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Friday, September 22, 2006

Who's Law?

The question recurring with Dena Dimalchuso is how far goes. How much authority does The Law of the Land really have to control Jewish Law?

And the real answer is unclear to me, but the truth is as much as you let it. That is, we as The Communities of Israel have the right to accept secular moral insightLaw, with all it’s nuances and revelations, and it’s sensitivities are to be learned and understood, deeply incorporated deep into our souls as much as blows our minds.

For example, who are you?

New York State Law declares that you who are whoever you call yourself, that is, your name if you just decide to change it, you can just start calling yourself someone, and that’s your name. There’s a formal ritual for changing ones name, but it’s totally unnesesary, as far as NY state law!

This also applies to religious denomination.

Whatever one chooses to identify hirself as is who they are. whatever list they check when the census comes it. That’s all it takes to change ones religion, according to ny state law, as far as I know.

So does that mean that the law is such? Are forbidden marriages only forbidden be cause of the host culture? That wouldn’t explain Biblical morality, but that is to say, we are strongly affected by the people around us, however we define our cultural membranes. But does anyone out there in blogger land have any idea, how much has local gentile culture been allowed to affect the growth and development of Our Law and how it works?

I ask/say this in the context of emerging morality: lets say that the world decides that something that was permitted for a long time no longer will be, like polygamy once, and lets say “war” now. Lets say that the nations of the world came together and made war illegal: would it be assur for us too?

That’s what happened with R’ Gershom, no? The gentiles grew a certain taboo, decided something was less civilized or less right, and so it was.

There’s a conceit about the harmonious perfection of halacha to guide one to and through the best good, and to be trust worthy more than flaky Gentile law, which would not compromise certain nations right to do what they love doing, or live for, right? What we received on Har Sinai was something perfect? Or were our demands just lovingly accepted, and called perfect for all generations?

What is the part of Halacha that is the center, unchanging, unique and reliable? Re: what is the Law of The Land an arbiter of What G-d Wants Us to Believe?

I ask in terms of moral development. Let’s say that the greatest innovations in secular law from the last couple hundred years have to do with equality; between one religion and another, between men and women, blacks and whites… L’ Maisay it’s not true, equality was never established in the world, and the remora of unjust law hovers around the entire system of “Justice” like flies around a carcas, but is that because of the laws themselves? The system that rewards Effort at the expense of True Need is bound to give priviledge to those who demand more and neglect those who don’t… To the degree that a better way has not been established as reliable to a populace is the degree that A Better Law is not The Law.

Really, according to G-d there’s only one law, one reward, and one punishment. According to what you do, is what will be done unto you. Everything else is just clarification and structure, language and a standard for how to get Our People together, what to feel safe expecting, demanding together from our reality.

The World’s Law is all about creating a general ideal for the sake of training a population to be sensitive, but the most visible difference between a Human and a Machine is the willingness to tolerate flexibilty in law enforcement as it becomes clear that a law is meant not for this situation.

For example: last Shabbos, I came to visit someone in an apartment building with an auto locked front door.
I had never been to this house or these people before, sent over from someone else’s house, told to come up to the eighth floor and listen for people singing. Criminal mastermind that i am, I arrived, looking for a way to get past the two buzzer locked doors. Is deception nessesary here, or even effective? There was someone downstairs, loitering in front. Does he live here? How can I explain what i’m trying to do?

It’s shabbos, so I dare not actually ask him or anyone to let me in, I dare not really even need to get in too desperately… I slipped past the first locked layer as someone left the building, ideal according to my law, a maximum of Just Being and Slipping Without Needing, but behold! A second locked door!

An old lady comes in through the door, along with a young asian dude. They see me standing there, and before they have a chance to react suspiciously, I start off with as much honesty as I can muster.

“Hi! I’m a religious Jew, and I have some friends living upstairs, doing a whole ritual party!”

Quickly, old lady states the law, covering herself, and creating a safe boundary.

You’ll have to have them buzz you in. We have a rule.

I smile. “No, I can’t buzz, and they won’t answer. For that matter, I don’t even know what the apartment # is, just that it’s 8, uh, B.”

There’s no eight B in this building! I’ve lived here for forty year, and there’s never been an 8B!

(and it was true. The apartments were numbered 1-28. Where did I get 8B from?)

Rationally, ruleistically, that should have been the end.

I said to Asian dude, c’mon, if you want, escort me upstairs, and we’ll see if we hear the party.

And he took responsibilty for me, and we went up, and the sounds of Yidden singing acheinu was audible from the elevator. He smiled and waved me off.

Happy new year, but how far does it go? ha hahahahahahahahahahaa. We can forgive anything as long as we don’t see the damage that it’s still doing– and alot of sins aren’t really doing any damage, so we can let them go…

…or, it’s damge we’re happy to receive, seeing how we once did the same thing, and really want to just pay it off at last. L’chaim, to happy lives either way.


Anonymous shabasa said...

Per your Dr. Greene,

dina d'malchuta dina does not apply to matters of issur v'heter-
obligatory or prohibited activities, such as Shabbat, kashrut, inheritance or divorce. It applies only to monetary, commercial or civil law,
and not to religious law.

Rabbeinu Gershom's decree does not fall under the category of dina d'malchusa dina.

10:47 PM

Blogger yitz.. said...

also, most importantly, dina d'malchuta dina only applies as far as it is being enforced. For example: if there's a law that's not being enforced, there's no halachic obligation to follow it anyways because of dina d'malchuta. For example there are (urban legends of) old laws in the books in many of the new england states that are no longer enforced. (kissing in public etc) If dina d'malchuta dina applied to unenforced laws, a Jew would still be required (halachically) to follow those laws.

(kissing in public is a bad example since it gets into other halachic gray areas of tzniut)

12:34 PM

Blogger Yoseph Leib said...

Shabasa,You're right. I wouldn't consider the takana of R' Gershon Dina D' Malchuso mamash, but how much was it affected by progressive gentile norms?

"monetary, commercial or civil law,
and not to religious law."

But what about moral sensitivities? Is something like marriage a religious law or a civil one? What about rape or molestation? does that automatically follow after the civil?

9:34 AM

Blogger Yoseph Leib said...

Yitz: Kissing in public might be a great example. How much are tsnious laws affected by external norms? Is tsnious aa civil or religious issue?

9:36 AM

Anonymous shabasa said...

Rabbenu Gershom's takanah was indeed effected by "gentile norms". The goyim in Germany and Northern France had recently been forced by the church leaders to abandon polygamy. Rabbenu Gershom was afraid that the goyim would become jealous of -- and hence start killing -- the local polygamous Jews. Rav Emden explains:

It would have been proper not to have made such a prohibition in the first place because of the prohibition of following in the ways of the goyim, but because it didn't require a positive action to comply, and also because of the danger to the Jews who live among the uncircumcised when they marry two wives, Rabbeinu Gershom, light of the exile, needed to make this ban which was not right to make (shelo min hadin)" (She'eilas Ya'avetz 2:15).

Marriage in general is regulated by religious law. If anything, the poskim nowadays discuss whether a civil ceremony has any significance vis a vis Jewish law. E.g., does annulment of a civil ceremony require a get?

8:38 PM

Blogger Yoseph Leib said...

" If anything, the poskim nowadays discuss whether a civil ceremony has any significance vis a vis Jewish law. E.g., does annulment of a civil ceremony require a get?"

Who holds that it does, and why?

9:27 PM


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