Since 2004, Cardin students have travelled near (Crystal City, Washington, DC), far (Boston) and farther (Denver, Toronto) to participate in the annual Moot Beit Din Shabbat and Competition. I have had the pleasure of coaching each year’s team, helping it navigate common and not so common Jewish texts and sources to solve a thorny legal issue from a Jewish perspective. Past cases have dealt with the right to remarry after one’s spouse has presumably died in a natural disaster but whose body cannot be located, operating a beer brewery over Passover, and the right to back out of a promise to donate marrow when that donation would almost certainly save the recipient’s life. Each year has been a rewarding experience for the students, but the year in which our team took top honors (the case dealt with copyright issues) was especially sweet. This year’s case deals with labor law – the right of workers to organize, to strike or threaten to strike, their right to collectively bargain for wages and other benefits. As we all know, these are timely topics. The NBA season hangs in the balance even as I write this, and an Ohio union recently won a battle to maintain its right to collective bargaining in the face of state action to take it away.
The sheer amount of research and writing required, on top of the other demands on our students, always made for a very harried and anxious Moot Beit Din team. To help alleviate that somewhat, we decided to make the Moot Beit Din part of the Judaic Studies curriculum. It’s primary goal is to make the preparation of both the written brief and the oral argument more manageable. But, because it is part of the curriculum, the students also acquire a better view of the development of Jewish law, become more familiar with the background of the texts and those who authored them, and overall, can better appreciate the complexity and the scope of Jewish law.
The Moot Beit Din team looks forward to a year of wonderful Judaic learning. Perhaps we will taste the sweetness of victory, again, as well.
Rabbi Yaakov Chaitovsky is on the Judaics faculty and has coached the Moot Beit Din since his arrival in 2004.