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[personal profile] seekingferret
I think this is a really interesting question the Talmud in Sanhedrin deals with, using the model of Moses and Aaron.

If two people disagree about something involving money, they can sue in court and have the court issue a ruling over who is right. There will be a clear winner and a loser and it will be unambiguous who is who, and this may result in bad feelings lingering between the two parties afterward. The result may be just according to Torah law, but that justice may not necessarily be the only thing that matters in the interpersonal relationship.

So suppose you valued peace between people more than you valued getting the 'correct' resolution to the dispute. You might, when approached by two disputants, suggest that rather than trying their case in Beit Din, they first talk to a mediator or arbitrator who can help them figure out a way to settle things out of court in a way that makes everyone get something. According to Talmudic law, such a mediation agreement is generally binding- if both parties agree to the settlement, they can't then go to a Beit Din and ask for justice, unless there was some corruption in the selection of the mediator.

This might seem like a better approach in a lot of situations. Some of the Rabbis in Sanhedrin say it's an obligation on the judge to suggest mediation if they think it will help. But others raise really salient objections.

What if you're a judge and two disputants come to see you. One is rich and powerful, the other is poor. They start telling you about the case and ask if you'll judge it for them. You hear enough detail to know that if you hear the case, the rich man is likely to lose. Is it corrupt for you to suggest mediation, knowing that the outcome will likely be better for the rich man than if you were to enact full justice? Perhaps, because you're not supposed to favor a rich man over a poor one as a judge. BUT what if the virtue of peace is greater than the virtue of justice? Perhaps it's more important to achieve a resolution where both the rich and poor men are satisfied, even though it means harming the poor man financially?

The classic homiletic is that Aaron was rodef shalom, a pursuer of peace at all costs. Whereas Moses believed in seeking true justice even when it harmed the peace.

The Talmud finds a middle ground. Its rule for judges is that they can propose mediation if they fear that they will be forced to rule against the powerful person, however once they hear enough of the case to know that they are likely to rule against the powerful person, they cannot propose mediation. That is, it's corrupt to act when you are sure that your actions are benefitting the rich person, but when it's merely a possibility that it will benefit the rich person, it's okay even if you're hoping for that possibility.

Within this principle, the dispute is between Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya and Resh Lakish over when the moment is when they've heard too much of the case to offer mediation. Rabbi Shimon holds that as soon as they've heard the case, they've heard too much. Resh Lakish holds that even after they've heard the case, as long as they've not made up their mind, they can suggest mediation. This seems to be a dispute about optics vs. intention. Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya thinks optics matter for justice, if the appearance is there that the judge pushed for mediation to favor the powerful person, it is a corruption of justice, while Resh Lakish thinks that so long as the dayan didn't act corruptly, the optics are less important than the pursuit of peace.
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