Parshas Devorim: Rav Chaim Kanievsky – Taking Your Shver To Court


rav-chaim-kanievsky“UShifatitem Tzedek Bein Ish U’Bein Achiv U’Bein Geiro”, you shall judge righteously between a man and his brother and his Ger (Devarim 1:16). In one pshat Rashi says that the word “Geiro” does not mean convert, but rather his opponent. The Sifri says that it means his father-in-law. Where does a father-in-law come into the picture and why does the Torah need to tell us this?

Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers that the Taz paskens (YD 241:2) that a son cannot take his father to court because it may cause his father to be cursed if he needs to swear. What the son should do suggests the Taz is to sell his claim to someone else who is halachicly fee and clear to sue his father.

Since the halacha is that when it comes to kavod, one is obligated to honor his father-in-law just like his father, you might think that you cannot sue your father-in-law either, therefore the Sifri tells us that unlike your father, you are free to litigate against your father-in-law and there is no problem of the issur klala.

Interestingly their was a famous court case where the Taz sued his father-in-law the Bach.

Rav Shmuel Berenbaum was fond of telling of the story how the Taz took his shver, the Bach, to a Din Torah. The Bach had promised had promised the Taz as part of his Nidunya that he would provide him with meat every day. When the Bach lost his money, instead of providing the Taz with a quality piece of meat which he could no longer afford, he provided him with the lung, which was far more inexpensive. The Taz demanded a good piece of meat claiming that lung was not called “meat”.

To help you understand who the Taz was, after fleeing the Cossack onslaught in which two of his sons were murdered, he lived in anonymity and poverty, earning a wage cleaning the Shul rather than revealing his identity although he was of advanced age and recognized throughout the Jewish world as a Gadol HaDor.

But he sued his own father-in-law for a good meat? Mi’ut Ta’anug, a bit of pleasure, says the Mishna. How much? As much as will help your body respond to your wishes to serve Hashem with every ounce of energy. The Taz was not willing to forego the minimal amount of extra learning he would lose by giving up his meat for lung, even if it meant suing his own father-in-law. And you could be sure the Bach was the proudest defendant to ever stand trial!

Pas BaMelech Tochal, a menu of bread and salt, say the Maharal MiPrague, should not stop you from learning Torah. However, if you have the resources, use them all. Not to indulge your appetite but to enable yourself to learn more Torah.

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  1. Rav Mordche Schwab ZTL, the Mashgiach of Mesivta Bais Shrage and Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic,used to say over this story with a different lesson to be learnt from this story.

    Reb Mordche said that the Taz explained that the reason why he took his shver to din torah, was that when he was served the lung, which is the inferior meat, that caused a slight lowering (rifyon) of the Taz’s iyun in Torah, which susequently caused a kitrug in himmel against the Bach who promised to give him meat, so he took his shver to din torah so that the bais din should pasken that lung is halachically also considered meat, and therefore the Bach did not deviate from his promise. After the bais din paskened that lung is also considered meat, the kitrug against the Bach was removed.

  2. I suggest a simpler explanation. The Taz realized that both he and his father in law were nog’im b’davar and could not pasken whether lung is meat with total objectivity. Therefore, the Taz brought the issue to a bes din which must be objective. Had he not done so, the monetary issue would have eventually passed, but the halachic issue would never be resolved.