By Larry Gordon
One of the more popular and talked about columns we ran in this space over the last few months was our discussion with Rabbi Mendel Epstein of Brooklyn. Rabbi Epstein is a Rabbinical court dayan—judge and more frequently serves as a “toan” or an advocate representing one side or another before a Rabbinical tribunal. The column on Rabbi Epstein and his more than 30 year career in this business created a lot of furor both negative and positive. The reaction broke down along pretty simple and understandable lines. Those who he represented successfully liked him very much, those who he opposed in Beit Din and won cases against harbor a great deal of hostility toward him.
But that doesn’t faze him as he goes about his business with confidence knowing that the halacha, Jewish law is on his side and is protective of the best interests of his clients. The Rabbi says that about 75% of the caseload he carries deals with marital woes, while the balance deals with business related disagreements.
We deal with issues that impact on singles in this publication on a regular basis. The new director of the National Council of Young Israel, Rabbi Perry Tirschwell even has an article that begins on this weeks front page asking readers to respond and submit ideas on how to deal with the ever growing singles crisis in the Orthodox Jewish community.
That is both good and fine but there is much less emphasis and very little light shone on the flip side of the shidduch equation, that is divorces—all too often of young people—that effect the fundamental institution of marriage in our communities and the bearing these situations have on families.
So I asked Rabbi Epstein who has cases referred to him by Rabbi’s around the country and around the Jewish world to help us better understand what is going and how to deal with these situations, some that are rather disturbing and frustrating to just hear about.
But first the Rabbi notes it is important to understand the basic difference between what goes on in a Beit Din versus the way a court of law functions. “The court system seeks to adjudicate a situation as defined by many intricate laws and statutes on the books,” he says. “On the other hand Beit Din has just one objective—that is to seek the truth.”