We are grateful to live in a medinah shel chessed, a nation whose legal system — despite its flaws — is one of the fairest and most just of contemporary times.
However, when a dispute arises between two Jews, secular courts on any level and in every jurisdiction ought never to be an option.
This week’s parashah begins “And these are the Judgments that you shall place before them.”
“Before them” — “before them and not before non-Jews. Even if you know that the [non-Jews] judge it according to the [same legal principles] as the halachah, do not bring it to their courts, for one who brings matters of Yisrael before non-Jews desecrates the name of Hashem…” (Rashi).
This is the undisputed halachah. The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 26:1) states unambiguously that it is forbidden for Jews to bring their civil disputes before secular courts, even if the ruling these courts would hand down would conform to halachah. The Shulchan Aruch describes someone who brings his case to be judged in a secular court as a rasha, and says that “it is as if he insulted, vilified and raised his hand [against] the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.” The Rema adds that a beis din has the power to excommunicate someone who violates this halachah.
In his sefer Heichal Habrachah, the Komarner Rebbe, zy”a, says: Someone who brings his dispute with another Jew before a beis din will be judged on the Day of Judgment (Rosh Hashanah) in the “heichal of zechus,” with mercy and kindness. On the other hand, someone who brings his dispute before a non-Jewish court will have his judgment referred to a “heichal of chovah,” where the ruling will be handed down against him without mercy.
On a daily basis we see Yidden taking their disputes to a beis din, and thus inscribing themselves in a heichal of zechus. It is our collective responsibility to do everything possible to see that all others choose to emulate them.