turn into a personal vendetta and real dispute, and simply have it remain as a business related matter, all the while retaining the respect and brotherly love for the other individual.]
Explanation: There seems to be a great misconception in the concept of taking somebody to Beis Din, that people think that it is something that is wrong to do, due to it starting a confrontation with the other person, and rather they should go on for years holding their claims in their minds and holding a grudge in their hearts. In truth, going to a Beis Din for the sake of them giving adjudication and justice between man and his fellow, is an encouraged act and is considered a great mitzvah. In fact, the sages state that when there is no judgment below then there is judgment above and when there is judgment below then there is no judgment above. This means to say that if somebody owes money to somebody else for whatever reason, and he refuses to pay, then this causes a persecution above in the heavenly courts against that individual, and possibly against the Jewish people as a whole r”l. However, when there is judgment taking place below in a Jewish court of law between the two parties, then the heavenly courts release the case to them and no longer take part in it, hence saving the defendant and perhaps the rest of the Jewish people from unnecessary severities. Accordingly, the Poskim rule that although there are various limitations toward court proceedings that are relevant to the 10 days of repentance in order to avoid arousing judgment above in heaven, nonetheless, regarding a monetary claim between two individuals there are no limitations being that it is a mitzvah to remove a stolen item from the perpetrator, and remove judgment from the heavenly tribute. Thus, rather than looking at the power of taking someone to court as an act of increasing dispute and discord, one should look at it as an act of trying to make peace between the parties. Now, although we do find traditionally that there were righteous Jews and Tzadikim who avoided taking anyone to court in order to diminish fights, nonetheless, they were accustomed to forgive and forget the claims against the individual and no longer hold it against them. By such people, certainly there is no obligation or motivation for them to take the matter to court being that they have already settled it in their own hearts. However, those individuals who continue to hold a grudge and monetary claim against the other person, especially if it leaves them no peace, are certainly encouraged to take their claim to a Jewish court, as stated above.
In the words of the Pela Yoeitz: “Although the Talmud states that one whose cloak is taken away due to a court verdict is to rejoice in the fact that judgment was done, practically we see today the opposite and immediately after the verdict the person is boiled with anger and becomes the stark enemy of his opponent. This in truth is a mistake, as the person did nothing wrong by seeking judgment in court. According however to this fact on the ground, one who desires peace should avoid as much as possible to taking someone else the court and should rather try to solve the dispute with friends and acquaintances, and if he must take him to court then he should first approach him and speak to him words of peace and love telling him that he is still his friend and brother but since they have a difference of opinion they need mediation to solve it for them, and therefore they should go to a Jewish court in a peaceful manner and we will do whatever they tell us. When they go to the court, they should each make their claims in a respectful manner and low voice without screaming at each other, or entering into each other’s claims, and whoever comes out guilty should accept the verdict with love and joy and accept to be friends with his opponent like before. Likewise, he should judge his fellow favorably regarding whatever claim he makes, and doing so is the best way to keep the peace between the parties.”
Sources: See Pela Yoeitz Mishpat Udin; Regarding the great importance and mitzvah of adjudicating cases in a Beis Din, see: Bereishis Raba 5:4; Tanchuma Mishpatim 4 and Shoftim 6; All Poskim quoted next; Sanhedrin 7a; See regarding the 10 days of repentance: Admur 602:5; Levush 603; Taz 602:1; M”A 602:1; M”E 602:33; Ruach Chaim 602:1; M”B 602:9; Kaf Hachaim 602:16