The Beth Din and the Toen/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on April 1, 2011


I receive questions on occasion regarding a Beth Din advocate, or a “Toen”. The question is whether or not in a Divorce-related Din Torah, it is a good idea to come with a Toen. Some parties advertise their availability to serve in such a capacity. They might be Talmudic scholars. Nevertheless, my answer to this question is a resounding “No”.
Firstly, some Beth Din organizations do not allow a Toen to appear before them. This, by itself, gives some indication as to how a Toen is viewed in his professional capacity. A Toen professes expertise in Halacha. However, this is precisely what the Beth Din judges (“Dayanim”) possess. They do not need a third-party to point out halachic requirements and mandates. More important is the fact that a Toen often lacks the “Courtroom demeanor” often possessed by an attorney or legal advocate. Since financial constraints make it difficult to retain multiple experts for the legal proceeding, it is logical that it is best to choose a person who has the legal presence to help you organize your thoughts and develop your requests. Prefer the attorney over the Toen. If your Beth Din does not allow an attorney to appear, but does allow Toenim instead, you may simply wish to choose to take your matter to another Beth Din.
There is yet another reason for choosing to go to your Din Torah without a Toen. A Toen has no reason to seek to negotiate your matter without going to the Beth Din. An advocate or attorney does have the professional, if not financial, interest to help you resolve your dispute before a tribunal is called to action. A Toen may indeed have a place in commercial disputes, but I am not convinced that such a personality will help you in your Divorce-related matter. A divorce, even when amicable, is traumatic. You need to consider the potential trauma and how to mitigate it. Will a toen help you in this regard? My honest appraisal is in the negative. I have yet to hear of a bitter contest ameliorated by the collective efforts of Toenim. Consider this carefully and decide wisely.