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Punishments for Law-Breakers?
Hi Reb, AskNoah,

I have another question, or another set of questions. Hope you can help.

I've been thinking about government and its policing forces, including social services. What I ask is in relation to both the law of dinim (social justice) and theft.

As you know, those who the government see as criminals are put in prison. Is this a form of kidnapping? Is such a thing allowed under the Noahide Commandments?
Also, child services are allowed to take children away from parents. Is this allowed under the Noahide Commandments?
I've seen police taking the vehicles of people they deem as breaking one of their laws, and other pieces of property that a person may own. Is that legal under the Noahide Commandments?

Thanks for your advice and help.
(03-13-2013, 09:00 AM)amenyahu Wrote: As you know, those who the government see as criminals are put in prison. Is this a form of kidnapping? Is such a thing allowed under the Noahide Commandments?

In societies where transgressions of some or all of the Seven Noahide Commandments are not subject to capital punishment, the court system is still obligated under the Noahide Commandment for Courts of Law, to make those transgressions illegal. The government should have policemen who arrest suspected transgressors of those prohibited acts, in order to put them on trial through a fair and just court proceeding. If the defendant is convicted, the courts are obligated to apply some punishment (even if it is not capital punishment - for example, imprisonment) that will be a real deterrent for others who might consider committing those transgressions. In this way, the courts are nominally fulfilling their requirement to keep the society functioning in a civilized and settled way, in which harmful people are not running amok.

The government has the right and obligation in enact other laws that are logically seen as necessary for a proper society with proper commerce. It must also enact measured and appropriate punishments for breaking those laws (e.g. everyone must drive to one side of the 2-way streets, what is the legal definition of drunk driving, property zoning laws, etc.)

(03-13-2013, 09:00 AM)amenyahu Wrote: Also, child services are allowed to take children away from parents. Is this allowed under the Noahide Commandments?

It seems that in the Noahide Code, this could be justified if there is a real and immanent danger to the life or health of the child, if the child is left with the parents. This would be an application of the Torah-based law of a pursuer - that a person should be saved from someone who is pursuing him with intention to kill or rape or seriously physically injure.

(03-13-2013, 09:00 AM)amenyahu Wrote: I've seen police taking the vehicles of people they deem as breaking one of their laws, and other pieces of property that a person may own. Is that legal under the Noahide Commandments?

That's not clear without more details. For example, if a car is parked illegally and there are clearly posted signs that an illegally parked car will be ordered towed away by the police, they have the power to do so. Because a person is allowed to drive his car on a public street only by permission granted by the courts (based on the need for overall traffic safety), and the courts may put logical conditions on that permission (e.g., no illegal parking).

Of course, police corruption is forbidden within the Noahide commandment for Laws and Courts - for example, non-legal seizure and/or ransoming of a citizen's personal property (which would also transgress the prohibition of theft). That type of corruption and bullying by the police is rampant in many countries around the world.
Hi Reb,

Thanx for your great answer. It helps with the forming of concepts in my head.

If I were living under a Torah-observant government, I may have more trust in it. I'm starting to wonder about the place of government in the commandment about Dinim, whether it refers to courts (the English word) or government (the English word). Since it refers to judges and not politicians, it seems to refer more to courts. Is that correct or incorrect?

I'm really not sure about the government's right to make new punishable laws. Again, I don't know if the Dinim of the Noahide Commandments matches the government or courts of nowadays. It has become apparent that the courts in these lands are not courts of justice. If the government has the right and power to punish me, take my car (which seems like theft), have me arrested and put me in prison (which seems like kidnap) for not wearing a seatbelt, or for not paying a forced/mandatory insurance.

Are the rights of gentiles given by governments or God? Take for instance, the right to travel vs. the notion that only the government can give permissions to travel by means of licenses (I haven't seen how licenses make the roads any safer, as they are not proof of competence). But that is only one example. The central question is the the rights/protections for gentiles and whether their source is purely governmental.

Also about child services taking a parent's child, in my country, the government can take your child if you don't take them to public schools or for many reasons other than the pursuer situation that you spoke.

Seeing that the present government has no fear of God and is opposed to the noahide commandments, I'm not invested in maintaining the current system.

In response to the above two posts:

A. From amenyahu:

1. "If I were living under a Torah-observant government..."

You should not expect that to happen until after the King Moshiach/Messiach has come and established the Messianic Era (may it be speedily in our days!). In the meantime, you can help in the effort to bring that about sooner. How? In addition to prayer and acts of goodness and kindness, you should learn and make a commitment to govern yourself (your own attitudes, thoughts speech and actions) in accordance with the Torah's path for pious Noahides. If you have a family, you should work in a pleasant, loving way to bring your household into this righteous path of faith and observance as much as possible, and teach it to your children and instil in them this faith and observance. You should also make an effort to try to locate and connect with like-minded people locally, nationally and internationally, to bolster the growth of properly-directed Noahide communities. And in this process you should try to foster support and alliance from properly-directed, Noahide-friendly Orthodox Jews. At all the different levels in this process, Ask Noah is happy to give guidance and assistance as much as possible - that is what we are here for! The main thing limiting Ask Noah's efforts for Noahide outreach is a lack of sufficient financial resources for the organization.

2. "If I were living under a Torah-observant government. I may have more trust in it."

When people begin to put their trust in their government, that is the beginning of its decline from any righteous ways that it might be following at the time. The founding fathers of the United States were wise enough to know that, which is why they instituted the declaration "In G-D we trust" as the motto of the U.S. They even instituted for this motto to be printed on every piece of U.S. currency, since money is something that everyone strives for and looks at. They themselves had no trust in the government they were setting up, and they prayed to G-d that all of the checks and balances they set up to keep the government under the control of its citizens would hold out as long as possible. They instituted this prayer as the last verse in the national anthem (unfortunately it is the last verse, which nobody knows unless they search for it):
"Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In G-d is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

This means that when the people no longer trust in G-d, it will no longer be the land of the free or the home of the brave. As Rabbi Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi taught in Ethics of the Fathers 6:2, "There is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of the Torah."

Thus, in our day and age, the main thing that destroys free societies is atheism, because atheism is the main tool of the evil force of communism (a.k.a. socialism) whose goal is the overthrow. take-over and enslavement of free societies. But even without the pressure of the evil force of communism/socialism, the economists of the 17'00s realized that a free democratic society, as the U.S. was founded to be, could not endure for more than 100 to 200 years, because a majority of the people would eventually institute or accept upon themselves a welfare society, funded by the government from taxes and fees, thus leading to all the societal and governmental evils that we are well aware of.

3. "I'm starting to wonder about the place of government in the commandment about Dinim, whether it refers to courts or government. Since it refers to judges and not politicians, it seems to refer more to courts. Is that correct or incorrect?

In Hebrew the name of the commandment is for "Dinim". This means "Laws". There are two types of laws that this commandment encompasses: laws decreed by G-d, and laws that logically need to be instituted by governments for the good of the citizens and the society - largely because people are inclined to sin, lie and cheat. The laws from G-d provide the context and the boundaries for the appropriate societal laws. Theoretical rules are not laws unless violators are judged and the laws are enforced. To the extent that laws are made and/or enforced by members of the government, the commandment for "Dinim" encompasses BOTH the government that is necessary for making and enforcing the laws and the court system that judges based on those laws. Inherent in this commandment is that the government officials and the judges must be actually held to and judged by the strictest standards of observance of the laws.

4. "I'm really not sure about the government's right to make new punishable laws."

The government is granted that right by G-d within the guidelines of the commandment for Dinim - meaning that a governmental law must not violate G-d's law, and it should be logically beneficial for the society and fairly/justly applied. Main areas of justified governmental ("secular") laws are commerce, national defense and protection of public health and safety.

You should also know that in accordance with the commandment for Dinim, G-d judges a government based on its observance of the very laws which it institutes. For example, in the constitution of the U.S.S.R., a government law was included that guaranteed freedom of religion. However in actual fact, the government denied freedom of religion, in violation of its own law. Thus the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was sentenced to death by the Soviets for practicing freedom of religion and thank G-d saved by a great miracle, prophesied that the U.S.S.R. government would not last more than 60 to 70 years. In fact it officially lasted 69 years (19'22-19'91).

You should also know that "the hearts of kings are in the hand of G-d". G-d allows a sinful government to exist for some number of years to fulfill some purpose known to Him, and then He brings judgment of its sins upon it and brings it down, to be replaced by another government. This is in contrast to the original situation, in which the world was allowed to become so corrupt that its correction came through total destruction by the Great Flood, except for a saving remnant led by Noah. After that point, G-d improved the hearts of human beings to the extent that the world would never again fall into such a low state, and there would always be a positive force of goodness, righteousness and repentance. All of this is in G-d's plan for preparing the world for the Messianic Era.

B. To Brandyn:

1. "If a government chooses to say proverbially war against one type of non-noahide offence over others is this allowed?"

I don't fully understand your question. If a government decides to ignore enforcement of particular a law, then that rule is no longer really a law in that country. There are three ways that a government law can be dismissed: a) passing another law to repeal the original law, b) ignoring enforcement of the law, c) the government directly violates this law that it made (see #4 above).

2. "If a government allows the breaking of a noahide law, for example, the prohibition against murder [e.g. by allowing elective abortion, or euthanasia] is this government legitimate in the eyes of Hashem? and perhaps I should ask if one is obligated to adhere to the other 'laws' they form when they do not enforce the noahide commandments?"

The Noahide commandment for Dinim (Laws) includes an aspect that is not included in the other 6 commandments. The other six explicit commandments themselves (not including their logical and moral extensions), are all prohibitions ("negative" commandments), in the format of "You shall not ..." (murder, steal, blaspheme G-d's Name, etc.) In contrast, the commandment for Dinim includes a positive aspect in addition to the prohibitory aspect. This means that some credit is given for any amount of the positive aspect that is observed. Consider for example the giving of proper charity, which is a positive commandment for Jews, and a positive logical and moral obligation for Gentiles. This means that if one person gives a penny and another person gives 1 million dollars for proper charity, both are credited with the merit of a good deed. The amount of merit a person receives from G-d is judged by Him, from His all-knowing and perfect perspective. Thus it is possible that the person who gives 1 penny might get more merit than the person who gives 1 million dollars, or the person who gives 1 million dollars might get 1 million times more merit, or more or less. Nevertheless, a person who gives proper charity in any amount has observed G-d's will to some extent, and is credited and rewarded appropriately by G-d for that.

Likewise with the Noahide commandment for Dinim. Even if a government does not uphold all of the Noahide commandments, it still has a positive obligation to uphold each individual Noahide commandment and each logically incumbent obligation - meaning that if a government enacts partial fulfillment of its Torah-based obligations, not the least of which is maintenance of societal order so that people are not "swallowing one another alive", that is worthwhile and better then total non-fulfillment. And it is in the hearts of the citizens to be inspired to do what they can to maintain the positive aspects of the system and to improve it, in opposition to those who are trying to drag it down.
I am an inmate who committed premeditated murder of a fellow inmate. Is it considered suicide that I pleaded guilty and did not appeal my conviction by the court, and I did not appeal the sentence of execution? Is it against G-d's commandments for me to accept this punishment? Should I withdraw my guilty plea and appeal the death sentence? I am trying to overcome my past actions and focus on building my relationship with the Creator through obtaining the truth of what I am supposed to follow - the Laws of Noah.

This is a very difficult question. But since the secular court is not a true Noahide court, it is his obligation to try the utmost to save his life in any accepted way within the existing legal system. Therefore, he should appeal. (Passively allowing one's own death, although through the hands of others, is a branch of suicide.) G-d doesn't want martyrs. G-d wants a person to live and repent for his sins. If he sincerely believes in G-d and loves G-d, he must do anything he legally can to continue living and be a righteous Noahide.
I used to be against the death penalty. But, now I'm adamantly for it. That's not to say life is not precious and should not be valued. It is to say this... G-d has rules, and one of those rules is (Genesis 9:6), "Whosoever sheds man's blood, by man must his blood be shed," and that is (I suppose) so He can do whatever it is He needs to do to them in the afterlife, sooner rather than later, and every second they are kept in prison is like torture to them. They should be recycled. Man should let G-d do what G-d will do to them. We just don't really believe in G-d I suppose. I suppose all this fight, all this argument over the death penalty is for our own selfish satisfaction that we are morally superior. If we truly believed in G-d, then we would trust Him to enact their fate as needed.

I think it cruel to keep people caged who are destined for G-d's punishment anyway. Perhaps us keeping them caged reduces it a bit... like time served... However, that's not the reason we keep them caged. We keep them caged because we selfishly want to prove ourselves not savages.

To hold the power of life and death in your hand is G-d-like. It makes you feel powerful. To wield it rightly makes you justified, and to wield it wrongly makes you guilty. To say "let him die" is a very powerful emotion and should not be treated lightly. However, when it is done correctly in G-d's eyes, it is the right course of action.
I saw a video in which a rabbi claims that Rambam said to kill a gentile who does not follow the seven laws. Did he say this.

The rabbi's claim is based on his own personal interpretation of some Torah laws written by Rambam in Mishneh Torah. However, his interpretation is different from the interpretation that is accepted by the majority of the rabbinical Torah-law authorities. In fact, it altogether doesn't fit with the straightforward words that Rambam wrote.
The actual Torah law, in practice, is the interpretation that is accepted by the majority of the rabbinical authorities. So most of the rabbi's claims do not correspond to the real Torah law.

In regard to Noahide courts, see topics 10-12 in Chapter 1 of "The Divine Code," 3rd Edition, Part VIII (Establishment of Laws and Courts), by Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem, which is posted here:

What Rambam writes in Laws of Kings, chapters 5 and 6, is about Torah Laws that apply when there is a proper king and a proper Sanhedrin court of 70 sages ruling over the Jewish people in the land of Israel.

In that context, there are two types of war that the king is permitted to wage:
- a "commanded" war that is obligatory as commanded in Torah Law
- an "optional" war

An "optional" war is only fought against the people in an area of land that is adjacent to the border of the nation of Israel, and it can ONLY be conducted if it is approved by a proper Sanhedrin court of 70 sages. So it does NOT apply in our times.

The only type of "commanded" war that is relevant to this discussion is a war of self-defense. If a Jewish nation in the land of Israel is attacked, the king is commanded to fight a war of self-defense, and he does not need to have approval from a Sanhedrin court. (Even if the Jewish people in Israel do not have a king, they are still obligated to fight in self-defense against attackers, G-d forbid.)

If the Jewish king (or some other type of Jewish government) of the land of Israel fights a war of self-defense, and in the process conquers an area of the enemy's land and subjugates the inhabitants to be under his authority, the king has the right to impose laws upon them, to the extent that those laws are consistent with Torah law.

In regard to the nation of Israel itself when it has a Jewish government, Rambam writes that according to Torah law, the government may not give a Gentile permission to live in Israel or pass through it unless he accepts to observe the Seven Noahide Commandments. To date, the government over the modern nation of Israel has not been Torah observant, and such a law has never been enacted. If such a law ever was about to be enacted, the Gentiles who did not agree to observe the 7 Noahide Commandments would leave in advance.

In Laws of Kings ch. 8, Rambam writes that IF a Jewish government in the nation of Israel were to enact such a law (that Gentiles are only permitted to live in Israel if they accept the Noahide Commandments) AND IF Israel did later fight a war of self-defense against an enemy nation and a Jewish soldier fighting in the enemy territory wants a Gentile women from there to be his wife, he can bring her back to Israel to convert her after a period of time to Judaism so he can then marry her. If the aforementioned law was in place, that would be the only way for a Gentile who is not observant of the Noahide Commandments to be allowed entry to the nation of Israel. But if he then decided before she converted that he didn't want her to be his wife, and if she then declined to convert, she must be granted 12 months to live freely in the nation of Israel before she has to accept to observe the 7 Noahide Commandments. This is a very obscure case, and even if it were to ever become possible in the future, the understanding of Torah is that the Jewish soldiers in that situation should be greatly discouraged from taking such an action.

Obviously, all of that has no relevance to our time, and in the absence of a valid Sanhedrin court of 70 sages, it is only talking about a situation in the nation of Israel itself or an area of enemy territory that is captured and subjugated by the nation of Israel in the course of a war of self-defense.

It is also not correct to say that about the King Moshiach (the Messiah) when he comes, may it be speedily in our days.

Rambam writes in Laws of Kings 11:4 that when G-d sends the King Moshiach, it is possible that he may have to fight wars of self-defense against attacking enemies in order to secure the borders of the nation of Israel and establish his kingship there. Once he establishes his kingship (hopefully without the need for any wars), he will then build the Third Holy Temple, gather all the Jews to Israel, install a valid Sanhedrin court, and govern the land of Israel according to Torah law.

After all of that, the truth of the One G-d and the truth of Torah will be obvious to all the Gentiles in the world, and they will all have repented from their idolatries and false beliefs. It is prophesied in the Hebrew Bible that the King Moshiach will then lead them all in peace to unite in serving G-d (see Tzephaniah 3:9). The Kingdom of G-d will be established over the entire world, and G-d will remove the evil inclination from the hearts of all people. Everyone's occupation from then on will be to gain more and deeper knowledge of G-d, which will be taught by the King Moshiach (see Isaiah 11:9). That is the prophesied Messianic Era, up until the Resurrection of the Dead, which will be the beginning of the eternal World to Come.

As it stands now, when the Jewish government in the land of Israel does not (and is not willing to) take on any of the types of authority mentioned above, the only obligation and right that the Jews have in regard to this matter anywhere is to make an effort through peaceful explanations to persuade Gentiles to accept the 7 Noahide Commandments. Jews are exempt from this obligation in times, places and situations for which it would be dangerous for a Jew to do this.

This answer was reviewed and approved by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, Jerusalem, author of "Sheva Mitzvot HaShem" and "The Divine Code."

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