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Importance of laws of the land
#1
Dear Dr. Schulman and Rabbis

I have the following questions about the law 'Establish Laws and Courts'. I have only little information about the details of this Law. Maybe one of the most important is that I (and everybody in a society) is obligated to keep the laws of the state. But this fact raise many questions. Since the laws of a state are man-made they are necessarily in some extent contradictory, deficient and generalising, etc. On the other hand there is a gradation between the laws (for example: constitution, law, decree). To what a degree should I strictly obey a rule? For example if in a library there is an inscription: "Switch off your mobile" (which is not a law) and I didn't switch it off, am I violate one of the Noahide Laws? This question is not because I didn't want to switch off my mobile in libraries, but there can occur situations where the observance of a general rule (or only a warning) is not the logically best choice (nor I neither the society make a profit out of the actual observance).

My second question is similar. If I heard about some rule or regulation, that I am obligated to install for example a ventillating system over my fireplace, can I say that I will not install such a system in my home, because it is to expensive and I don't need it, and if an inspection will occur, at most I will pay penalty.

The third example is connected to a presentation that I have heard about the topic: working as pharmacist in pharmacy, laws and ethic. The presenter demonstrated with a few example the dilemma of pharmacists, because they have to obey several laws but moral obligations and customs, too. He showed that in many cases a specific law is outdated or imperfect, therefore most people in the field (doctors and pharmacists) simply transgress these laws, because their job is to help the patients based on professional, economical and logical considerations and in some cases a law instructs otherwise. The presenter also turned in some cases to the legislative, but they said that they didn't have to interpret the law or they didn't understand why the presenter was worried about small things (in other words why is he so extremely law-abiding).

These are only a few examples in the topic, but I hope that the better understanding of the details of this Noahide Law will help to act properly in other cases, too.

Thank you and best wishes,
Gergely, Hungary
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#2
Since in general the law of the land is law - a person must abide by these laws, and not doing so would be transgressing the Noahide Commandment for Courts and Justice (but not necessarily as a capital sin).

If a law of the land is not accepted by the majority of the population (and the judges do not even try to enforce it), or it is a law that is outdated in the professional opinion of the experts in that matter, and the judges accept that as a practical matter of fact and do not treat this law as binding - then in practical terms it is not a true law anymore.
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#3
Dear Rabbi Weiner, Dr. Schulman and Rabbis,

Thank you for answering my letter. I have some more question about the underlying philosophy of the mentioned law. Somehow this law seems to me dissimilar to the other six laws. The other six Noahide Laws are universal and apply to every man in any country at any time. The details of these laws can be derived from different Torah-based sources. But the Law of "Establish Laws and Courts" - which includes to keep the laws of state - imposes different obligations depending on where and when somebody lives, if I am right.
Since the details of the other six commandments can be derived from the Torah and rabbinical sources they are unquestionable in every way. But is it true concerning the laws of state too? I can imagine a situation when a legislator is not very thorough and conscientious and he or she make a law which imposes unnecessary difficulties to a person or unrighteous in some way. In other cases there are contradictory or excessively subjective paragraphs in laws, and also could be situations when the government must transgress some of his own laws to help the society (for example, build a hospital from money not sufficient to keep every regulations).
My personal question is if the laws of state equally important then the details of the other commandments then should I spend significant time to learn the most important laws my own country? Is it included in the law "Establish Laws and Courts"? (I think it is not a good approach to say if I don't know about one law then I cannot be liable transgressing it.)
In summary, I only want to know wheater are debates among orthodox rabbis concerning the laws of state (like what would be a precise and righteous justice system which is beneficial to the whole society), and what is the proper approach that a pious man (jew and not jew) should follow?

Thank you,
Gergely
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#4
The Noahide Commandment and obligation for Laws and Courts is not only for Noahide courts to judge according to the other 6 Noahide Commandments when the society accepts this. Independent of that, any court of law that is established has an obligation within that commandment to guard the morality and safety of society. This includes making civil laws that uphold morality and prevent the people from acting in harmful ways, and any other laws necessary for the establishment of a just, safe and peaceful society.

Gentiles are therefore commanded in general to also make civil laws that are effective for all the society regarding dealings between people. The people who write the civil laws, and the judges who rule on the applications of these laws, must establish them according to their knowledge of the true needs of the country’s population, and the establishment of moral society. They do not necessarily need to follow the Jewish Torah Laws for monetary matters. Rather, the Gentile's monetary and other civil laws (outside of the scope of the specific 7 Noahide Commandments) may rule similarly or differently based on their society's own view of what is necessary for the specific societal needs of their country. The civil laws must obviously conform to logical and moral standards (and they obviously must not be similar to the evil and cruel laws of the biblical city of Sodom).

If the society fulfills this civil obligation in an upright way, but they do not abide by some of the Noahide Commandments, then they are only partially fulfilling the Noahide Commandment for Laws and Courts. But this partial fulfillment is definitely better than no fulfillment at all, and corruption of the legal process in the courts even in these civil areas is a transgression of the Noahide Commandment itself.

In direct answer to your question: the obligation upon the people to know and abide by the government's civil laws in civil matters is not like the commanded Divine service to learn and abide by the Noahide Commandments specifically, and the Noahide Code in general (which involves matters that are logical and moral obligations in the eyes of G-d, that are obvious from G-d's Torah, and which are counted as sinful if they are transgressed - e.g., people should not dishonor their parents, they should not engage in prostitution, and other boundaries of moral behavior that are taught in the Noahide Code). Rather, in civil matters, a person is answerable to the civil courts based on their own power and authority, and liable to the punishments and fines that they establish. I.e., the civil laws become the law of the land - for both the Gentile and Jewish citizens.
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#5
Hi Asknoah,

I personally disagree with the notion that the rabbinical statement "the law of the kingdom is law" is part of the Seven Commandments. I know that in your book, the Divine Code, there is a difference between the core Seven Commandments and what is called "the Noahide Code" which seems to refer to a larger collection of laws meant to make a Gentile pious. Regardless of which body of law you refer to, I strongly disagree with its inclusion in a law imposed on Gentiles, strongly enough to share my views on my own site. As I don't have your credentials and heritage in any way, it can only be presented as my personal opinion.

But before I set out such an endeavour, I just want to ask a few questions.

1) What is the precise definition of "Dina d'melchuta Dina" or "the law of the kingdom is law"?

2) For a Jew, was it halakhah or divine law? Or was it a conclusion reached by a rabbi about the power of the state?

3) Please state the evidence for claiming that it is part of the Seven Commandments or the Noahide Code. If it can be summarised, then please include it. I would like to understand it as much as I can before I share my opinion. I understand that it is binding for a Jew. I would really like to see what you use to claim that it applies to Gentiles as part of our Seven Commandments.

Thanks for your time. Just to let you know, it is just one point disagreement. There is still so much that I have learnt from your book and Dr Schulman (Reb Schulman). I am not seeking to disassociate myself from your organisation. I hope you can appreciate that.

Much respect
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#6
With this answer that was sent by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, the leading expert for the Noahide Code, you may find that your outlook is compatible with the actual limited scope of the Talmudic concept that is paraphrased as "the law of the kingdom is the law", as well as the motivation for this principle.

The phrase "the law of the kingdom is the law" is an English translation of the original Talmudic Aramaic phrase, "dina de'malchusa dina".

---------Answer from Rabbi Weiner---------------

For a more complete explanation of what is included in the obligation for "dina de'malchusa dina" (abiding by laws of the land) as it applies within Torah Law, we refer to the books "Sheva Mitzvot HaShem", Vol. 2 (under The Prohibition of Theft, Chapter 14) and Vol. 3 (Laws and Courts, Chapter 15). (The English translation of these Hebrew books is in progress.)

The law that we refer to as "dina de'malchusa dina", as it is mentioned in the Talmud and the major Torah-law codifiers (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Theft, Chapter 5, and Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 369), is not a law based on a verse in the written Torah, nor is it a law that was expounded upon in the Oral Torah that was received at Mount Sinai. Rather, the Talmudic Sages taught that people should heed – as a law – a certain underlying principle that goes by this name, for the benefit of their society.

First of all, the governmental power of enforcing a society's laws is given to a king, or to a person who is elected by the people of the country by their own free will, in order to govern over them. This power of governance is not rightfully taken by a dictator who rules over the people by force.

The principle called "the law of the kingdom is the law" specifies that there must be certain laws incumbent on a country's inhabitants in order for them to live as a functioning society. Otherwise, every person would do as he pleases, and the whole fabric of the society would fall apart.

The Torah law referred to as “the law of the kingdom is the law” is mainly meant to apply in regard to MONETARY LAWS, which are a group of laws that deal with normal and necessary monetary interactions: (a) between one individual and another, and (b) between an individual and the society at large (for example, the necessity to support necessary governmental functions through taxes).

However, Torah law does not recognize any rightful power of a government to impose laws OF ITS OWN that interfere with the private religious lives of the citizens, by which we mean to say that the king or the elected government have no right to impose a law of their own making which would regulate an individual's personal relationship with G-d.

Within this limited scope, the Rabbinical law of “the law of the kingdom is the law” is a rational law, and therefore is it included for Gentiles as part of the Noahide Code within the scope of the commandment for establishing Dinim (Laws and Courts), since it is for the good of society at large. It was understood by the Talmudic Sages and the major codifiers of Torah Law that not only Jews, but also the Gentiles themselves, have an obligation in G-d's eyes to abide by their government's monetary laws that fall within the scope of the societal necessities described above. This is called Torah-based, because the Talmudic Sages agreed on this within their G'd-given authority to identify modes of conduct that are necessary, whether for the good of the Jewish people or for the good of the world at large.

It is worthwhile to point out that in the section of “Laws and Courts” in the work “Sheva Mitzvot HaShem”, we explained that it is also incumbent on Gentiles to establish courts that set laws which are suited to the needs of the specific country they belong to, and that these courts also have a right to set rules of personal conduct that are needed in order to protect the society. Such laws that are set by the power of the courts are a communal necessity from the perspective of the commandment for “Laws and Courts” within the Noahide Code. This is similar to what is answered above about the obligation to abide by laws that the government (referred to in Torah as “the power of the king”) establishes as reasonable necessities.
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#7
Hi Reb Schulman, Rabbi Weiner, AskNoah,

You've tempered my blade of "righteous indignation" ... at least somewhat. The way you explained it, that it is about the good of the community, showed me the essence of what seems to be said. I won't go into taxation. I think I'll leave that for my own platform. I hope that's OK with you.

So its inclusion in the Noahide Code (not the core Seven Commandments) is due to its rational nature. Oh ... oh yes, rational nature. I remember reading in your book in the laws concerning idolatry about the nature of rational obligations. Thank you for that.

With some of your wording, I still question it. For example,

"... also the Gentiles themselves, have an obligation in G-d's eyes to abide by their government's monetary laws"

I can understand when you say it is a logical or rational obligation. But when the phrase "in God's eyes", that's where I'm not so sure. It's a bit like where in other responses on this forum where it is said "God wants you to [insert something about obedience to government]". It seems dangerous to say "God wants x" when x can be so volatile and has a track record of not doing what God wants. That's why the judgment call is rather "for the good for the society" and faithfulness to the Seven (and wisdom with regards to protect one's own life and family) that would be restraints against just obeying government, even with regards to money.

As you may see, I don't equate courts with government. In the Hebrew (or Aramaic, forgive my ignorance), there is a difference between dinim (or dinin) and melchuta. I think Rambam just comes right out and says "king". Although there may be some overlap, these are two different entities. In the english, there is a difference between courts and kings.

Have I missed the point? Have I misunderstood what was said? Please help me if I have.

Thanks again for your time and patience.
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#8
(03-25-2014, 06:33 PM)amenyahu Wrote: With some of your wording, I still question it. For example,

"... also the Gentiles themselves, have an obligation in G-d's eyes to abide by their government's monetary laws"

I can understand when you say it is a logical or rational obligation. But when the phrase "in G-d's eyes", that's where I'm not so sure. It's a bit like where in other responses on this forum where it is said "God wants you to [insert something about obedience to government]". It seems dangerous to say "God wants x" when x can be so volatile and has a track record of not doing what God wants. That's why the judgment call is rather "for the good for the society" and faithfulness to the Seven (and wisdom with regards to protect one's own life and family) that would be restraints against just obeying government, even with regards to money.

In the teachings for Gentiles which we present from Ask Noah International, in our published books, on-line forums and web pages, we don't use the phrase "in G-d's eyes" arbitrarily. From a Torah perspective, we look to the moral lessons which the Talmudic sages teach that we should learn from the words of the true prophets that are recorded in the Hebrew Bible. The prophets of the Hebrew Bible communicated their words with Divine inspiration. That is how we know that they are expressing lessons that are proper "in G-d's eyes", and they are included in the canonized text because they are relevant for all generations. Most of the messages from the Biblical prophets are intended specifically for the Jewish people, but some of the messages are also universal, for all people. Please follow this explanation:

(1) In the words of Isaiah 45:18: "...the Creator of heaven, Who is G-d, Who formed the earth and made it - He established it; He did not create it for 'tohu', He formed it to be inhabited..."

In the Oral Torah tradition from Mount Sinai, it is explained that G-d formed the entire world for the purpose that it should be "inhabited" by mankind, and that this applies mainly to the Gentiles, because they are the great majority of the world's population. Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah says that G-d wants their inhabiting of the world to be in such a way that it is not 'tohu'. The explanation is as follows.

- The word 'tohu' first appears in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 1:2: "when the earth was bewilderment ('tohu') and void..." Rashi explains there that the word 'tohu' means "astonishment and bafflement, that a person is astonished and baffled over the void [emptiness and desolation] within it". In the context of human relations which is the subject of Isaiah 45:18 above, a state of "tohu" basically means that people are living by the "law of the jungle" - those who are stronger are overpowering and taking advantage of those who are weaker, to an extent that the society breaks down so much that a reasonable person would be astonished and baffled as to how people could act so wickedly toward each other, as the human living condition becomes empty and desolate of what we recognize as civilized behavior.
- Let us consider what you would think of as an ideal society, and then how it would degenerate in increments toward "tohu" / law of the jungle. Obviously, this would begin by some people taking advantage of other people economically, because people have a lust for money and possessions.
- "Tohu" also means a condition of chaos, which we learn from Genesis 1:4, in which G-d ended the initial condition of "tohu" by separating the primordial light from the primordial darkness, because initially He created the light and darkness together in a primordial chaotic jumble (see Rashi's explanation there). In the context of human relations, this connotation of 'tohu' means chaos in the society, i.e. a state of anarchy.

The Oral Torah tradition from Mount Sinai explains that G-d's desire for the world "to be inhabited" is that there should be Gentile societies that are the positive opposite of the negative 'tohu' of tyranny and anarchy. This positive human societal condition that is desired by G-d is expressed by the famous phrase, "yishuv olom" ("settling the world" - that the world should be "settled down"), which means civilized and peaceful coexistence in which people form societies in which they benefit from each other, rather than being harmed by each other.

Next we need to identify the means which "in G-d's eyes" is the way to accomplish His desired condition for human society which is expressed by Isaiah 45:18 as it explained above based on the Oral Torah tradition.

(2) The entire verse Isaiah 45:18 is: "For so said the L-rd, the Creator of heaven, Who is G-d, Who formed the earth and made it - He established it; He did not create it for 'tohu', He formed it to be inhabited - 'I am the L-rd and there is no other.'"

Isaiah, while informing the Gentiles about the societal condition they should have in G-d's eyes, also informs them about the one and only G-d Whose desire they should aspire to fulfill. And Isaiah goes on to describe certain things about G-d:

45:19 - "Not in secret did I speak, in a place of a land of darkness; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, Seek Me, in vain; I am the L-rd, Who speaks righteousness, declares things that are right."

Rashi explains:
- "Not in secret did I speak": When I gave the Torah... to the seed of Jacob... [This means that it is not a secret to the world that G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people. Rather, it is public knowledge.]
- "I am the L-rd Who speaks righteousness": ...I told them things that are right, My statutes and My laws...

This means that the statutes and laws commanded for the Jewish people in the Torah, i.e. the details as communicated and expounded in the Oral Torah, are "right" and "righteousness" in G-d's eyes. Among these commandments are many that logically - according to G'd-given human intellect - include an aspect of universality for all human beings. It is in this context that the Jews were told by G-d through His prophet in Isaiah 42:6: "I am the L-rd; I called you with righteousness ... for a light to nations." I.e., through the universally righteous laws of the Torah, the Jews serve as a spiritual light to the Gentiles.

For example, the simple general concept of the Jewish commandment to "honor your father and your mother" is logically recognized as right and righteous in G-d's eyes for Gentiles as well. When Gentiles honor their parents (without being in violation of the Seven Noahide Commandments), it contributes to G-d's desired societal condition of "yishuv olom" that is explained above, and when Gentiles do not honor their parents, it pushes the society toward the condition of "tohu" which is against G-d's desire. Since this is clear from human logic, we know that it is an obligation in G-d's eyes for Gentiles to honor their parents, even if they have not heard of this Torah commandment. Thus, when a Gentile honors his parents, even if he does it just out of his own love or respect for them, or as logical correctness, and even without acknowledging G-d, he is doing something that is right "in G-d's eyes".

In terms of the "yishuv olom" which G-d desires for Gentile societies, this principle applies first and foremost to the many Torah laws that govern financial interactions between people. Consider an example that also happens to be connected with honoring parents: the laws of inheritance. From these Torah laws, it is logically understood that it is right in G-d's eyes that a society should establish laws of bequeathing and inheritance, such that when a person passes away, the estate will be required to be divided among the inheritors in an orderly fashion and in accordance with a certified "will" if one had been made, in order to avoid chaos and individual tyranny in the processes of disbursing the estate.

Of course this extends to all matters of personal and corporate business and commerce - buying, selling, borrowing lending, employment, etc. There should be governmental laws to the extent needed to establish righteous societal order and to avoid a descent into a condition of "tohu". In the Talmud, the obligation for individual Gentiles and Jews to follow these laws that are established by their ruling Gentiles governments is referred to by the phrase, "dina d'malchuta dina" - "the law of the government is the law [that one should follow]".

(3) This principle is taught to us through the following universal Divine messages that were communicated by true prophets in the Hebrew Bible:

Zechariah 8:16 - "Administer truth and the judgment of peace in your gates."

Jeremiah 29:7 (addressing the Jewish exiles in Babylon) - "And seek the peace of the city where I have exiled you and pray for it to the L-rd, for in its peace you shall have peace." The Divine message that "in its peace you shall have peace" also applies for the Gentile citizens of the city. The peacefulness of the city is only possible as a result of its government's laws which contribute to peaceful coexistence and commerce among its citizens.

This concept is expounded upon in the Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers 3:2, which states: “Rabbi Chanina, deputy of the priests/kohanim said... 'If it were not for the fear of the government, each man would eat his neighbor alive!'"

Quoting about this from askmoses.com: "As for the expression 'each man would eat his neighbor alive,' Rav Ovadia Bartenura explains that just as larger fish in the sea eat smaller fish, if it weren’t for the fear of the government, greater men would 'swallow' up smaller men. In other words, without law and order, people would take great advantage of each other—or worse."

The first victims of economic tyranny and chaos are those who are weak and vulnerable - the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners, etc. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, G-d insists that in His eyes, the rights of vulnerable people in society should should be protected, and the only way to do this is to have societal laws that provide for this protection.

There is also an obvious corollary: if a government "eats its citizens alive", it is evil in G-d's eyes.
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#9
Hi Reb,

With what you've written there, at least in theory, we are fundamentally agreed. Practically, I'm not so sure, but that was a great explanation.

I don't think, in theory, that my writings about the subject conflicted with what you said, and the way you explained it calmed down my initial reaction a lot.

Thanx.
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