Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Pitfalls of Zavla (Zeh Borer Lo Echad), Intro

I will be doing a series on the evils of the alternative to a formal Beis Din setting know as "Zavla" - short for "Zeh borer lo echad [v'zeh borer lo echad]" - the method of arbitration that Chazal allowed when for some reason a regular Beis Din would not do or does not exist. I was recently involved as a "dayan" in a Zavla kangaroo court (that is basically the state to which this alternative has deteriorated, it seems), as a favor to a "to'ein" who is a great tzaddik, talmid chochom and ba'al yisurim, for the first and last time, and it was an "educational" experience of the highest order. The potential for distortion and miscarriage of justice in these settings is so great, that it would seem to me less of an issur to go to "Ercha'os" than to participate in such travesties.

I have a lot to say about this, I just wanted to get the ball rolling for now.


  1. I just heard, albeit from a third or fourth hand source, that one of the more respected and distinguished Brooklyn poskim freely gives dispensations to go to Erkaos, as he feels the process is more honest and true to Din HaTorah than what you will get in a Zavla-type situation. Baruch shekivanti!

    (The same source explained that a Beis Din kavu'a is not always a viable option because you have to have a pretty big claim to make it worthwhile. For example, he said, Machon Horo'oh here in Monsey charges $350 an hour for a Din Torah. So for claims of less than several thousand dollars, your best bet is to get a dispensation to go to small claims court.)

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  3. I think the Beis Din Maysharim in Lakewood has a parallel to a "small claims court." I'm sure they charge significantly less than $350/hr.

  4. Good for them!

    Such venues need to be publicized!

  5. Forgive my ignorence,

    what is an ercha'os?

  6. Unfortunately, Dinai Torah frequently arise when teachers or principals of Yeshivos and Bais Yaakov schools are terminated -- often unjustly -- by influential board members. Here (in a large Midwestern city) one man arbitrarily terminated a popular, dedicated, highly qualified girls' high scholl principal; closed a boys' high school, and has blocked payments to the laid-off rabbis and teachers of the back-salaries the school owes them.
    In the resulting Din Torah, it is a poor (rabbi or teacher, often a woman) plaintiff vs. a powerful businessman.
    Does the wronged plaintiff have any other (Halachically approved) recourse?
    What can the community (i.e., the parents and students who have benefitted from the terminated educator) do to help them?

  7. Well, for one thing, in the case we are perusing, the nit'anim, representing a closed mosad refused:

    a. To provide a copy of its by-laws.

    b. To provide information concerning its existing assets.

    Due to the malfeasance of the other "dayanim", I was never able to demand that information!

    As a non-profit, such information would be available from the relevant department of the state in which an institution is located, but the other "dayanim" were not desirous of having that information, and therefore were not willing to wait the several months that would be necessary to circumvent the recalcitrant nit'anim in this matter.

    Having knowledge of the by-laws and assets could help a great deal. Knowledge of the former could help determine whether the nit'anim had the right to proceed as they did, while knowledge of definite assets could have given a Beis Din the right to demand that the corporation be dissolved and its funds returned to Klal Yisroel - in the form of its former employees!

    Aside from these avenues, the concept of a local Beis Din's communal authority must be re-explored (we'll do that at some point in this series) and fortified, giving them the power to right the wrongs in a community.

  8. The fact is that I did go to smalls claim court for an advertiser who never paid for her ad despite her promises to first mail and then drop off a check. I warned her before putting in the suit. She ignored the warning, and she ignored the court summons. She never showed up, so I won by default. So, according to the arbitrator, I was awarded the amount payable for the ad plus interest. But I have yet to collect a cent. The court does not force the defendant to pay. If a person is determined to be dishonest, a judgment in your favor is not enough to get compensation. I have the power to publicize her name with address. But if I would try to such tactics, I would turn into the villain for lashon hara and causing a chiullul Hashem (g'neiva and shekeer it appears, are not considered as reprehensible )

    You can see this in the fact that OJ does not pay what the court awarded to the plaintiffs in the civil case that he lost.

  9. I feel bad for you... at least with small claims the playing field is somewhat level even if collecting is a problem. When the communal infastructure is beholden to 'machers' (and where is it not?) the playing field is inevitably tilted so you never get a fair shake. Hope things work out for you, and please continue the series!

  10. Zavla is the worst thing in the world and I am stuck with it. Since there is not "real" Bais Din, the defendant has reason to go there.

  11. Beis Bin Maysharim's small claims court sits from 8:30 - 10:00 PM Mondays and Wednosdays. I believe that the fee is $25 per side, but there's a maximum limit to the disputed amount for this venue. Their regular fees are still much less than $350 an hour, though.

  12. I desperately need to get out of one of these kangaroo courts. you mention a Brooklyn posek who gives permission to go to secular courts. Any chance you have his name? Thanks.

  13. Contact me offline if you want the name.