Religious Laws: Sharia And Talmudic

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[On Religion And The Law]

People in New York are afraid of Sharia law gaining a foothold here. New York actually already observes some religious laws.

Sharia is Muslim religious law and it is readily apparent that many Americans fear it and some equate it with the Anthrax attacks.

Ironically, America has had the equivalent of Sharia in the United States for many years; but the law is not applicable to Muslims. This similar law is Talmudic law and is followed by Orthodox Jews.

Talmudic law governs all aspects of Orthodox Jewish life- especially divorces and business disputes. Thus, a woman cannot have a religious divorce unless her husband provides her with a Get, a religious document that permits a divorce. And without a religious divorce, no religious Jewish male will marry a religious Jewish woman, who had been previously married.

Talmudic law is especially pertinent to business disputes among Orthodox Jewish businessmen. Thus, when a business dispute arises among Orthodox Jews, the dispute is invariably settled by a Beth Din, a religious court.

Recently Lev Leviev, a Russian oligarch and purveyor of diamonds, and Maurice Mann have agreed to settle a business dispute concerning the Apthorp apartment building on the Upper West Side by utilizing a Beth Din. This dispute is not exactly for chump change. The Beth Din was selected to settle the $500 million dispute between the two men. A Beth Din is recognized by American law as arbitration and cannot be overturned in American courts.

The prominence of Beth Dins in settling Jewish disputes arose because of Christian intolerance. During the Dark Ages and Middle Ages; Christian religious, law was enforced by the Pope and his delegates, was supreme. Later as medieval law progressed, when the law of the king was supreme, there was an exception—"benefit of clergy."

Contrary to popular thought this did not apply to marriage and to offspring. The term, "benefit of clergy," meant that if an individual belonged to a religious order, he was exempt from civil law, which was the law of the king.

Since Jews were excluded from the protection of the civil law, Jews established their own courts and legal system based on the Old Testament and the Talmud.

There appeared to be a difference of opinion as to which Beth Din would be acceptable in the Leviev and Mann dispute. Leviev wanted a Beth Din presided over by Orthodox Rabbis. Mann preferred one presided over by a Conservative Rabbi. Why the difference? Leviev has given millions of dollars to the Lubavtichers, an Orthodox group.

Due to the difference in the Beth Dins these men preferred, their dispute was instead settled by lawyers on January 16, 2009 before sundown, before the Jewish Sabbath.

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