Sunday, 10 November 2013


Last Thursday's class started the topic of פשרה or settlement. Basically, the idea is that, rather than going through the formal process of both sides bringing claims and proofs and arguments in front of the judge and having him decide the case, the litigants come to a compromise on their own.

Strangely, פשרה isn't mentioned in the Mishna at all. Instead, it's main sources are:
  • תוספתא סנהדרין א:ג
  • גמרא סנהדרין ה: למטה עד ו: למעלה


A Type of Litigation or a Private Compromise

The main question the class dealt with was how to define פשרה. On one hand, it may be a way to avoid going through the trouble of the legal process by coming to a private compromise. On the other hand it may itself a type of litigation, albeit a less formal one, in which the litigants agree on a ruling. We saw several debates which seemed to center around this question:

1. Control Over the Process?

There are two stages to arriving at a פשרה:
  1. The compromise itself
  2. The Process i.e. who will judge the case?
Tosafot(ה: ד"ה יפה כח) indicate that the litigants can even choose the judges who will enforce their agreement. This seems to indicate that פשרה is a private agreement, since the process itself is open to negotiation.

The Ran(ה: ד"ה יפה), on the other hand, says that once the compromise itself has been agreed upon, any בית דין can enforce it. This indicates that פשרה is actually a type of litigation, since, as with most litigation, the litigants don't have control over the process.

2. Number of Judges

The gemara(ו א) records a debate as to the number of judges needed for פשרה. Rebbe Meir says 3, while Chachamim say 1:

לימא כתנאי ביצוע בשלשה דברי ר"מ וחכ"א פשרה ביחיד סברוה לכ"ע מקשינן פשרה לדין מאי לאו בהא קמיפלגי דמר סבר דין בשלשה ומר סבר דין בשנים לא דכ"ע דין בשלשה והכא בהא קמיפלגי דמר סבר מקשינן פשרה לדין ומר סבר לא מקשינן פשרה לדין לימא תלתא תנאי בפשרה דמר סבר בשלשה ומר סבר בשנים ומר סבר ביחיד אמר רב אחא בריה דרב איקא ואיתימא רבי יימר בר שלמיא מאן דאמר תרי אפילו חד נמי והאי דקאמר תרי כי היכי דליהוו עליה סהדי אמר רב אשי ש"מ פשרה אינה צריכה קנין דאי סלקא דעתך צריכה קנין למ"ד צריכה תלתא ל"ל תסגי בתרי וליקני מיניה והלכתא פשרה צריכה קנין
Rav M. pointed out that there are two ways to understand this debate. We might read it as a fundamental debate over our issue of how to understand פשרה. If פשרה is a type of litigation, then it is similar to דין and requires 3 judges, just like a normal case. If, however, it is a private agreement, then even a single judge is sufficient.

However, one might also claim that the number of judges isn't subject to our fundamental question about the nature of פשרה. One could understand that both sides of the debate hold that פשרה is a type of litigation, but that חכמים say that since it is a less strict type of litigation so it only requires a single judge.

Rav M. said that while none of the Rishonim say either of these options explicitly, Tosafot Rosh(ד"ה בצוע בשלושה) sounds like he might consider it a fundamental machloket,
ומאן דמחמיר קרי ליה ביצוע שצריך ג' כעין דין שצריך לדקדק ולצמצם ולבצע כפי הראוי מזה וליתן לזה לפי הענין ומאן דמקיל קרי ליה פשרה דאין צריך לדקדק כל כך...
 While the Ran(ד"ה איתיהיה) sounds like he doesn't believe there is a fundamental machloket here:
לפי שדרכו של דין זה מהפך בזכותו של זה וזה מהפך בזכותי של זה מפני שאינן לשלום אלא כעין מלחמה, אבל פשרה שהיא שלום ושניהם מתכוונים בו האחד בשניים...

3. How carefully do we do פשרה?

Another possible difference borrowed from the Tosafot Rosh above is how carefully we do פשרה. The Tosafot Rosh says that according to Rebbe Meir פשרה requires the judges to be just as careful about weighing each side's case as in an official trial. This makes more sense if we assume that פשרה is actually a type of litigation. On the other hand, if it's a private compromise then there's no need for so much formal process and it's more important to get the sides to agree to some compromise.

4. Is a Kinyan Required?

The gemara above brings Rav Ashi's conclusion that if Pshara requires 3 judges, there is no need for a kinyan. The implication is that according to Chachamim who require only 1 judge, we do need a kinyan to make the settlement official. The Ohr Zaruah reads the gemara like this and the implication again seems to be that if פשרה is a private agreement then it requires a kinyan like any private contract, while if it is a type of litigation so the judges authority is what makes it official.

It's worth noting that Rashi reads the gemara's conclusion differently:

והלכתא פשרה צריכה קנין: ואפילו נעשית בשלשה

Surprisingly, Rashi reads the Gemara's conclusion as saying that according to both opinions a kinyan is required. Tosfos(ד"ה והלכתא) explains, however, that this is for an external reason, so that the litigants won't be able to overturn the פשרה by claiming the judges weren't knowledgeable enough.

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