When should a Beis Din disclose the reasoning behind their Psak?

When should a Beis Din disclose the reasoning behind their Psak?

A person involved in a din Torah (case brought before a Jewish court of law) may wish to ask the Beis Din (rabbinical court), “Meheichan dantuni (How did you arrive at this decision)?” Under what circumstances is the Beis Din expected to provide ta’amim v’nimukim (their reasons and rationale)?

(This halachah addresses the obligation of the Beis Din in various circumstances, but it should be noted that someone who takes issue with a psak of a Beis Din mumcheh l’rabim—an expert Beis Din, appointed and accepted by the community—should nevertheless refrain from asking for the reasoning behind their decision, as it is considered an act of chutzpah.)

When two litigants—called ba’alei din—come to a din Torah, it may be b’haskamah (in accord, i.e. both parties agreed to arbitrate their disagreement in front of the Beis Din) or b’kefiyah (by force, i.e. against one party’s will). The parameters of kefiyah may include a defendant brought to Beis Din with a hazmanah (summons from the plaintiff) or a plaintiff who appears before judges not of his choosing, since according to Halachah, defendants often have the right to select the local Beis Din of their choice. It is common for poskim to require the Beis Din to provide their reasoning when it is requested by a baal din who was subject to kefiyah and subsequently found guilty. Certainly, if the ba’al din agreed to appear before the Beis Din with the stipulation of receiving a psak (decision) which incorporates taamim v’nimukim, the Beis Din is obligated to provide it.

Another aspect that should be examined is whether the Beis Din’s psak may, in fact, be subject to distortion—or if the one demanding that they issue their rationale is simply looking for a way out by arguing with their psak.

A number of poskim recommend that Jewish courts publicize their reasoning—regardless of whether a particular case obligates them to or not—in order to foster more shalom (peace) or to prevent others from being choshed (suspecting) them of misjudgment or unfairness. Some poskim state that in circumstances where a Beis Din is not obligated to provide ta’amim, they should provide a basic explanation only verbally.


Practical Halacha: One minute a day. By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, shlita, Mara D'asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights.