Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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Da Ma Lehashiv - Religious Coercion

By: Rav Moshe Ganz

The issue of religious coercion (kefiya datit) encompasses many different spheres. It can be divided into three categories.

The issue as viewed by the Torah.

How this can be explained towards people for whom there point of reference is Democracy.

If, and when it is proper to utilize religious coercion in our contemporary social climate. Today we will engage the first issue.

Anyone who learns Torah is aware that the Torah requires us to establish a society that enforces the rule of the Torah over the entire Jewish People. The Torah administers severe punishments even for transgressions that "do not disrupt the social order". A person who violates prohibitions of the Torah-even in his private domain- is subject to punishment (subject to the testimony of witnesses). The expression "and you shall remove the evil from your midst" frequently refers to crimes between man and G-d.

This outlook appears strange to a product of open modern society. From infancy this person has been instructed to "live and let live" (as if this is one of the Ten Commandments). Some people quote the saying "a man should live by his faith" (eish be'emunato yichye); this despite the true quotation that states a tzadik will live by his faith! These terms are not synonymous.

What constitutes the essential difference between the outlook of the Torah and that of Democracy?

Democracy maintains that the state is not authorized to dictate to an individual how to run his life. The private individual and his rights is the focal point of existence. Private individuals decided that in order to co-exist with others a framework-state- is necessary. The function of the state is to assist the individuals to organize their lives in conjunction with others and to protect their rights. Thus the state is required to legislate laws against violence, damage to property etc'. This is the extent of the power of the state; the state does not intend to intrude into the personal lives of the citizens. The individual retains his private status.

The aim of the Torah is diametrically opposed to this outlook. The individual is not the master of his own destiny; the Master of the World is the focus of all existence. His desire is for each member of the Jewish People to perform the mitzvoth of the Torah. This objective is not confined for each individual to decide on a private, individual basis. For He has chosen the Jewish Nation amongst all the nations, and has thrust upon us spiritual tasks. Each individual has responsibilities that stem from fellowship in the Jewish People. When the Jewish People establish a state (a mitzvah in its' own right), it is designed to establish a national lifestyle that is consistent with the Will of G-d.

Thus, the authorities of the state are obligated to ensure that all of the citizens fulfill their obligations towards Hashem. The focal point of the existence of each and every Jew is not the rights of individuals; rather the obligations of the individual. Fulfillment of these obligations is not merely a private matter; it is the concern of the community as well. Thus, the laws of the Torah are not confined to "religious commandments"; laws referring to the j udi ciary system are included in the Torah as well.


Categorized under: 1: Halacha > General
Uploaded: 8/31/2005 5:56:49 PM