"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On Defying Anti-Torah Government Edicts

On Defying Anti-Torah
Government Edicts

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Since the Jew’s observance of the civil law stems from Torah alone, if there is ever a conflict between Torah law and civil law, the Jew follows Torah faithfully in all its minutiae and refuses to even consider doing otherwise. Although, as discussed in an earlier article, “The law of the land is [Torah] law,”[1] this only applies to matters such as “merchants’ customs,”[2] international relations, and the like,[3] which stem from the mazal, the constellation, and higher, the guardian angel, of each country.

However,[4] only the Jewish people were sent into exile, but the holy Torah itself was never subjected to exile, for “The Torah will never change.”[5] Hence, non-Jews have no right to issue laws that somehow interfere with the Jews’ observance of the Torah, and Jews need not and should not honor and obey such laws (see also here).

Not only are non-Jews and their legal system unauthorized to override matters of Jewish observance that are a strict obligation or prohibition, they may not even dictate to a Jew how to keep a minhag Yisrael (Jewish custom), or in any way detract from the observance of a minhag Yisrael. The Previous Rebbe made a daring public statement to this effect after he was released from prison and about to be sent into exile. He famously repeated the following timeless words of one of his predecessors:[6]
All the nations on the face of the earth must know that only our bodies have been sent into exile and the servitude of [foreign] rulers, but our souls have not been exiled or enslaved. We must declare openly before all that in all matters relating to our religion, the Torah, the Mitzvos, and Jewish customs, we Jews have no one who can dictate to us, nor may any pressure be brought to bear against us.
In the same vein, the Previous Rebbe once related[7] a powerful story of how the Tzemach Tzedek courageously stood up to the government when it attempted to interfere in Jewish observance:
...In the first session, the Minister of Haskalah instructed the secretary of the conference to present a plan for the curriculum of Jewish children that the minister and his assistants had devised, and he commanded the four who had been summoned—the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek], Reb Itcheleh of Volozhin, Reb Yisrael Halperin, and the scholar, Betzalel Stern, to sign on the plan.

...When the Rebbe [i.e., the Tzemach Tzedek] saw that the situation was dangerous, he stood up and said:

“The government summoned us to hear our opinion, and not to sign on what others have prescribed. I refuse to sign, and resign from my participation in the meeting.”

Lilienthal, who stood next to the Minister, whispered something into his ear, and immediately the minister stood up in anger and said with great fury, “Doesn’t it say that ‘The law of the land is the [Torah] law’?”

The Tzemach Tzedek responded: “‘The law of the land is the [Torah] law’ applies only to monetary matters, such as taxes and property rates. While ‘A Jewish custom is Torah,’[8] and no one has the permission to nullify it.”

 “The custom of women to cover their faces with their hands when they light the Shabbos candles—is that also Torah?” asked the minister.

“Yes,” answered the Tzemach Tzedek, “that too is Torah, as the Talmud Yerushalmi states: ‘The custom of [Jewish] women is Torah.’”[9]
Of course, we have suffered such persecution time and again from various oppressors through the course of history, and in the Jewish calendar, most notably in the time of Chanukah (see here). 

This is of timely relevance in recent months and years, in which the age-old Jewish custom of metzitzah be’peh has come under attack.

[1] Gittin 10b.
[2] Cf. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Selling, 26:8.
[3] Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 369:18.
[4] Hisva’aduyos 5744, Vol. 2, pp. 612-613.
[5] Ninth of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith. Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Foundations of the Torah, 9:1.
[6] 3 Tammuz, 5627. Printed in Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. 4, 692a-692b..
[7] Likkutei Dibburim (Ivrit), Vol. 3, p. 610.
[8] Menachos 20b, Tosafos, s.v. nifsal. Maharil, cited in Rema on Yoreh Dei’ah, 376:4. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 22, p. 56.
[9] Pesachim 4:1.

Dedicated by Menashe Fleisher. Dedicated by Mrs. Rivky Katz and family in memory of Reb Mordechai Meir haKohen z"l ben Chaim Elazar haKohen z"l. May he have aliyas haneshama and be a gutteh better for all of us, especially to "convince Hashem" that we need Moshiach down here, "l'mata m'asara t'fochim," immediately!!!

Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), Yaakov Yehuda ben Shaindel (Jacob Ostreicher), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).

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