Volume 35 Number 36
                 Produced: Thu Aug  2  6:39:56 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Rabbinic Authority
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Tax System (4)
         [Fred Rosenblatt, Carl Singer, Bill Bernstein, Zev Sero]
Tax system? How About Welfare
         [Yeshaya Halevi]
Tax System or Dina DeMalchusa Dina
         [Chaim Sukenik]
Taxes, Cheating and Scrip (2)
         [Michael Rogovin, Avi Feldblum]


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahem@...>
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 09:51:38 -0400
Subject: RE: Rabbinic Authority

>From: <CARLSINGER@...> (Carl Singer)
>I was using this as a counter example -- I don't have reference handy,
>but as I recall -- The Vilna Gaon was NOT the Rav of Vilna -- despite
>his stature, he needed to ask permission of the community Bet Din to
>hold services in his home -- which was, I believe, denied -- and he
>abided by this decision.

Story often told about the Vilna Gaon.

A problem arose one Friday when a women was making the chicken soup and
the husband went to the Rav of Vilna (who paskened kosher).  He was
somewhat late in getting back and the woman went to the Gaon (who was a
neighbor).  The gaon paskened treif.  The couple were worried what to
do.  The Rav went to the gaon and said that in order to uphold his
authority, the two of them would have to eat at the family's home (that
soup).  The gaon agreed, but as the woman was serving, she knocked a
candle into the gaon's bowl of soup.  The rov took it as a sign the the
gaon had been right and that the soup was treif.  The gaon answered, no.
The soup is kosher.  However, since he had said treif, he was not
allowed to eat it as if it was treif (as if he had taken a neder against
the soup) and heaven had therefore prevented him (but not anyone else)
from eating it.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz - <sabbahem@...>


From: Fred Rosenblatt <Frederic.H.Rosenblatt@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 08:48:34 -0700
Subject: Re: Tax System

>From: <rubin20@...>
>Huh. B'H' the American government allows us to keep our religion, they
>have no obligation to subside it.

True.  Most of the items on the above list are personal choices, and
need not be subsidized by the State.  Except one.  At some time, about
100 years after the First Amendment was signed, the government decided
to institute a public school system that, IMO, violated its duty to make
no laws interfering with the free exercise of religion.  In fact, one of
the major purposes of these schools was to lessen the influence of
religion on children.  Dina demalchuta dina applies when the laws are
not discriminatory; here they clearly discriminate against all religious
people, if not Jews alone.  But even here Jews are disproportionately
affected: what other religion stresses education as one of the primary
modes of religious observance?  Where else do we hear dire warnings
every day that if more money is not found for Jewish education, a
generation of Jewish children will be lost?  And all the while our
primary education budget is appropriated by the State to teach things
that we wouldn't even want our children to know.

I'm not advocating the solution proposed above, and, as a lifelong wage
slave, would never have the opportunity to implement it anyway.  But
there is another side to the coin, and a valid reason for frustration.

From: <CARLSINGER@...> (Carl Singer)
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 17:59:01 EDT
Subject: Re: Tax System

Tax Fraud is Tax Fraud -- should you get caught and appear in the local
newspaper or TV and your name is especially Jewish or your visage (be it
beard or sheital) is especially Jewish -- then it's a Chillul HaShem.

Living in the comfort and freedom of 21st century USA it's easy to talk
of anti-Semitism from a distant, dispassionate vantage point.  Talk to
survivors and how they feel -- see their reaction when someone obviously
Jewish appears in the paper for doing something wrong -- be it Kiryat
Yoel, cheating at a camera store, tax fraud, etc.  They shudder.

That said -- I recall many years ago that Francis Cardinal Spellman's
brother was a top accountant with one of the big 8 (when there were 8)
and specialized in not-for-profits and charitable donations.  There are
many things that we as a community should investigate.  For example,
there are two general areas that we haven't done well as a community (as
compared to our non-Jewish neighbors) -- and both can be perfectly legal
and above board.

1 - we don't have a legal generic "pass thru" Jewish Charitable fund for
accepting stock donations -- Let's say I want to give $18 here and $36
there, etc., all bits & pieces too small for selling stock -- I need a
legal vehicle to which I can donate highly appreciated stock (let's say
10 shares of plony.com worth $500) thus not paying the capital gain, and
have the proceeds passed on when / where / amount that I choose, to
several charities that may, themselves to too small or unsophisticated
to deal with stock.  Similarly, lets say I want to pay my shule dues
with appreciated stock -- today many congregations don't know how to
make that happen.

2 - our religious school tuition system is backwards -- say there are
300 children in your school and tuition is $8,000 per child.  This would
imply that $240,000 is raised each year in tuition.  Instead only
$150,00 is raised in reality as many children are on full or partial
scholarship.  So the average tuition revenue is $5,000 per child
($150,000/300), not $8,000.  If properly structure (and I am not a tax
lawyer) a tuition / voluntary giving program could be established with
tuition at only $5,000 per child.  And my $8,000 payment would be $5,000
tuition & $3,000 scholarship fund -- and thus $3,000 is tax deductable.


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 08:57:24 -0500
Subject: Tax System

The outraged responses to the tax posting have all been very
encouraging.  Unfortunately, given the nature of the MJ audience this is
sort of preaching to the choir.  Another aspect that hasnt been
mentioned is that this "rabbi" is counseling nothing more than ganeiva
(theft), which is a Torah prohibition.  Therefore he should be in the
category of meisis u'madiach, encouraging people to break Torah
prohibitions.  That should probably be enough for anyone.

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN.

From: Zev Sero <Zev@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 14:41:05 -0400
Subject: RE: Tax System

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahem@...> wrote:
> as long as the government treats all of its citizens equally (as 
> the United States does) then the concept of Dina D'Malchusa Dina
> [the law of the government is legal] applies and we must pay our
> taxes.

Ah, but does it?  Here's another proposition for you: the system of
`progressive' income tax that the USA and most other Western countries
apply is inherently inequitable, since each marginal increase can be
regarded as a separate tax that applies only to one class of people -
those who earn more than a specified amount.  This violates the
principle of equal protection that the halacha lays down as a necessary
criterion for a law to be classed as `dina demalchuta'.  For comparison,
we should take the wall tax discussed in Bava Batra as the model of a
just tax.  It had a wealth-related component, on the principle that
people benefit from protection against robbers in proportion to how much
they have to be stolen; but that component was levied at a flat rate.

> The circumstances that you mention do not apply to invalidate 
> this as those are personal circumstances and any citizen in those 
> circumstances would be treated the same as we are.  For example,
> a nonJew who sends his children to a parochial (or nonsectarian
> private school) is treated the same as a Jew who sends his
> children to yeshivah.

All this means is that the system is just as unfair to that person, and
perhaps he too is entitled to reduce his tax payments by whatever means
are available to him, up to the amount that he is unjustly forced to pay
for the education of other people's children.

(This is in addition to the fact that many of the justifications offered
by the Rishonim for `dina demalchuta dina' do not apply to the
legislation of most modern states.)


From: Yeshaya Halevi <chihal@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 15:39:33 -0700
Subject: Tax system? How About Welfare

Shalom, All:

It is very encouraging to see so many people denouncing cheating the IRS on
the spurious grounds that Orthodox Jews have more expenses than non-Jews. I
have one direct question and one related question regarding this.
1. Since the government doesn't tax donations to a shul, mosque or church,
can  a person who buys something central to his/her belief system deduct it
from their income tax? An example: the money I spend to buy a mezuza, which
the Tora commands. (For the record, my Orthodox accountant, a musmach
[ordained rabbi], says "No." But what do **you** think?)
2. Many able-bodied men spend their days in a kollel instead of working and
paying taxes. Then, on top of that, their family gets Welfare and food
stamps, which are paid by people who work and are taxed on wages.  Is this

Yeshaya Halevi


From: Chaim Sukenik <sukenc@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 18:53:08 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Re: Tax System or Dina DeMalchusa Dina

In all of the responses posted on the question of halachically "approved"
cheating on US taxes, only one addressed the broader issue of: What are
the limits of dina demalchusa dina (DDD)?

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz - <sabbahem@...> wrote:
> I remember seeing a mention of a Tshuvah from Rav Moshe Feinstein
> Z'Tzal.The basic statement that I remember is that as long as the
> government treats all of its citizens equally (as the United States
> does) then the concept of Dina D'Malchusa Dina [the law of the
> government is legal] applies and we must pay our taxes.
> Note that this does not address the chillul Hashem aspect if we all
> started to behave that way.That would probably mean that it would be
> asur even if the preceding analysis were ignored.

It would be useful to more precisely define the scope of DDD in a number
of respects:
#1 Does this apply to non-financial matters? Does it give halachic
standing to things like speed limits, zoning laws, etc.
#2 Is there a point where a government can turn a blind eye to a law to a
sufficient extent where the halacha would agree that a violation of the
letter of the law is a sufficiently accepted norm such that DDD would not
require more than that? Example #1: Can one engage in black market
currency trading at a time when the black market exchange rate is
published in the newspapers and/or when it is commonly asserted that the
government itself uses the black market to control currency fluctuations.
Example #2: If the rule applies to speed limits, does the statement "the
police allow 5-10 mph above the posted limit" have any halachic weight?
#3 What level of honesty and fairness in government are needed so that DDD
does not apply? Example: In a system where the powers that be create
"reasons" that enable them to rob the populace (robbing everyone to the
same extent), does DDD apply?
Sources for any of the above would be welcome.
Chaim Sukenik


From: Michael Rogovin <rogovin@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 10:28:52 -0400
Subject: Re: Taxes, Cheating and Scrip

I have seen the following fundraiser sponsored by yeshivot and
synagogues in my neck of the woods: purchase your candy, liquor, etc at
store x; make out the check to the sponsoring yeshiva or synagogue. The
yeshiva/synagogue gets 10% of your purchase.

How does the scheme work? The store turns over the checks to the
synagogue or yeshiva, which "purchases" the goods, either at 90% of the
full price (with the store writing off the discount as a donation in
mind) or 100% (with the store sending a donation). Either way, the
synagogue/yeshiva does not pay sales taxes. The true purchaser also does
not pay sales taxes (after all, he is making a "donation" to the
charitable entity, not buying goods, right?) and, although (sometimes)
told not to do so, treats the amount of the check as a donation to a
charitable institution for tax purposes (and no doubt considers the
amount as fulfilling part of his mitzvah of tzedaka).  The store, of
course, deducts the 10% donation as well.

The multiple tax evasions should be evident to everyone. Yet, like the
popular supermarket scrip, orthodox institutions participate in this
fraud, despite warnings of its illegality. I have heard all the
rationalizations and have tried in vain to halt the practice in my

Michael Rogovin

From: Avi Feldblum <avi@...>
Date: Tues, 2 Aug 2001
Subject: Re: Taxes, Cheating and Scrip

OK, so I am either dense or naive. As I understand the system, the
merchant is selling/buying the script with the tax deductable
institution at a small discount off the face value, with that discount
being a tax deductable contribution to the institution. I am no laywer,
but I am given to understand that the above is a valid application of US
tax law. I, as the individual buying the script, am not entitled to any
preferential tax treatment by purchasing the script. If I do deduct it
from my taxes, I am in violation of US tax law, and subject to the
discussion above would be in violation of Halacha, if Dina D'Malchuta
Dina is applicable to tax law. I have never seen the store owner not
charge sales tax if script is being used rather than
cash/check/charge. So I am unaware of what the multiple tax evasions are
that you refer to. I have never seen the case you refer to where the
chack is being made out to the institution at the point of local sale
and such check being given to the local store, however. However, even in
this case, it would seem to me that the local store owner should be
collecting sales tax from the individual. 

Avi Feldblum


End of Volume 35 Issue 36