Monday, June 11, 2012

Gems from Chassidius A great Story

I hate to plagiarise but I must tell this story. I have been reading Rabbi Avraham Twerski's not just stories along with a bit of Russian 19th Century and early twentieth History in case I have to teach it next term in the country.  I do like Twerski as he is good for the soul and quietens the mind along with a little meditation and Yoga practice.
This is a great story.  You have a chasid (follower) of the Rabbi of Tolna who is a lumber merchant. He makes a deal with a non Jewish guy to buy some of his forest for lumbering and it was a verbal contract. However when the price of lumber fell, the merchant wants to renegotiate the deal naturally enough. This non Jewish guy is very clever. As the civil court would rule in favour of the merchant he asks the chasid if they can go to his rabbi and get the dispute ruled by Jewish law.
The Rebbe listens to both sides and then rules in favour of the non Jewish poritz or fellow by saying that the Talmud pronounces a curse on those who renege on agreements.  this non Jewish fellow is really impressed and pleased with the decision of course, but he tells the Rebbe, 'In our courts, the process is much longer and if the litigant is displeased with the decision, he can take it to a court of appeal and then a higher court and so on. There are several levels of appeals available. What recourse to appeal does the merchant have if he so wishes to appeal?'
The Rebbe just smiles. Then he tells this story. Once there was a wolf that attacked a flock of sheep. The animals fled but the wolf pursued one and was just about to catch it in his mouth. He had it by the tail and it was nearly lunch time or dinner. Anyway it was going to be a good meal for the wolf. However out jumps this lion from a thicket of trees where he had been resting and grabs the sheep. The wolf is outraged. Afterall it was his sheep and he had caused it to leave the flock.
The lion disputes this as he says to him that he has just as much right to the sheep as neither the wolf nor the lion had paid for it. They agree to go to the fox who is the wisest and most canny of all animals. (Notice we do not say honest or law abiding here, but canny and wise. Wisdom can be used for incorrect purposes.)
The fox rules that the sheep must be divided equally between the wolf and the lion. He shechts the sheep and divides it in half. However he noted that one portion was slightly larger than the other and he decides to make it even by nibbling away at it a little.When he does that, he realises that he must have a nibble on the other side to even it up and so it goes on. The fox is a terrbly fair animal. He nibbes one side and then at another, and oh dear, he even notices an uneven edge here and then on the other side of mutton until, what pity, there is nothing but bones and skin left for the lion and th wolf to consume. '
The Rebbe then tells the poritz that the scenario he has just described is what happens in the civil law courts. The lawyers and barristers nibble away at each side with the disputed assets. When it finally reaches a decision, all that the litigants have left are the dry bare bones. He added that Jewish law may not have an appeals court but both litigants are likely to benefit from the judgements passed.
This story was first told in 1840 but it is apt in describing the legal system of today about which no one should be fooled that it is about justice,  but about lawyers and barristers being paid big bucks for mucking around and playing the legal system. There are probably some people out there on the side of justice, but sadly there are few and far between.

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