Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim is a multifaceted worldwide organization devoted to unique educational initiatives and specialized training for Rabbonim and poskim. Rabbi Meir Simcha Lerner has been chosen to help launch and direct the new headquarters in Lakewood for the Chesed V’Mishpat program in conjunction with the To’ein Rabbani Course. I had the opportunity to speak with Rabbi Lerner:
Q: Can you please give a simple definition of a to’en.
A: A to’en is trained to help guide a person in need of adjudicating a case or query through the Bais Din system. A to’en is able to prepare, advocate, and represent a person in a Bais Din proceeding.
Q: Can you explain the background of using a to’en?
A: Sure. The halacha states in Shulchan Aruch: Choshen Misphpat (siman 17, s’if 9) “if a dayan sees that a litigant is struggling to explain their arguments in an important matter, then it is permissible to assist him in formulating his argument as the posuk in Mishlei (31:8) says:”p’sach picha l’elaim- you should open your mouth on behalf of the mute as long as you are careful not to be k’orchei hadayanim.” This means the dayan cannot become the litigant’s advocate. It is clear from this halacha that a dayan can accommodate litigants in stating their case, but the dayan needs to maintain an open mind for all sides in the case.
The Gemora in Bava Kama 117 b, tells the story of Rav Abba who incurred a damage and was advised to go to a certain Bais Din that was known to rule in favor of people who had incurred such damages. Rav Abba followed the advice and was successful in his Din Torah. As mentioned in Tosfos, Shavuos 31A, the Torah considers it a great mitzvah to help a person retrieve money or settle financial matters.
Evidence of using the term To’en is found in responsa from the 15th century and on. There is a teshuva in the 1400’s from Rabbi Yisroel Bruna, an Ashkenazi Rav who was a primary source for the Rama, discussing the question of whether a to’en can switch sides in a case. The S’MA, Rabbi Yehoshua Falk, a talmid of the Rama, at the turn of the 17th century, wrote in his sefer on the Shulchan Aruch, that it is already an accepted practice to have your case presented by an advocate and there can be no objection to this. It is also known that to’enim were frequently present in the Bais Din of the Ha’fla-ah, Rabbi Pinchus Halevi Horowitz in the 1700’s.
Q: What is the role of a to’en today?
A: All court systems are complex and the bais din system is not different. The to’en is familiar with each bais din and its procedural nuances. The to’en helps a person successfully navigate through this complex system. The to’en is also familiar with the secular court system and can help navigate that system as well.
Throughout history, the to’en has helped a litigant prepare the facts of his case for a clear presentation to bais din. The to’en’s role is not to decide the halacha in a case. The to’en’s role is to help a person articulate the fact of a case so the dayanim will have a clear picture of what happened and be able to apply the halacha in an accurate manner.
Q: Why is the practice of using a to’en much more widespread and accepted practice in Eretz Yisroel?
A: Firstly, in E”Y the entire bais din system is more structured and accepted by the people in need of court services. Those in need of adjudication generally pursue settling their legal issues by going to bais din and do not consider using the secular court system. The bais din system works diligently to maintain a high standard so that the alternative of not going to bais din or, Chas V’Shalom, using a secular court, does not present as an option. So, it makes sense that the to’enim in E”Y work hard to maintain a high standard of service, thereby remaining an integral part of the bais din system. In order to be a practicing to’en rabani in E”Y you have to receive a teudah (certification) from the Rabbinute. To qualify for the t’eudah you have to complete a rigorous learning program and pass the Rabbinate test. Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim, in conjunction with the Rabbinute, is now bringing this exact curriculum to Chutz L’Arutz. Someone who completes the Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim course will then be eligible to go to E”Y and take the Rabbinute exam. Those taking this course will have the opportunity for shimush (apprenticeship) in the Chesed V’Mishpat organization.
Q: What is the mission of the Chesed V’Mishpat organization?
A: Chesed V’Mishpat was created to give people a place for guidance and support in navigating the bais din system. Chesed V’Mishpat is not a bais din. Offering many services, it is a reliable place to get information, guidance, clarity, and support for people who are hesitating to utilize the bais din system or who are daunted by the idea of going to bais din. As a side, it makes sense that the best time to start speaking to a to’en is before you go to bais din. Preparing for a smoother experience in bais din is preferable to planning for a case which has already started.
Q: What are the services offered by Chesed V’Mishpat?
A: These services are offered at no or reasonable cost. In addition to general information about what to expect when going to bais din, we also offer review of contracts and agreements, mediation, and non-binding arbitration. We are able to make referrals to dayanim and to’enim from our extensive worldwide referral list.
Chesed V’Mishpat can also help people after the conclusion of a Din Torah when additional concerns arise over the implementation of the psak din or the failure of one or both of the parties to follow through with the psak din.
Q: Sounds comprehensive. Tell me a little more about your mediation services.
A: Many people have a better chance of being successful in settling a case outside of the more confrontational system of a bais din. For those people who have a small claim and do not want to chance the cost of bais din, mediation is a nice alternative. For those people who have a complex case, the cost of using bais din can get steep. If the parties can successfully mediate their differences, both parties can benefit from this arrangement. Certainly, in separation and divorce cases, when mediation works it greatly reduces the stress of an already stressful situation.
Q: How does one get in touch with Chesed V’Mishpat?
A: Our phone number is 732-370-3344 and the email is [email protected] We have convenient hours and locations in Lakewood, with additional branches nationally and internationally.
It was a pleasure speaking with you. Hatzlocha with this much needed program as our tzibbur continues to grow.