Rav Baruch Rubanwitz a Dayan in the Beis Hahora’ah

 

  1. A common sentiment among people who have a financial grievance or believe someone violated a right of theirs is to feel indignant and pursue repossession with umbrage. They can be incensed at the thought of some thief prevailing. After surveying their options, it is possible that they will seriously consider appealing to a secular court for relief, as it may seem the most efficient way to attain justice. Although this may be true, it is not the appropriate Jewish response.

Reserve Judgment on Halachic Matters

  1. Firstly, it is not easy to determine who is right or wrong. Sometimes the circumstances are obvious, but since Torah law is of divine origin and designed as any other mitzvoh to elicit spiritual influences similar to those of a sacrifice, the civil laws of the Torah will not necessarily match the inner sense of justice built into every person. Legislated laws or case law generally will reflect either a human sense of justice or are designed to preserve civility and order in the society it is meant to serve. Torah law, on the other hand is an absolute truth corresponding to mystical and spiritual realms with only a secondary goal to maintain a society that will not destroy itself with crime. (For more about this notion, see my article Law and Order and Derashos Horan derush 11).
  2. Therefore, the first responsibility of a Jewish victim of a crime is to turn to an expert in Choshen Mishpot (Jewish commercial and civil law) to determine who is right and who is wrong.

Negative Ramifications of Premature Assessment

  1. A mistake at the outset can lead to disastrous ramifications that the perpetrator will be held responsible for.
    1. For example, in competition law sometimes it is forbidden to open a shop where it would infringe upon the livelihood of others. However, some industries are so important in the eyes of the Torah that halochoh sanctions an open market even at the expense of another’s livelihood. Jewish education is one of those areas. The opening of a new Jewish school by people that are not even locals, which will certainly cause an existing school to close down and its local staff to be unemployed, offers such a benefit to the public by way of more options for Jewish education that halochoh will not order the new school to refrain from opening. Were it an insurance company or merchant under the same circumstances, halochoh might support the existing storekeeper and order the newcomers not to negatively affecting the livelihood of a local merchant by opening shop.
    2. If the local merchants are right in their objection, they can pursue the newcomers and drive them out of town. The villains are the newcomers who are destroying the livelihood of others and any words spoken to others in order to affect the desired result would not be slander. All halachically viable actions are appropriate in order to maintain Torah law and the livelihood of the locals.
    3. However, should the newcomers have the right to open a school then all words spoken to effect a change are likely to be slander. Hard feelings might be viewed by Hashem as unacceptable hate; poor treatment of the newcomers would be a violation of revenge and meetings to affect change and stop the new school would be a violation of sedition and rabble-rousing. Once the process has begun in the wrong direction, activities that follow might either be praiseworthy or deplorable, depending on who is really on the right side of halochoh. Therefore, the appropriate initial Jewish response in any financial dispute is to reserve judgment until an objective expert in Jewish business ethics is consulted or the matter is brought to a Beis Din.[1]
  2. If a person has reserved judgment, turning to the Beis Din is an appropriate behavior as he then is seeking guidance as to which party is halachically right. This is a utopian scenario for a setting in a Beis Din.

Beis Din as the Jewish Way to Resolve Disputes

  1. Whether a person is sure of his position or not, according to Jewish law (halochoh), the appropriate arena for making any monetary claim is the Beis Din, the rabbinical court of law.[2]

Erkaos — Secular Court

  1. Jewish law (Choshen Mishpot 26:1) expressly forbids pursuing a claim against a fellow Jew in a court of law governed by laws legislated by humans. Just as an American, English or Australian court is included in this prohibition, the Israeli court system (including family and labor courts) is halachically categorized as a secular court and according to halochoh a Jew may not pursue a commercial or civil claim in an Israeli court of law. Any court that does not use halachic criteria to reach its decisions is equivalent to the forbidden secular courts mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch.
  2. The prohibition applies even if the secular court were to reach the same financial arrangement that a Beis Din would have reached. Should the court award more than that, any money received by the plaintiff beyond what a Beis Din would have awarded is viewed halachically as ill-gotten gains and must be returned like any other stolen property. This secondary transgression of accepting money that the plaintiff knows he is receiving solely because the defendant feels compelled to follow the decision of the secular court while the plaintiff is aware that he is not entitled to such money according to halochoh, is a more readily acknowledged and understood sin.
  3. What many observant Jews do not fully appreciate is the severity of the transgression of suing in secular court. It is much more than an act of stealing. Even those who acknowledge it as wrong still might take a lackadaisical attitude towards it.

10. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that the Hashem deplores such behavior as is codified in the Shulchan Aruch. Filing suit and following up by actually making a claim in a secular court is considered blasphemy and a rebellion against Hashem. It is equivalent to declaring that Torah law and its legal system is inferior to other laws and legal systems. It is a statement which indicates that a person has doubts whether fulfilling His will affords Divine providence, protection and special attention from Hashem to all those who act with the behavior Hashem mandates. Hashem has prepared a system of law that encompasses every aspect of commercial and civil law, and he expects us to seek out those rules and follow them. Turning to the courts is significantly different than other sins in that it exposes the values of person. The claimant believes he is owed money or a certain right has been infringed upon. He wants to get what he believes is his. One option is to turn to a legal system that may reach the same conclusion as the halochoh has but that system was designed by humans to keep civility and order. The other option is to use the system designed by Hashem, which puts the litigants within close range of Hashem’s providence offering divine attention and supernatural care. Opting for the earthly approach is a rejection of the notion that Jews can benefit from supernatural security by acting as the chosen people should.

11. Anyone who takes his grievance to a court is perceived as declaring that he feels more secure placing his welfare in the hands of the local authorities and the devices of men, than what Hashem can provide. Hashem has made it clear that despite whether we understand the laws or not, they represent an absolute truth and any Jew who adheres to their details is ultimately benefiting himself.

12. Surely many people today are unaware of the significance of their behavior and may be excused due to ignorance, however, it still is a forbidden act and was and is the responsibility of community leaders to educate the population so that they may lead a more complete Jewish lifestyle.[3]

13. The temptation to violate this halochoh and pursue one’s interests in a secular court despite the availability to have the case heard in a Beis Din, is great. To the disgrace of Hashem and our holy Torah, many otherwise observant Jews fail in this area.

14. In Israel, although a get can only be executed in a Beis Din, all other matters relating to the divorce can be adjudicated in the secular Family Court. Child support, support for ones wife and division of property can all be done in a secular court but halachically are required to be done exclusively in Beis Din. Even if one spouse wishes to follow the halochoh and refrain from presenting a financial claim in secular court, the other spouse may not do so. Since it is permissible to respond as a defendant in a secular court, it is uncommon in a litigious and acrimonious divorce to have all matters relating to the divorce adjudicated solely in the Beis Din. However, I do not believe that just because the phenomenon is rampant is any indication whatsoever that a satisfactory rationale for such behavior exists.

15. The plague is not limited to family law. In business related disputes, labor law and other financial matters there are those who present claims in secular courts in the anticipation of greater financial rewards.

16. The greatest disgrace to Hashem is performed when individuals who seem observant, learned and G-d fearing show disregard for this area of halochoh.

What to Write When Entering into an Agreement

17. When entering into an agreement with another Jew one should include a section dealing with settlement of disputes and request that disputes be resolved in a halachically acceptable way. There are a number of options but one should avoid agreement to resolve a financial dispute with another Jew in a secular court of law.[4]

18. Instead, suggest that any dispute shall be resolved through mediation or arbitration by a recognized Orthodox Beis Din. You can specify a specific Beis Din or keep it general. A sample section regarding settlement of disputes can be found in Appendix A.

Amiable Composition

19. It is also acceptable to agree to have the dispute adjudicated by arbitrators (not associated with a Beis Din), whether they be Dayonim, irreligious Jews or gentiles, as long as they will use their intellect and natural sense of fairness to resolve the case. They must not use any secular law in deciding the case. Other than halochoh, the only criterion that the arbitrators are permitted to use is what seems correct, just and fair to them. A clause may be inserted into a contract regarding resolution of disputes or in a Deed of Arbitration restricting the arbitral tribunal to decide ex aequo et bono[5] or as amiable compositeur.[6] Judging on this basis is not a noticeable abandonment of divine Torah law. If the parties or arbiters were to agree on a set of man-made laws, it would be an affront to Torah law. The arbiters’ religious beliefs, whether they are gentiles or Jews, is not determinant; what matters is the basis on which the judgment will be made.[7]

20. Of course, it is better to resolve disputes according Torah law and it is well worth the energy spent to search for the most learned, unbiased, strong-minded, sharp and G-d–fearing Dayon available. Nevertheless, I mention the arbiter who will judge according to his conscience for practical reasons. Sometimes it is impossible to get another party to agree to a Beis Din or Dayon. In such situations, it is important to know that an arbitrator who will rule according to a personal sense of fairness is halachically acceptable.[8]

Compliance with Local Arbitration Law

21. It is advisable to find a Beis Din or borer (Jewish arbitrator acting alone to resolve the dispute according to Torah principles) that is aware of the local arbitration laws and will comply with them.[9] This is advantageous since on occasion a disgruntled party may unjustifiably attempt to overturn a ruling by a Beis Din in a secular court, relying, for example, on a legal procedural flaw.[10] If the Dayonim are knowledgeable and careful, they can usually satisfy arbitration law and halochoh, so that their ruling will be upheld in a secular court of law if necessary. Another advantage of having the secular court recognize the Beis Din’s ruling is that the ruling is enforceable if one party fails to comply. Once a secular court recognizes the Beis Din’s ruling as a binding decision by a legal arbiter, the party that won the case will have more tools at its disposal with which to enforce the ruling. For both these reasons, it is practically essential that every Beis Din conform to local arbitrational law. In my opinion, in light of the different types of people that might approach a Beis Din, if the Beis Din cannot adhere to local arbitrational law, it is a waste of time and energy to start proceedings.

What if a Contractual Agreement already had given Secular court Jurisdiction?

22. Any mutual agreement to have a dispute resolved by a secular court or not in accordance with halochoh is not binding. It would still be necessary to go to a Beis Din or other acceptable venue.

23. Should a claimant proceed with litigation (in violation of halochoh) with an unacceptable court of law, any money procured thereby is considered stolen and must be returned.[11]

What if there is no way to Avoid Giving Secular Court Jurisdiction other than Avoiding the Deal?

24. When entering into a legal contract with a fellow Jew or with a company owned by Jews (e.g., leasing a car or home, purchasing tiles, signing bank or insurance documents), it is likely that there is a clause addressing an agreed-upon venue for resolving disputes.

  1. Often contracts are standardized and cannot be modified to comply with your specific needs. In Israel, for example, when one opens a bank account, buys tiles or wood, or rents a car, there is a standardized contract that all purchasers must sign. Sales people are not authorized to change the contract in any way. Signing such a contract is permissible even if it states explicitly that any dispute will be resolved by a court that one is forbidden to use (e.g., the Tel Aviv District Court).[12] That clause is not binding, since any dispute between two Jews must be adjudicated according to halachically acceptable guidelines. In other words, your agreement to go to secular court is not binding. You must bring any dispute to a halachically acceptable venue.
  2. However, signing such a document may have significant halachic ramifications. Although the main function of the clause is to restrict the locale of adjudication to a specific area, implicit in that statement, however, is an agreement that any dispute between you and the other party should be resolved according to secular law. It is permissible to enter into such an agreement. Once both parties agree that all matters between them shall be governed by a certain set of laws, any dispute between them will have to be brought to a Beis Din, which must determine the secular law and rule accordingly. Determination that that is the intent is subject to the Beis Din’s interpretation. If, however, the parties agree that in fact that is the intent, it would be better to word the agreement to reflect that and explicitly write that the agreement shall be governed and construed in accordance with American, Israeli, English, Australian or South African law (of course, the more specific the better: California, New Jersey or New York law). This is not agreement to have the dispute decided by authorities of the secular court. Any dispute must be brought to a Beis Din for resolution. The Beis Din will need to decide according to the conditions established by the parties themselves (see note).[13]

25. Although it is not forbidden to sign a document stating that the Jewish parties will resolve their disputes in a secular court, since it is ineffective, still it should be avoided when possible due to a potential chillul Hashem. It is an affront to Hashem and His Torah to agree to a different system of law as the best way to reach the truth or resolve differences. It is akin to saying that Hashem’s Torah is not as good as California or Israeli law. However, when it is not obvious that you are making such a statement, the chillul Hashem is not significant.[14] There are often many pages of fine print and you may be unaware of everything you agreed to; thus, you can disassociate yourself from the slap in Hashem’s face. In fact, perhaps there is no desecration of Hashem if the signers were unaware of the ramifications. Nevertheless, when possible, it is appropriate to word the contract to reflect proper Torah values and establish a halachically acceptable venue for resolving disputes.

Be as Specific as Possible and What Happens if nothing was mentioned?

26. It is advisable to name a specific Beis Din or a specific arbitrator who will rule according to halochoh or (in the case of the latter) his own sense of justice.

27. Alternatively, you could state that you will follow the zablo method (whereby each party chooses an arbitrator and the two arbitrators choose a third). Should the agreement fail to specify a Beis Din or borer (in the absence of a single recognized Beis Din in the city) the parties should at least agree to approach an Orthodox Beis Din. The default is to approach a Beis Din and if the parties cannot agree as to which Beis Din the method mentioned in the Mishnoh of zablo is applied.

Legal Counsel in Secular Court

28. A Jewish lawyer who represents one Jew in a claim against another Jew in a secular court is in violation of the prohibition on assisting a Jew to sin. The applicable laws of lifnei iver and messayei’a ledvar aveiroh must be addressed before one engages in such practice.

Litigation Between Jew and Non-Jew

29. Any claim involving a gentile may be filed and argued in secular court.[15] Any defense against a suit brought by another Jew may be made in a secular court.

Counterclaims in Secular Court?

30. Once a person is called upon to defend himself in secular court he may present a counterclaim and may keep the award granted by the judge, should he win.[16]

Philosophical Basis to Turn to a Beis Din

31. Surely suing in secular court can be an enticing alternative for a victim filled with outrage at a perceived offense or injustice. We have tried to explain some of the rationale behind the prohibition, some sources and certain details of the halochos. But for some people the most helpful tool to assist them in avoiding secular court, is to recognize the philosophical hypocrisy of people who profess to truly have bitachon, trust in Hashem, or for those who want to have bitachon and are searching for the behavior that will train their minds and bodies to believe.

32. It is a widely accepted precept of Jewish philosophy that Hashem decides once a year on Rosh Hashonoh the degree of wealth every person will have and that it is given as a gift. All the person needs to do is to perform activity that can justify such an amount. This is commonly known as hishtadlus. A person who is required to turn to litigation to defend that which is halachically his, is just another form of hishtadlus that was placed on the person. In order to get the assets that Hashem wants him to have he must first fight for them in a Beis Din. Should he win by acting as proper ben Torah, he has put in the appropriate amount of hishtadlus in order to merit the gift from Hashem.

33. Should he lose, and he did put in the appropriate amount of hishtadlus, then he can be assured that Hashem will find another way to supply him with his year’s allowance. There is no reason to be upset with the other party. It is an issue between himself and Hashem.

34. Should the claimant be wrong in his premature determination that he is a victim, and in fact the person he considers the villain is acting within his halachic rights, then Hashem never intended for him to have those assets that he believes are due to him. Any litigation he does is misplaced hishtadlus. Continuing along that path trying to obtain something that he is not deserving of halachically, indicates that he has not fully internalized the principle that Hashem controls who gets what and a person cannot manipulate the world to receive more than Hashem wants him to receive.

35. Once a person has clarity in his Jewish philosophy regarding Hashem granting a person a yearly allowance, it makes no sense to pursue a culprit in a way unacceptable to Hashem, i.e., in a secular court. It never should be an issue to get this particular thief to give me back my money nor a personal journey in pursuit of justice, making sure that criminals do not succeed. That might be the job of the Dayonim, not a litigant. A claimant should be concerned about whether he put in the appropriate effort and the right amount to warrant his allowance and if he is mistaken in his assertion, he should know that exacting any money from another that is beyond his allowance is meaningless as Hashem has ways of deducting any illegitimate gain. If a person feels tempted to take a defendant to secular court, it is wise to consider these Jewish values and allow his mind to influence his emotions and feelings of injustice.

 


[1] The Chazon Ish elaborated on this point in the third chapter of his book Emunah and Bitachon.

[2] Another way to resolve a dispute is to turn to a mediator. Often the needs of both parties can be met to satisfaction. An agreed upon win-win situation is the best way to resolve the dispute since ultimately both sides willingly agreed and are satisfied. The parties have more control of the situation and the value of shalom is employed. When the parties need to have a continued relationship, it is even more important to have an agreement brokered through mediation.

[3] The Ramo exhorts community leaders to persuade any person involved in such activity to reverse such a disgrace to Hashem and have the case heard in a Beis Din. He adds that it is appropriate to shun not only the plaintiff but also anyone who is supportive of such a person. The Aruch Hashulchan explains that not only is the plaintiff considered a rosho, but anyone who is supportive of the plaintiff is also considered a rosho.

Since there are exceptional circumstances in which a Beis Din might grant permission to an observant Jew to file suit in a secular court, before any public disgrace is done to an individual, it is prudent to first summon someone suspected of this violation to a meeting so that he can explain his behavior. Then, if there is no halachically valid justification, the Beis Din (or local rabbonim) might use the meeting to impress upon the person who is about to violate (or has already violated) this halochoh why what they are doing is unacceptable for an observant Jew to do and prevent this phenomenon from becoming prevalent in the community. If this is ineffective, extraordinary measures are sometimes appropriate in order to reach the objective.

In a community where this violation is rampant, it is not advisable, in my opinion, to focus on an individual who has sued in court. The communal leaders should find the appropriate strategy to educate the population as to the correct values on this issue. The approach of shunning mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, I believe is appropriate when the community is generally cognizant of the importance of Beis Din and does not turn to secular courts. Then, when an individual has infracted the taboo behavior, a sharp measure to arrest a potential wave of a relaxed attitude by others to the transgression of suing in secular court, is in order. In such a situation, action should be taken against that person.

However, should an entire community be unaware of the severity of the offense, in my opinion, it is a mitzvoh to find a way to reorient the public regarding Beis Din as an axis of Jewish communal life and the theological implications of turning to secular authorities to resolve disputes between Jews.

[4] On numerous occasions, I have heard from my rebbi, Horav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg Shlita, that the prohibition is only regarding the resolution of financial matters. When someone wishes to approach a court for a restraining order, visitation rights, custody or similar orders that do not restrict ones financial rights, one is not in violation of the Torah prohibition of approaching a secular court. Nevertheless, when one can achieve the same result through a Beis Din, it should be the first choice of action. Furthermore, the secular court will not use the same criterion that halochoh does when deciding on these other matters and an injustice is likely to result.

Sometimes when approaching the court on a permissible issue, ultimately it leads to a financial injustice. For example, it is not uncommon for a family court judge to link child support payments to visitation rights. Thus, even if a lawyer urges a client for permission to file (or counter file) for visitation rights or a request for a social worker’s assessment, eventually it may lead the judge to link a neutral issue to child support or other financial matter. It is possible that a Beis Din would not rule exactly as the judge had, resulting in a Jew’s money being controlled against the principles of halochoh.

[5] Literally, it means in accordance with justice and fairness or according to what is right and good. Something to be decided ex aequo et bono is something that is to be decided by principles of what is fair and just. In the context of arbitration, it refers to the power of the arbitrators to dispense with consideration of the law and consider solely what they consider fair and equitable in the case at hand.

[6] Amiable composition is a process where a third party adjudicator conducts a hearing and renders a binding decision based on compromising the parties’ interests through natural equity rather than an absolute determination of the rights of the parties. The “amiable compositeur” is sometimes referred to as the ex aequo et bono in certain legal systems.

[7] Much of the above can be found in Chazon Ish, Sanhedrin 15:4.

[8] Turning to a non-Jewish arbitrator who will judge ex aequo et bono may not be a violation of going to secular courts but it does not qualify as a decision of Beis Din. Jews are encouraged to resolve their disputes in Beis Din and follow the law of Hashem. This is a mitzvoh and carries with it the influence and special closeness one has with Hashem when performing other great mitzvos, such as offering a sacrifice to Hashem, as discussed earlier.

[9] Some Batei Din even have Dayonim who are certified arbiters.

[10] It is forbidden to approach a secular court to void a ruling of a Beis Din, but it has to be mentioned because a litigant who lost in Beis Din is liable to try anything to win his case.

[11] This is true with regard to a claim one Jew (A) makes towards another Jew (B) and B was forced to appear in court and pay A the award of the secular court. There are a number of exceptions to this rule. For example, should you be permitted to appear in court (e.g., as a defendant or as a claimant that received permission from Beis Din after the defendant did not appear in Beis Din) in many circumstances, the party that lost the judgment willingly wishes to follow the ruling. Large corporations such as banks and insurance companies only have confidence in the secular court system and have a deep respect for it. They feel equipped to present their position in such an environment and are prepared to pay whatever the judge rules, whether it is halachically sanctioned or not. Thus, even if the large corporation is the defendant (and refused to acknowledge the authority of the Beis Din and instead accepted the authority of the secular court), should they lose in court and pay the award, a G-D–fearing Jew may keep the money.

[12] It is distasteful and preferably avoidable but is not technically forbidden. It is akin to a person writing, “I am a Shabbos desecrator” when in fact he is not.

This is not the case with regard to a clause requiring interest payments. Signing a document that requires one party to pay interest is in itself a Torah violation.

[13] This is the opinion of the Tumim in siman 26. The Taz disagrees and rules that it is considered an affront to the Torah for the parties to accept upon themselves a different set of principles guiding their financial agreements other than that of the Torah.

They both disagree with the statement of the Sema, which seems to indicate that once a kinyon was made that the parties will go to a secular court, they are permitted to do so. It is inconceivable that the Sema would disagree with the well-accepted halochoh that it is forbidden to go to court and therefore his comment is perplexing since we do not find that a kinyon has the power to permit the forbidden. Some resolve the statement of the Sema by assuming that he means to allow the parties to adjudicate in Beis Din in accordance with secular law. The Tumim permits this, just that the Tumim did not think that that is what the Sema had meant. See also the Sema in siman 61:14 for more comments of the Sema clarifying his own statement in siman 26.

Another approach suggested in order to explain the Sema is that the Sema assumes that the prohibition to go to secular court is only when there is no benefit for the claimant. In such a case, the decision to approach the secular court instead of the Jewish court is an act of contempt towards the Beis Din. However, should the plaintiff have a perceived financial gain by accepting the secular court’s system of law, he has not violated any halochoh. I heard this explanation of the Sema’s opinion from Rav Mendel Shafran, who quickly added that even if this is the opinion of the Sema, the other poskim disagree with him and it should not be put into practice.

In the main article, I have accepted the Tumim’s position and not that of the Taz. Although they disagree whether a Beis Din may use secular law as the basis of the judgment, it is likely that even according to the Taz this form of “erkaos”” is not de’oreiso. Furthermore, many poskim seem to agree with the Tumim’s position. However the Sema is understood, he certainly disagrees with the Taz.

[14] When the clause is added against your will, there is no chillul Hashem.

[15] אולם בשו”ת תשב”ץ חלק ב’ סימן ר”צ בשם השאילתות כתב וז”ל בפ’ שופטים כתב ומנין שישראל ועכו”ם שיש להם דין ועסק זה עם זה שאסור לומר לעכו”ם לך עמי לערכאות של עכו”ם שהוא עובר בלאו שנאמר לא עשה כן לכל גוי. אבל כבר כתב בכסף קדשים סימן כ”ו ס”ב דאם ידוע או ברור לכל שלא יענה לתביעת ביה”ד א”צ ליטול רשות מביה”ד. ובדרך כלל כך הוא המציאות אם יתבע נכרי לביה”ד של ישראל. והוסיף שם דסגי באומדנא או בידיעת שלשה בני אדם כמו שמועיל רשות מג’ הדיוטות.

וכן המנהג לגבי גופים יהודים הכפופים לערכאותיהם שאין מזמינים לביה”ד אלא תובעים ישר בביהמ”ש כגון במשרד ממשלתי או בעיריה, שאפי’ ירצו אינם רשאים לדון בד”ת, כי כן הוא בחוקותיהם ואין בכחם ללכת לד”ת. ונראה דה”ה בחברת ביטוח אם מצהירים שרק ערכאות מחייב אותם.

ואם הבע”ד אמר שמסרב לד”ת, נראה דא”צ לקבל רשות מב”ד שבמקום הנתבע, דלעשותו סרבן להתיר לתבעו בערכאות אין טעם להטריח התובע למקום הנתבע.

[16] This is because the plaintiff who brought the case to court realized that a defense and counterclaim will be made and is prepared to accept the judge’s ruling. He has thereby willingly forfeited the amount that the court may award the defendant.

In other words, when a claimant (A) approaches a secular court (in violation of halochoh) and the respondent (B) defends himself and makes counterclaims in court (which is permissible to do in defense of his position) he (B) is permitted to keep any award granted. This is true even if the court awards him (B) more than he would ever have received in Beis Din, since the claimant (A) has accepted the authority of the court decision. The respondent (B), however, should only limit his response to a counterclaim and should not use the court audience to counter file other financial grievances.

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