Law and Compromise

The beginning of parsha Mishpatim begins as follows: And these are the laws which have been put before you. ” The parsha then tells of civil and religious laws. THe Bal Haturim makes a strange, almost contradictory insight into the word “hamishpatim.” The Bal Haturim says this word is an acronym for , “the judge is COMMANDED to make compromise before he makes law.

What can this mean? Isnt the law a set of independent ideas that are to be applied in a dispassionate and clinical manner?. The law is not supposed to be about the people, but rather applying the facts to the formula the law provides? How can a judge be responsible for compromise if he must apply the law?

The SD would like to answer the qustion. THe SD has been at attorney (OK really an accident attorney) for nearly 20 years. It is rare that a dispute is really clear. In many instances both sides are right or both sides are wrong. Or both side can appear to be correct. How does one judge in the overwhelming cases where there is good reason to rule on both sides.

The SD would like to suggest that disputes are about the peoople and their attitudes toward each other, not the underlying controversy. The Bal Haturim is saying that the judge must help people come together and resolve their personal issues and conflcts. The judge must help and inspire them to put aside their iniital feelings of animosity and work to improve their relationship and therefore comproimse on their dispute. In essence to bring harmony to the litigants. The law is to inpsire harmony.

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