Volume 55 Number 48
                    Produced: Tue Aug 21  9:28:20 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conversational Hebrew
         [Joseph Kaplan]
Obligations to the Government (2)
         [Andrew Jakabovics, Joel Rich]
Orthodox don't contribute
         [Frank Silbermann]
A Thought for Elul from the new R' Soloveitchik Rosh Hashana Machzor
         [Joel Rich]


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 10:34:20 -0400
Subject: Conversational Hebrew

> My gut feeling is that it's not "by chance."  Most parents don't want
> their children to make aliyah, so fluent conversational Hebrew is not
> desired by them.

My gut feeling, as a parent in American day/high schools for the past
almost 30 years is that this is not the case.  I think most parents are
upset that their children are not fluent in conversational Hebrew by the
time they finish high school, and, indeed, I know many complain to the
schools about that.  What has happened, I think, is that ivrit b'ivrit
is no longer the usual educational method, and it was ivrit b'ivrit that
previously made American students comfortable and somewhat fluent in
conversational Hebrew. Actually speaking Hebrew 4 hours a day does that.
(I will leave it to the educators to discuss why that change took place
and whether the change was justified or educationally sound.  Be that as
it may, I don't believe the change came from parental demands or was, in
any way, anti-aliyah oriented.

Joseph Kaplan


From: Andrew Jakabovics <ajakabovics@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Aug 2007 12:33:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Obligations to the Government

>From: David Maslow <maslowd@...>

>It would be of interest to hear if there are any halachic discussions on
>the obligation of the Jewish community toward the broader civic
>community including but not exclusively focused on schools. It would be
>best if these were from relatively recent American experience since we
>are living in a generally friendly environment as contrasted to 19th and
>early 20th century Europe. Should we object equally to the funding of
>community centers for teens not frequented by Orthodox youth, to
>community swimming pools not used by our community, to Fourth of July
>celebrations held on Friday nights, etc.?

>This question does not involve a discussion of the politics of
>government roles, but simply the obligations of the members of a
>halachic Jewish community to the secular government of the political
>entity in which they live.

The very brief answer is that Shmuel's famous dictum, "Dina d'malkhuta
dina" - the law of the government is the law - applies.

His statement is brought down as a proof that tax evasion violates
halakhah (see Nedarim 27b). The mishnah in Nedarim says one can swear
falsely and claim that his property is terumah or belongs to the king in
order to evade the tax collector. The gemara there questions that
mishnah by citing Shmuel. Rav Hinena then says in the name of Rav Kahana
in the name of Shmuel that tax evasion is permitted only when the tax
collector has unlimited power (b'moches she'ain lo kitzva). It follows,
therefore, that in all other cases of tax collection, namely when the
collector is a direct agent of the government and not an independent
actor, tax evasion and false oaths are forbidden. (As a historical note,
there were two ways in which taxes were collected. The first system
(under which evasion was permitted halakhically) was one in which a
person would pay the king for a license to collect taxes. The king's
revenues would be from the licenses; the newly licensed collector would
then go around trying to collect as much taxes as possible. Whatever he
succeeded in collecting, he kept. That is why he was considered to be
unlimited in his collection. The second system is what America (and
other modern democracies) use. There is a publicly known tax rate and
the agent who collects the tax is salaried. The money collected goes to
the government directly, and the agent has no power to compel an
individual to pay any more than what is legally owed.)

>From this brief discussion in the Gemara, there is an extended debate in
the Rishonim about the extent of dina d'malkhuta. All agree that dina
d'malkhuta applies when discussing a secular authority; some also extend
it to a Jewish government. There is considerable debate about the
reasons for dina d'malkhuta, however. On one hand, we have the Ba'alei
Tosaftot, the Rashba, and the Ran, who all cite the monarch's powers of
expulsion as the pragmatic reason for the law: failure to pay taxes will
result in your expulsion from his territory.

The Ramban (Bava Batra 55a), on the other hand, takes a broader view and
argues that dina d'malkhuta applies whenever the laws of the kingdom are
widely known and there is a precedent for the laws on the books. The
Ritva in the context of a discussion on the validity of non-Jewish legal
documents (see Gittin 10b, where Rashi explains the documents as valid
because of dina d'malkhuta) says dina d'malkhuta fails to apply when the
king tries to institute a new law that violates precedent and is not
accepted by the public. The Rashbam wrote (Bava Batra 54b) "All taxes,
rates, and rules of kings' law commonly established in their kingdoms
are law, for all subjects of a kingdom willingly accept the king's laws
and statutes. Therefore they are perfectly valid law."  The Rashbam's
formulation is brought down by Chayim Or Zaru'a who writes "the law of
the kngdom [for example] is that all those who live together in a city
will share the burden of the taxes", rejecting outright any preferential
tax treatment as unfair law, and therefore, not valid law. (For more on
consent theory in dina d'malkhuta dina, see Menachem Lorberbaum's essay
in The Jewish Political Tradition (v. 1).) Rabbi Akiva Eger also wrote
that dina d'malkhuta applies to financial matters.

In these critical formulations, the will of the people is a determining
factor in the validity of the law. It would appear that our republican
form of government, in which representatives of the majority of a
constituency pass laws, would fall under the form of government
described by the Ritva or the Rashbam. To the extent that individuals or
communities oppose public policies, they are heartily encouraged to
contact their representatives and advocate change or elect new
representatives. Tax evasion, however, is certainly prohibited. (The
Rambam goes so far as to consider tax evasion theft from the public.)
Also note that popular acceptance of new laws is a function of the
broader populace and is not determined by acceptance of the Jewish
community. It would seem that with respect to objections about funding
public activities or services from which Orthodox Jews abstain, there is
no basis for a halakhic refusal to pay taxes.

There is, unfortunately, little in the modern halakhic literature that
explicitly deals with the question of the relationship of the individual
Jew or the Jewish community to the secular state. There has been a
considerable amount written about the relationship between halakhah and
the State of Israel, but in the United States, we are not dealing with a
case of Jewish sovereignty or a society in which the majority of people
are Jewish. What emerges from the discussions in the Rishonim is that
the form of government has implications for the relationship between
halakhah and secular law. (Again, see Gittin 9/10 about non-Jewish
courts and legal documents.) Overall, the more just and equitable the
society, the more halakhah is willing to defer to the state.

I hope this is helpful,


 In response to the comment made about renters not paying for public
schools, renters do in fact pay for schools, albeit indirectly. The
owners of the property are taxed. Like other expenses (maintenance,
common area utilities, trash removal, etc.) they incur, the owners
factor in those costs when setting rents. So although renters aren't
billed by the municipality for property taxes, a portion of their rent
is used by the owners to pay them.

Andrew Jakabovics
Associate Director, Economic Mobility Program
Center for American Progress

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 10:14:23 -0400
Subject: Obligations to the Government

> As the person at my synagogue who does chesed work in reclamation of
> food and clothng, this is a big issue for me.  We collect from shul
> members and distribute from those who have to those who need,
> regardless of religion, etc.  This has been a guiding principle of the
> Food Funnel program since its inception, over 20 years ago, under the
> inspiration of our then rabbi, Saul Berman.
> <SNIP>
> I don't know the halacha involved, but as someone raised both as an
> American and a Jew, it is the only way I can operate.  Much of these
> ethics I also attribute to my father, of blessed memory, who always
> voted FOR the school budget in the town where he had his summer home
> because he felt it his civic duty as part of the community.
> Wendy Wisan Baker

I assume R' Berman did know the halacha involved and organized the
venture accordingly. While I am in full support of your efforts in this
area of chesed, I would urge you to rethink articulating "I don't know
the halacha involved, but as someone raised both as an American and a
Jew, it is the only way I can operate. " as it might give someone the
impression that if the halacha in a certain case did not comport with
your sense of ethics, then halacha would have to give way.  I would
think that in that case one would need to reexamine their ethics with
the appropriate halachik authority to better understand the halachik



From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 07:11:12 -0500
Subject: Orthodox don't contribute

Meir Shinnar wrote in V55 N45

> Frequently, one of the unstated implications of saying that the
> Orthodox don't contribute is racial. In a town with a significant
> minority population, if a significant part of the white community is
> Orthodox - and doesn't send their kids to school - it will impact on
> the racial balance of the school - sometimes leading to majority
> minority school - making it less attractive to non Orthodox whites -
> leading to a cycle of even greater effect on the racial
> balance. Increasing Orthodox has, in some ways, the same effect on the
> schools as white flight (albeit for different reasons).

The fact is, there are no neighborhoods (anymore) that are zoned for
upper-middle class white people.  Property values of any neighborhood
can change, and so can the racial composition. The question we should
ask people who worry about this is, "What would have happened to those
communities and school systems had the Orthodox gone elsewhere,

The critics seem to be of the assumption that, had the Orthodox not
moved in, non-Orthodox Jews would still have those houses.  But the
initial Orthodox settlement did not push those people out; rather, in
all too many cases they merely filled the void as non-Orthodox Jews
moved out for other reasons (or simply neglected to reproduce themselves
-- delaying marriage to age 40 or later, and having on average well
below 2.1 children).  Had Orthodox people not moved in, it is likely
that property values would have declined and poorer minorities would
have moved into those houses.

For example, consider the hardcore hassidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn
which once housed a diversity of Jews -- modern Orthodox, Conservative,
ardently secular socialist Yiddishist, assimilationist, etc.  Would
those Jews still be in those Brooklyn neighborhoods, had hassidim not
taken over?  For the answer, look at the many other neighborhoods in
Brooklyn that had once been so, but where Orthodox Jews did _not_
settle.  Those neighborhoods, and their public school systems, did no
better in keeping their upwardly-mobile non-Orthodox Jews, and the
quality of their public school systems also declined.  The main
difference is that in addition to the decline in school test scores
those communities lost their tax base and their support for the police.

Perhaps we could minimize the resentment by building our Eruvim in poor,
minority neighborhoods.  Then, no one could argue that our growth was
bringing down the quality of the public schools.  (Since property values
are lower in such neighborhoods -- at least until the Orthodox establish
themselves, doing so would help mitigate the cost of being frum.)  This
may not be an option in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York or Baltimore --
but it is most definitely an option in such cities as St. Louis,
Philadelphia, Denver, Miami, Dallas, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati,
Atlanta, and Detroit.

Frank Silbermann        Memphis, Tennessee


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 10:40:20 -0400
Subject: A Thought for Elul from the new R' Soloveitchik Rosh Hashana Machzor

A Thought for Elul from the new R' Soloveitchik Rosh Hashana Machzor

Man, created in His image, crowned with honor, was given the imperative
to walk in his ways - V' halachta bdrachav (Deuteronomy
28:9). Explaining this imperative, the Rambam (in his introduction to
Hilchot Deiot) uses the expression lhedamot bdrachav - to imitate his
ways. The Rav explained that the imitation of Hashem is not limited to
performing acts of compassion( See Masechet Semachot 6:1) but extends to
the imitation of the essential attribute of becoming a noseh(my
note-active). In keeping with this imperative, man must therefore strive
to become subject and not object (nisa), one who influences one's
surroundings (mashpia) rather than one who is influenced(mushpa), one
who creates and is not created, one who acts and is not acted upon, one
who controls his environment rather than being controlled by it.

Kol Tuv
Joel Rich


End of Volume 55 Issue 48